GOLDEN VINTAGE VINEYARD INVESTMENT
Ms MEAGHER: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Fair Trading, and Minister for Women. What advice can the Government give to investors or prospective investors in Golden Vintage, a vineyard investment managed by Australian Vineyard Management Limited?
Mrs LO PO': Several months ago my attention was drawn to a full-page advertisement in the Australian Financial Review, and I -
Mr Collins: On a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister is entitled to table the document.
Mr Collins: She should seek leave to table it.
Mrs LO PO': I did.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is the Minister seeking leave to table the document?
Mrs LO PO': I seek leave to table the document.
Leave not granted.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Does the Minister propose to lay the document on the table?
Mr Collins: On a point of order. Is the Minister seeking leave to table the document or is she not?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order. For the information of the Leader of the Opposition, the Minister has laid the document on the table, which means any member may peruse it.
Mr Collins: We reserve that right.
Mrs LO PO': This advertisement sought investment in a fund called Golden Vintage under the banner headline, "Own a Vineyard with $3,584 and claim a tax deduction of $26,334." The advertisement solicited funds to establish a vineyard and make wine.
Mr Collins: On a point of order. You have ruled emphatically on the use of props in this House. There has been some change in the conduct of this House since you so ruled. Members of the Government are passing around a large paper that has just been put on the table of the House. By doing so those honourable members are contravening your earlier ruling.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! As I understand it, the document has been laid on the table for the purpose of members' edification. They can look at that document at their will, which is what is happening at the moment. I take the point made by the Leader of the Opposition, that if the Government holds on to the paper for the whole of question time that obviously precludes others from using it. I suggest that once Government members in that area have perused the document it should be returned to the table.
Mrs LO PO': I do not know what the Deputy Leader of the National Party thinks I am going to say. It falls to the Department of Fair Trading to monitor, investigate and act in matters relating to the publishing of false or misleading advertising, which is against New South Wales law. The extravagant nature of Golden Vintage's claims was certainly of interest to my department. As Minister for Fair Trading my constant refrain has been, "People beware! If an offer seems too good to be true, it invariably is." I am sure honourable members will join with me condemning false and misleading advertising which seeks to separate hardworking folk from their savings. I do not include all members in that statement. Only some would be concerned about that. The advertisement in the Australian Financial Review on 14 May promised a tax deduction of $26,334 for an investment of only $3,584 with the prospect of part ownership of a lucrative vineyard.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Davidson to order for the second time. Order! I call the honourable member for Davidson to order for the third time.
Mrs LO PO': The honourable member for Davidson does not have to interject merely because the Leader of the Opposition asks him to do so. He can do his own thing. Many would have treated such an offer with scepticism but others might have been tempted to part with their money, not least because of the impressive list of upstanding citizens cited in the advertisement as directors of this investment vehicle. Heading the list of directors is the Hon. Ian Armstrong, the Leader of the National Party. My department has now provided advice on the advertisement.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the National Party to order for the second time.
Mrs LO PO': I do not know why the Deputy Leader of the National Party is so concerned.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the Deputy Leader of the National Party to order for the third time.
Mrs LO PO': An examination of the advertisement by departmental legal officers shows that it, ". . . contravenes s42(1) of the [Fair Trading] Act . . ." Furthermore, the legal advice notes:
. . . a person reading the advertisement would have thought that by paying $3,584, that person would acquire an interest in a vineyard and a tax deduction of $26,334 . . .
It also notes that the credit provider used by the Leader of the National Party's company, Condor Investments Limited, is not currently recorded as holding a licence. The legal advice recommends action to warn the company in respect of unlicensed trading. Under current legislation it is up to the victims of false and misleading advertising to take civil action against the principals of offending companies. I am happy to offer my services to people who believe they have been duped by this advertising.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call the honourable member for Ermington to order.
Mrs LO PO': I assure those people that the Department of Fair Trading will give them every advice and assistance in their quest for justice and redress. In the meantime officers of the Department of Fair Trading are initiating proceedings to seek an injunction against the company that will prevent any further publication of this nature and require it to publish another advertisement correcting the misleading impression created by its false, deceptive and illegal advertisement.
However, a careful reading of the prospectus would totally change this view . . .