Fair trading (gift cards) bill

Mr DULUK (Waite) (11:21):

I also rise to say a few words on this important bit of legislation, the Fair Trading (Gift Cards) Amendment Bill 2018. It is a simple bill, but it is a bill that goes a long way to delivering on the Marshall government's election promises. On this side of the house, we are determined to deliver on our election promises because we know that is so important to the people of South Australia for them to have confidence in their new government and in the body politic that says we are going to do something we said were going to do.

We went to the election with our policy to introduce this legislation, and that is exactly what we are doing. We believe in giving power back to the shoppers in South Australia and this bit of legislation reforms the current consumer protection; indeed, it enhances the current consumer protection. The bill amends the Fair Trading Act 1987 to require that any gift card sold in South Australia must have a minimum expiry date of three years.

As I said, this is a bit of legislation which we said we would bring in in our first 100 days, as we are introducing so many of our 100-day plans. This is certainly one in the consumer protection space. So why are we doing this? Why do we think this is an important issue that we need to deal with? It is about choice and it is about empowering mum-and-dad South Australians. We are going to see a whole raft of legislation introduced by this new Marshall government that is about choice, about the individual, and today's legislation is part of that. Looking at the deregulation of shopping hours is another key policy that is overwhelmingly supported by the people of South Australia. For those who need to know, the people of South Australia are not just Josh Peak and the SDA, they are actually the broader electorate.

This sort of consumer protection legislation is very important. According to a Choice survey, Australians spend about $2.5 billion every year on gift cards. That survey also found that a third of respondents had lost the full value of at least one gift card in the previous three years. Give or take, it appears that Australians are losing approximately $200 million every year in unredeemed gift cards.

This is quite a lot of money, and if the government can do a little bit to guarantee consumer rights, I think that is something that is fundamentally important. As I said, Australians lose approximately $200 million annually on expired gift cards. The terms and conditions of gift cards may differ greatly, with typical redeeming periods of between three and 12 months as they exist at the moment. Some larger companies such as Bunnings and Apple do not have expiry dates. We are obviously looking for a bit of consistency for consumers in South Australia, and I think that is really important.

I think the member for Hammond, in his contribution, touched on gift cards being the modern day cash equivalent. If I hark back to my days growing up as a young kid, one thing that I enjoyed every Christmas was going to see grandma and getting the Christmas card; in there was—

The Hon. C.L. Wingard: How much? How much?

Mr DULUK: I think we got up to $10 once and a block of Cadbury chocolate, and we knew we were doing well. Inflation was on the rise when we got up to $20 in the Christmas card.

The Hon. C.L. Wingard: I used to get $2 notes.

Mr DULUK: The member for Gibson reflects that he got $2, but I would say that is for time value of money. I do not even know whether the $2 coin was minted then! I digress, but for people like my grandma cash was king, and I am sure that applied for the member for Hartley's household as well. Cash was king, and really the modern gift card is now essentially grandma's cash in a modern form. I think it is important that legislation reflects the change of use in the way that gifts, whether they be cash or cards, are circulated for consumers in South Australia. So I think bringing in this three-year period is quite important.

By legislating for a three-year expiry date, we are protecting consumers from unjustifiable and unfair expiry dates and balancing this appropriately with the needs of businesses, which of course have a requirement to hold stock and a requirement for a liability that is obviously drawn on the balance sheet.

As I said, this bill forms a part of a series of amendments to the Fair Trading Act designed to increase consumer rights and protections, and it is also part of the broader government agenda of modernising regulations and reducing red tape. I think this is going to be an area where we are going to see a lot more improvements from the Marshall Liberal government and from the minister for consumer and business affairs. For the last 16 years we have seen South Australian business strangled by bureaucratic red tape.

On the way to parliament this morning I was listening to FIVEaa and Leon Byner, who was talking about a resident who had the EPA and local council both go and see them to talk about noise complaints as part of their regime. The point was made that South Australians are just being crippled by bureaucracy and red tape. So many functions of the everyday lives of South Australians, from collecting waste through your council all the way to purchasing gift cards or just interacting with government departments, are layered and layered with bureaucracy.

There is a cost to this. The cost is time, the cost is wages and the cost is inefficiencies. The role of government—and very much the role of government from a Liberal perspective—is to do everything we can to remove these bureaucracies from the lives of South Australians. Government should be, in a way, seen and not heard. When it comes to consumer protection and red tape reduction and compliance, I think that is something that very much needs to be a key focus point for this government. And it will be a key focus point of this government to ensure that South Australians can just go about their day-to-day business without worrying about some inspector, some bureaucracy, some government agency telling them that they feel they know what is best for them, which inevitably they do not.

