Assistant Treasurer, Minister Assisting for Financial Services & Superannuation and Minister for Competition Policy & Consumer Affairs
5 March 2012 - 18 September 2013
1 August 2012
SUBJECTS: ACCC carbon related infringement notice, Treasurer's speech
Today we have seen details released by the ACCC in relation to the first infringement notice issued and paid by a company in relation to false carbon price claims. This involved a company, a gym operation down in Victoria, where a number of letters had been sent out to more than 2000 members of that gym. The nature of the claim that was made was in encouraging people to sign up to extensions of their existing gym memberships, where it was indicated that they would be beating price rises of something in the order of nine to 15 per cent as a result of the carbon price. The ACCC investigated these matters, acting on a complaint received by a member of the general public and the company was unable to substantiate the claims that were made and as a result an infringement notice has been issued and a penalty of $6,600 was paid by the company involved.
This is a reminder to all businesses that if you are going to make a claim in relation to the carbon price be sure that it's a truthful one. If you're making false claims in relation to the carbon price, then the ACCC will pursue you. They have pursued this particular company, and that is why we have provided them with additional resources to ensure they are equipped to pursue any matters where false claims are being made in relation to the carbon price. It's also a timely reminder to all consumers that if you see claims being made that you think might be dubious in relation to the carbon price, don't hesitate to pick up the phone and call the ACCC. This was a complaint where the ACCC acted upon a complaint by a member of the public and that's why it's so important that as consumers and members of the public, if you see claims made that you think are dubious, pick up the phone and call the ACCC. They have a dedicated infoline, 1300 303 609.
Are you concerned, though, that this was the only company to be fined, because we have heard complaints about other companies trying to get away with this.
There have been a number of instances that have been brought to the attention of the public, indeed, as well as the ACCC. What we can say is that this related to certain representations and claims that were made in April, the ACCC giving due process. The ACCC, giving the company a chance to respond, ultimately issued infringement notices. There are complaints being made to the ACCC in relation to claims, I note that in the latest report the ACCC has given we see that those complaints are declining in number. Of course we are concerned to hear of any instances where false claims are being made in relation to the carbon price, but we have strong confidence, a very strong degree of confidence in the ACCC, in their capacities in pursuing these matters and ensuring that where there have been breaches of the law that appropriate action can be taken, as in this case.
$6,600 isn't much for a company. Do you think it's much of a deterrent?
In terms of the actual penalties issued, these are matters in the first instance for the ACCC and ultimately, in some cases, they will be matters for the courts. These are not matters for Government to be commenting on, other than to say that the legislation involved does give the power for fines of up to $1.1 million to be issued in relation to corporations. That will obviously be a judgement that the regulators and the courts ultimately have to make in relation to the proportionality of the offence and, of course, the degree of cooperation and other factors such as the extent to which the company may have taken measures to make good for the error of their ways.
Just on another topic, the Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan is turning to Bruce Springsteen for inspiration, so what singer inspires your approach to economic policy?
Look, I've never been particularly inspired by singers per se, but can I say in a household with three young girls I seek respite in anything other than One Direction. So I'm not especially inspired by any musicians but I think the point the Treasurer was making was a very good one and goes to the heart of what he believes and what so many people in the Labor Party believe, and that is we want to make sure we are building a strong economy for Australia into the future, but one where the benefits of that strength are spread so that everyone gets an opportunity to share in the opportunity and the bounty of this great nation. I see that Mr Abbott is out there today suggesting that somehow the Labor Party's only about redistributing wealth rather than creating it. Well, that ignores the fact that nobody has been creating wealth quite like us here in Australia over the last few years. Our economy is 10 per cent larger today than it was before the GFC. No other major advanced economy in the world has grown its pie quite like we have. Mr Abbott, of course, with his $70 billion black hole, he's less interested in growing pies, he's in great need of a magic pudding because that's the only way he's going to fund his $70 billion worth of black hole.
It's a bit unusual though, don't you think, to have someone who holds the second-highest office in the land casting economic policy in the words of an American singer? What do you think he's trying to achieve?
I think the messages from Bruce Springsteen are equally as applicable; I think there's universality about the messages that are coming through there. In terms of the Treasurer's particular inspiration, obviously he's been well and truly on the record with his respect for Bruce Springsteen and his lyrics, but the message that underpins that is one of ensuring a strong economy, strong society, one where people are not left behind. I think it encapsulates what most Australians believe should be the case.
But is The Boss, Bruce Springsteen, is he targeting the right demographic in order to get that message across? Should, perhaps he be looking at someone perhaps like your daughters' One Direction, or perhaps Justin Bieber?
Heaven forbid, heaven forbid if he was to draw upon Justin Bieber as inspiration for developing policy for the future of this nation – nothing against Justin Bieber. Look, I think in the end there's a very serious underpinning to what the Treasurer's on about here and this goes to what he believes and what most people in the Labor Party and I think Australia believe and that is we're a great country, we've got so much going for us. It's important we make the most of that, but we don't want to leave people behind. We want to give people a hand up, we want to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to unleash their potential and to make a contribution to this country. It's what he's about, it's what we're about, and frankly it's what I think Australia is about.