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Easter Trading And Charitable Giving

Easter Trading And Charitable Giving

Hon Heather Roy, ACT Deputy Leader
Friday, December 11 2009

Members' Bills - known as Private Members' Bills until 1996 - are often the only avenue that back bench MPs have to put legislation forward. Members' Bills go into a ballot, which is drawn when space becomes available on the Parliamentary Order Paper. The drawn Bill is set down for debate on the next Members' Day - every alternate Wednesday when the House is sitting. This week we had a Members' Day and two Bills were debated.

The first was National MP Amy Adams' Fair Trading (Soliciting on Behalf of Charities) Amendment Bill, designed to introduce more transparency to charitable giving by requiring charities to disclose to donors how much of their donation will be kept by the collector where a third party collector is used.

At present, most people who donate to a charity assume that most of their money goes toward funding that charity's activities. In reality, charities often use third party collectors - who keep a proportion of donations as payment for their services.

While using a third party to collect or solicit donations isn't illegal or dishonest, in can be misleading. The Fair Trading Act is the legislation in place to prevent consumers being misled, and Amy Adams' Bill is an amendment to that.

The Bill will add provisions to the Fair Trading Act's Unfair Practices section and will require charities to disclose the portion of the donation to be kept by the collector where that proportion is over 20 percent. If it is between 20 and 50 percent of the total donation, the collector would simply disclose that a portion is being withheld by them, but would not have to disclose the amount. If the proportion is more than 50 percent of the total donation, the collector would have to disclose the percentage being retained to the nearest percentage point.

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As Minister of Consumer Affairs, I have initiated a project called 'One Law' - a simplification programme for consumer law with the goal of principle-based consumer-supplier legislation that will see rationalisation of some of the 12 consumer laws that currently exist.

The Fair Trading Act is pivotal in this project, with the likely outcome being an enhanced Fair Trading Act that incorporates as many of the aspects of other consumer legislation as possible, as well as additional enforcement tools that have been identified.

This is why Mrs Adams' Bill is timely, and she and I have discussed the interface between 'One Law' and her amendment. We agreed there is merit in her Bill being absorbed into the ‘One Law' project and considered within the new approach to consumer law.

The Fair Trading (Soliciting on Behalf of Charities) Amendment Bill passed its First Reading in Parliament this week. Amy Adams should be commended for working to ensure that consumers are well-informed and that charitable giving is transparent.

Also debated this week was National MP Todd McClay's Members' Bill - Shop Trading Hours Act 1990 Repeal (Easter Sunday Local Choice) Amendment Bill - which was voted down.

This Bill would have allowed local authorities, rather than Government, to determine Easter Trading restrictions within their areas - in essence, letting communities decide for themselves whether they wanted shops open on Easter Sunday or not.

Under current law, some shops are allowed to open and trade in a number of areas - some tourist destinations - on Easter Sunday. For instance, shops in Taupo and Queenstown can do business on Easter Sunday, but those in Rotorua and Wanaka cannot.

Voting on this Bill was a conscience issue, meaning each MP could vote as they saw fit - rather than along Party lines. ACT would much rather see individuals allowed to decide for themselves whether they open their store on Easter Sunday - there have been a number of Members' Bills in this vein.

Allowing local authorities to decide is still a step in the right direction, however, and all ACT MPs voted in favour of Mr McClay's Bill - unfortunately, the same cannot be said of other MPs and we remain with the inconsistent status quo.

Lest We Forget - The Battle of the River Plate
This Friday I am attending a special dinner to commemorate the Battle of the River Plate - the first major naval battle of WWII.

The Battle of the River Plate was fought by four vessels. On the one side were HMS Ajax, HMS Exeter, and New Zealand's HMS Achilles. The enemy was the much more powerful German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spree.

The 82-minute battle occurred on December 13 1939 in the South Atlantic ocean. At 6:21am HMS Achilles became the first New Zealand unit to attack the enemy in WWII, and the first ever New Zealand warship to take part in a naval battle.

While all four ships were damaged in the conflict and 110 people were killed - including two New Zealanders - the Battle of the River Plate was deemed a victory following the Admiral Graf Spree's retreat to neutral waters and then scuttling by its crew.

The HMS Achilles crew was welcomed home with huge parades in Auckland and Wellington, and the Battle of the River Plate remains a significant event in New Zealand's naval history.

ENDS

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