In terms of the bill before us today, it is intended that our changes would not apply to reward or loyalty programs or vouchers donated for charitable purposes. However, these exemptions would form part of the regulations to be drafted in consultation with business, subject to the bill's passing. I think that is a really important part—that we are going to do proper consultation with industry on this matter, because that is also what the Marshall Liberal government is on about. It is about consultation. It is about working with business and those impacted groups for the benefit of society.

The bill that we are debating today is modelled on New South Wales legislation, which commenced earlier this year and which also legislated for a three-year expiry date. Consumer and Business Services will be responsible for enforcement and compliance in this area, which is appropriate. It is part of a broader range of measures which are important, and it is our expectation that the effect on business will be negligible. As I said, we do not want to impact on businesses unnecessarily.

This reform makes gift cards more consumer-friendly by ensuring that any gift cards sold in the state have a minimum three-year expiry date, and it forms part of our broader suite of measures around fair trading. It is also worth including in this debate the fact that, given federal constitution guarantees, this bill does not apply to online or over-the-phone purchases, where the gift card is delivered to an address outside of South Australian borders or the consumer is not an ordinary resident of South Australia.

It is important to talk about some of the federal implications because at the moment we are seeing a debate where the federal government has brought in GST on online purchases around the $1,000 mark, and at the moment we are seeing Amazon trying to work their way around this new federal legislation. It is vitally important that we have a level playing field, whether it be at our state level or federally in the case of GST, and I commend Treasurer Morrison for tackling this issue and having GST on online purchases.

If companies such as Amazon feel they are being unfairly handled, then bad luck; they do not have to sell their products here through their portals. We want to ensure that with all trading entities in South Australia and Australia, no matter whether you walk in and buy a gift card from Mitre 10 in Blackwood or whether you are purchasing something from Amazon being delivered to a residence in Mitcham in my electorate, we are all covered under the same law and same jurisdiction.

It is very important for bricks and mortar businesses and small traders who have gone out and perhaps have a rental, a presence, in a strip mall—whether that be Main Road in Blackwood or at Mitcham Square village shops—that they have the entitlement to trade and participate in the economy equally and under the same rules and regulations as online does. Bringing some uniformity to this area is very important, and I have no doubt that the Minister for Consumer and Business Affairs and the Deputy Premier will, at COAG, be ensuring that all businesses are treated equally in this respect, that the big international players do not feel they are above the law or above the consumer—ultimately the most important part of our system.

Minimum expiry dates for gift cards is listed on the agenda for the national Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand meeting. Quite often, New Zealand, through their jurisdictions, sits as a by player to COAG as well, to observe the important legislation that comes before Australian parliaments and ensure that we get consistency. I think we can also learn, as Australian jurisdictions within our federation, from our cousins across the ditch, and see what their best practice is.

Over the last 10 or so years of the former John Key-Bill English governments they certainly embarked on a very big deregulation agenda, one that was really focused on small business. Deregulation was the hallmark of that John Key National government, and if you look at the New Zealand economy over the last five, 10, 15 years it has gone from strength to strength on the back of small business, reducing red tape, reducing business taxation, and driving its key economic indicators.

Of course, New Zealand is a country that does not actually have any natural products and imports quite a lot of its raw materials. It does not have a car manufacturing industry either, and imports all its motor vehicles. However, in our region New Zealand has gone above and beyond on the deregulation path and their economy has gone from strength to strength. Having minimum dates for gift cards listed on the agenda for the national consumer affairs meeting for Australia and New Zealand, in addition to what the federal government is considering in adopting uniform laws, really brings South Australia in line with what is happening across other jurisdictions. It is important that South Australia and this Marshall Liberal government ensure that we are on top of fair trading lines across the nation and that we remain relevant in terms of where it is.

As I said, it is very important that consumers have protection in terms of gift cards. I have certainly been the beneficiary of a David Jones or Myer gift card and forgotten to redeem it. My sister, who normally gives me a gift card at Christmas because she is sometimes a bit tardy in her purchases, says, 'Sam—

The Hon. C.L. Wingard: Time poor.

Mr DULUK: Very time poor. Generation Y, millennials, are indeed time poor, and it is a waste of $100 when a consumer does not redeem the card. It is much unlike me not to redeem a gift card, but it does happen from time to time as we all become very time poor. As I said from the outset, this legislation is designed to protect the consumer, and that is what it needs to be about. Looking at the broader part of consumer protection, a lot needs to be done. Too often, we have seen unscrupulous businesses use vulnerable and at times unsuspecting consumers, and ensuring that education process that protects the consumer is vitally important.

Gift cards continue to grow. Australians spend almost $2.5 billion a year on gift cards, and that is a huge outlay of investment. To put it in some broader context, the South Australian government spends about $6 billion a year on health, and rightly so, and Australians spend $2.5 billion on gift cards so it is appropriate that there is an element of regulation and consumer protection around this. With those words, I commend the bill to the house, and I look forward to its passage through this place.