Hon Judi Moylan

Do Not Knock Register Bill 2012 - Report from Committee

Mrs MOYLAN (Pearce) (10:26): From the outset I acknowledge the work of the member for Hindmarsh in bringing his private member's bill to the House. The Do Not Knock Register Bill 2012 seeks to implement a do not knock register similar to the Do Not Call Register which was implemented in 2006. Although the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs has unanimously agreed that the bill not pass through the House, the member for Hindmarsh has clearly shone the spotlight onto a serious and growing public concern about the intrusion of door-to-door sales.

This should not be construed as a criticism of all door-to-door sales operations. Many people make their living from door-to-door sales and in many instances provide a welcome service to the community. Most of the vast army of door-to-door salespeople do act with integrity; however, as the member for Hindmarsh has highlighted in this bill, there are difficulties for many in the community who have to deal with aggressive sales personnel at the front door. Those who may be vulnerable in unsolicited marketing operations are people who have a disability, those who are elderly and those in the community for whom English is not their first language. Evidence taken by the committee indicated that some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, for example, were in certain circumstances particularly targeted by door-to-door sales operations, and they may be particularly vulnerable because in some cases they are unable to interpret written information. This may also be true for non-English speaking people.

Family Counselling Australia did nominate some of the unscrupulous practices their clients have encountered, including misleading conduct and overpriced or shoddy goods. They did outline some of the systemic targeting practices towards certain groups in the community who could ill afford the products being offered. However, others argued that there were already measures in place to protect the vulnerable, such as the do not knock stickers available free of charge to the community from local councils. As my colleague the member for Moreton has just outlined, there is a test case going on as to whether the law of trespass can be triggered when somebody has this sticker on their front door. The committee did hear that almost 200,000 stickers have been distributed since August 2011.

I do not have time in this short debate to go through all of the recommendations but I commend the report to anyone who is concerned about these practices and who may be affected by them. Page 40 of the report also outlined a number of protections for consumers, such as the 10-day cooling-off period and the unconscionable conduct provisions. Although there has not been a flood of concern raised in the Pearce electorate, from time to time I do hear complaints about pushy salespeople and shonky door-to-door operations. These problems seem to be more acute in the eastern states in recent times in regard to electricity retailers. In the course of its inquiry, which was to examine the constitutionality of the bill, it became clear that the committee needed to consider the proposed operation of the bill and its capacity to address its policy intent.

The committee received 17 submissions and had two public hearings. In the evidence taken by the committee, there was an indication that there are a number of practical problems with establishing a do not knock register and that other measures may well resolve some of the risks for people who are most vulnerable to the more aggressive door-to-door sales tactics—but that remains to be seen.

The member for Hindmarsh, as I said, has done a very good thing in turning the spotlight on what is a very important issue, and it is hoped that the industry will now do all it can to ensure that its salespeople meet the standards expected of them and that the industry has set for them. I acknowledge the work of the other committee members in examining this particular bill, and the hardworking committee secretary, as always.

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