Member for Berowa Julian Leeser

March 23, 2022

First Nations residents ripped off by unscrupulous businesses have been left dangling after a Federal Government inquiry ran out of time to complete its hearings.

The Indigenous Affairs Committee published an interim report this week after winding up its inquiry into better corporate engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers.

This report has been presented as an issues paper for consideration in the next Parliament “due to the limited time available to conduct the inquiry and the inability to travel due to the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic”.

The committee noted it had not concluded its evidence-gathering in relation to misfeasance by some corporations against First Nations consumers, or had a chance to speak with those businesses about their practices.

The interim report therefore had made no formal policy recommendations to government.

It did, however, highlight some core issues that it believed would serve “as a useful starting point” for any new committee.

These included:

  • The future of the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) program and how it could be strengthened
  • The impact of ongoing poor behaviour in the telecommunications sector with significant debts accumulated by many in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities due to unscrupulous practices
  • The unfair advantage taken of the poor financial literacy of some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander consumers across a number of sectors
  • The predatory practices of certain payday-style lenders, car finance operations, and funeral insurance businesses that operate outside the reach of regulators.

Committee chair Julian Leeser MP said the committee was “disappointed” to hear during the inquiry that despite some recent high-profile cases, such as the $50 million fine imposed on Telstra for unconscionable conduct, bad corporate behaviour towards First Nations consumers continued to exist in certain market sectors, including financial services and telecommunications.

“The committee would like to see this inquiry re-referred at the beginning of the next Parliament,” Mr Leeser said.

“The newly formed committee will then have time to explore the core issues in this interim report in greater depth and make appropriate recommendations.”

  • External link: The interim report can be downloaded from the committee’s website

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