Labor MP reignites push for WA franchising laws

The fight for state-based franchising laws in WA is not yet over, after it was revealed Labor MP Ljiljanna Ravlich has introduced a new bill, despite the original bill being rejected by Parliament.


The move comes after South Australia passed its Small Business Commissioner Bill, enabling the commissioner to change the Franchising Code of Conduct following industry consultation.


Ravlich says the new bill will see Labor “reinforce its commitment to [additional] franchising protection for franchisees”.


For us, it was a case of signaling the fact that there are rogue franchisors out there who send honest businesspersons into bankruptcy and those businesspersons are often mums and dads,” Ravlich told StartupSmart.  


“We want to reign in those rogue franchisors who bully and intimidate franchisees.”


The new bill was introduced to the upper house yesterday. Ravlich says she will initiate discussions with the Greens and the Nationals “because we would need to have their support for it to pass”.


“They will be negotiations we will have at the commencement of the New Year,” she says.


“Given that it was only defeated by one vote last time… there’s an even chance we could push it through the Legislative Assembly.”


“We’re not over with this. This is a fight that’s worth having.”


Meanwhile, WA Liberal MP Peter Abetz says the new bill appears to be identical to the private member’s bill he introduced earlier in the year.


“There is one extra part that requires the small business commissioner to give annual reports on the state of the franchising sector. That is the only part that I could see that was different,” Abetz told SmartCompany.


“I haven’t had too close of a read yet, but it appears to be identical. I’ll need a chance to go through it all very carefully.”


The original bill called for penalties for breaches to the Franchising Code of Conduct, and also introduced a definition of “good faith” for contracts.


However, it was rejected after an inquiry found misconduct in the sector was not as widespread as some believed.


Abetz says he is confident the new bill can pass the upper house, claiming it has the support of both Labor and the Greens.


“My guess is that it will go through the upper house and that it will put more pressure on the government to consider what it will do in the lower house,” Abetz said.


“There is a very good chance of it passing to the upper house but of course it still has to go to the lower house and if the voting occurs in the same way, it could be a tied vote.”


Steve Wright – executive director of the Franchise Council of Australia and a vocal opponent of state-based franchising laws – says he was unaware of Ravlich’s plan to introduce the bill.


However, he says the move is “consistent with what has been going on with that state for some time now”.


“The Labor party has been supporting a bill from a member of the Liberal party, which is a curious situation in political terms,” Wright says.


“The interesting thing is that this is in the upper house rather than the lower house, so it’s a reverse strategy.”


“It does pose the question, ‘Why now?’ If there had been a genuine push by the Labor party, which wasn’t apparent when they were in government, why didn’t that occur previously?”


However, Wright isn’t overly concerned the bill will get very far in its current form.


“Something would need to change for the result to be any different. They’ve had three cracks at it – this is essentially the number four attempt,” he says.


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