Mr NICK LALICH:
My question is directed to the Minister for Fair Trading. Will the Minister update the House on what the Office of Fair Trading is doing to protect consumers in New South Wales?
Ms VIRGINIA JUDGE:
I thank the member for his question and for his continued interest in consumer protection in the great State of New South Wales. In these challenging economic times New South Wales families deserve to get the best possible value for their money. The Rees Government will not stand by if consumers are ripped off or taken for a ride when spending their hard-earned wages.
Order! Members will cease interjecting.
Ms VIRGINIA JUDGE:
From my first day as Minister, the Office of Fair Trading and I have worked relentlessly to ensure that New South Wales consumers have a fair and equitable market place. Fair Trading is actively spreading the Rees Government's consumer protection message throughout the community so that people know where to turn should things, sadly, go wrong. In the first quarter of this year New South Wales consumers have launched more than 11,000 complaints with Fair Trading, an increase of 9 per cent on the same period last year.
Order! I call the member for Coffs Harbour to order for the third time. He is on his final warning.
Ms VIRGINIA JUDGE: Leading the ladder of shame was dissatisfaction with household electrical goods and white goods, followed by residential building structure, and computer equipment and hardware coming in third. Consumers are our eyes and ears. I urge them to call Fair Trading on 13 32 20 or visit us on the web at www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au to lodge a complaint or report their concerns. While any increase in complaints is a concern, this trend shows that some consumers are more aware of their rights. They are turning to Fair Trading for assistance and advice, and they know help is only a phone call away.
To deal with the shonks, the Rees Government has invested $160 million in consumer protection and has dedicated more funds than any other State to enforcing the laws. I am proud of our investigative and compliance division. It does a fantastic job, and I have seen the results firsthand. It helps consumers right across the State and works with local traders, retailers and suppliers. Members of that division talk to real people, unlike The Nationals with their listening tour of Queanbeyan, who spoke only to microphones.
Order! I remind the House that a number of members are on three calls to order.
Ms VIRGINIA JUDGE: Just last week I visited Ballina for a series of compliance checks and regional access program events. I joined Fair Trading inspectors to test price scanners to ensure shoppers are not short-changed at the checkout. We visited local service stations to make sure motorists are not ripped off at the petrol pump. Members on this side think these are important matters, even if members on the other side could not be bothered. We can see where their conscience lies. I have a clear message for traders who even think of breaking our laws: Make no mistake, you will be caught.