Australia’s peak consumer body, the Consumers’ Federation of Australia, welcomed a finding from the Productivity Commission that additional public funding be provided to support consumer advocacy.
The finding, made in the Commission’s Draft Report on Consumer Law Enforcement and Administration, recognised there is considerable unmet demand from policy makers for input from informed consumer advocates.
“Consumer groups around Australia work on issues of concern to all Australians, but they do not always have the resources to cover each issue of importance, or to match the considerable resources of industry”, said Consumers’ Federation Chair Gerard Brody.
“Consumers’ Federation and its members are often asked to respond to industry and government consultation processes, but have to turn them down. Just this month, Consumers’ Federation had to decline to provide input four times”.
Some increased funding has delivered outcomes for Australia.
“Recent years have seen greater investment in consumer advocacy in areas like energy and telecommunications. This has led to more informed policy making, contributing to better consumer outcomes and more inclusive growth.
“However, there are other areas where there is limited capacity for consumer advocacy. These include important areas such as superannuation – as it’s compulsory, superannuation affects nearly all of us, yet there is no public funding to advance the consumer voice”.
Other important policy reform areas which lack consumer voices include education and training, food, sustainable consumption, digital rights, and newly deregulated areas like disability services and aged care.
Consumers’ Federation of Australia, the peak body for consumer organisations nationally, operates without any government funding.
The Productivity Commissions’ Draft Report on Consumer Law Enforcement and Administration can be found here
Draft finding 6.3 states: In its 2008 Review of Australia’s Consumer Policy Framework, the Commission identified material gaps in consumer input in policy processes. The Commission considers that recommendation 11.3 from the 2008 report — which in part directs the Commonwealth Government to provide additional public funding to support consumer advocacy — should be revisited.