A Blueprint For Fair

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Fairness is the very fabric that keeps Australia together. A strong safety net, universal access to essential services, and a living wage that rewards work are the things that give us our character as a nation.

But fairness is not guaranteed. In a market economy that changes rapidly, regulators and law-makers need to keep up to protect the Australian fair go.

Last year was a big year for shonks who undermined fairness standards. The high profile scandal in vocational education wasn’t really an education story at all. It was about misleading and deceptive behaviour, as many vulnerable Australians fell prey to high-pressure and misleading sales tactics.

The finance sector is vital to facilitate economic opportunity and social justice. Most of us take the financial security of our families for granted, but what if your income was insufficient to fully participate in Australian society? Some Australians resort to payday loans and high cost “consumer leases” to get access to quick cash and household goods. The corporate cop, ASIC, and the Government’s review panel, have exposed these products as obscenely expensive, trapping low-income Australians into a cycle of debt.

Companies offering dubious debt management services that hide unregulated in the shadows of the finance industry is an emerging issue. We are calling them “debt vultures” because they feed off Australians’ financial misery. Products like debt agreements and credit repair make promises that often can’t be met, yet are aggressively sold to people struggling with debt who really need free financial counselling to get back on track.

Access to reliable and affordable electricity, gas and water is probably a fairness measure that all Australians can agree on. We are, after all, a prosperous nation so keeping the power on for all should be a priority. Energy efficiency measures are a simple, cost-effective way to mitigate some of the excesses of energy pricing. For ambitious law-makers, tackling the energy networks and their inflated assets is another option.

The review into the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), due to report in 2017, will be a valuable test to see if we can re-position consumer law in terms of fairness. However, we can end business practices that exploit Australians right now and give regulators the power to go after them.

Gerard Brody

Policy contact: Mick Bellairs: 03 9670 5088 – michaelb@consumeraction.org.au

Media contact: Jonathan Brown: 0413 299 567 – media@consumeraction.org.au

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