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'We're here today to talk about the issue of people being charged to get their paper bills in the post.' Press Conference Transcript, Wednesday 19 July 2017

SENATOR THE HON LISA SINGH

LABOR SENATOR FOR TASMANIA


ELLA HADDAD

STATE LABOR CANDIDATE FOR DENISON


E&EO TRANSCRIPT

DOORSTOP INTERVIEW

GLENORCHY LINC, HOBART

WEDNESDAY, 19 JULY 2017

SUBJECTS: Keep Me Posted Campaign

SENATOR LISA SINGH, SENATOR FOR TASMANIA: We're here today to talk about the issue of people being charged to get their paper bills in the post. It could be a little fee of $2.20, $2.75 – some as big as $6 – but it is just not good enough for these companies to charge people this fee. We know that a lot of people in Glenorchy and in all parts of Tasmania don't have the internet, they can't get their bills online, they have to get them by post, so why should they be slugged a fee for that?

The Australian Labor Party is looking at the law on this and Tim Hammond, our Shadow Minister for Consumer Affairs, has moved a motion in Parliament to start the ball rolling. Of course, when you look at Tassie where you've got an ageing population in parts I just think it is really, really unfair and, to be honest, quite rude. 

I'm also joined here today by Ella Haddad, our Labor Candidate for Denison and also Kellie Northwood, the Executive Director of the 'Keep Me Posted’ campaign. We're running a forum here in Glenorchy today to inform consumers about this campaign and how we can change the law to make it fair and stop companies ripping off our citizens here in Glenorchy and in Tassie.

JOURNALIST: What will be happening at the Forum today?

SINGH: Today we will be informing Glenorchy residents and people who have come from Hobart about what the goals of this campaign are, which is why I've invited Kellie down to be a part of it because Ella and I want make sure people are really informed about what their rights are, what they can do about this, and to make their voices heard so that we can actually move to change the law.

JOURNALIST: Do think these charges can be justified on environmental grounds

SINGH: I think that the fact that there are so many more people getting their bills online now means that companies are already saving a cost. So why then charge those that are left who are still getting bills by post? I think that companies can use environmentally recycled paper, there is no reason why they can't do that. So I don't think that there is an environmental ground for them to stand on – I don't think there is any ground for them to stand on – other than ripping off local residents who do the right thing, pay their bills on time, and yet they're getting charged this ridiculous fee just because they get their bills in the post. I’ll ask Ella to share her thoughts on that as well.

ELLA HADDAD, STATE LABOR CANDIDATE FOR DENISON: I'm a new Labor Candidate for Denison and in putting my hand up, one of the main reasons that I decided to run was because of cost of living issues. I've always seen Tasmania as a really affordable place to live, and we've all seen that really change. That's what's coming up when I talk to people in the community – of course health funding is one of the main things that's coming up, but the other one is cost of living issues. I think things like this, the charging of fees for people to get their mail in the post is really unfair and it slugs those of us who are on the lowest incomes. It is particularly unfair for people with low literacy skills, who simply might not have the opportunity or the ability to access their information online, and also people who don't have English as a first language, or simply don't have internet access. It is a really, really, unfair thing. 

JOURNALIST: Kellie, what is the campaign about?

KELLIE NORTHWOOD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR – ‘KEEP ME POSTED’ CAMPAIGN: The campaign is calling for amendments to the Australian Consumer Law. We simply want the amendments to say, 'No fees for any bill, whether it is an online bill or a paper bill.' We are looking at digital billing coming in and some fees are coming in for those bills and processing fees online, so nobody is safe in this game. We're saying simply that as a customer, the cost of doing business should be put up at the beginning of the price. That's when I can make my decision and my comparisons, and not later when you slug me nearly a month or two down the line.   

JOURNALIST: Do you think the $2.50 charge can be justified by providers

NORTHWOOD: Our research into what the big end of town is actually paying is they're charged about 94 cents, and that includes postage. Remember that the big end of town gets significant postage discounts. They don't pay what we pay – $1 over the counter – but it's about 94 cents which includes postage, print and the envelope. When they're charging $2.50 or a couple that are now coming up with $6 fees, it is absolute fleecing. Talking at these public forums, we are hearing stories from the community, people who have been customers of a bank for forty years being treated in this way, people who are on Newstart allowance are being treated in this way. We are hearing of organisations putting in vulnerability clauses to determine or reduce your vulnerability status. It is humiliating and it's not what we should be doing. It is a social justice issue and it is time to pull everyone back into line and be sensible about it and not charge fees for bills.

ENDS

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