A report in the Courier Mail newspaper Monday morning revealed the Nationals’ newest Cabinet member and erstwhile pretender to the National’s leadership, David Littleproud, has a direct interest in a rent-to-buy company that sells household goods at huge mark-ups to vulnerable consumers who do not have ready cash.
Mr Littleproud’s business arrangements raise serious and yet to be answered questions about his ability to avoid all conflicts of interest regarding the Government’s Small Amount Credit Contract (SACC) bill, which Labor introduced to the Parliament on Monday as a Private Member’s Bill.
Paterson MP Meryl Swanson grilled Mr Littleproud about his rent-to-buy business “Mr Rental Southern Downs” in Question Time.
Rather than answer Ms Swanson’s questions, Mr Littleproud postured about his business’s profit and loss sheets.
He refused to acknowledge the pressures faced by the financially vulnerable consumers who are his customers.
Mr Littleproud’s Mr Rentals business offers a 620-litre LG fridge for $164.28 over 48 months, which comes to a total of $7,885.44.
The same product can be bought outright for $1,698 and is available on an interest-free payment plan at retailers including The Good Guys.
Mr Littleproud said he was “proud” to offer consumers a service that allowed them to purchase new products.
“There’s little to be proud of when offering a ‘service’ that costs consumers more than 400% of the available retail purchase price,” Mr Hammond said.
Meanwhile, in another stunning display of Coalition disunity, in Question Time the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer actually supported the same reforms that Mr Littleproud and the “Parliamentary Friends of Payday Lending” are seeking to bury:
“When I was the Minister responsible for this particular area we accepted the vast majority of the recommendations and the Government made announcements in respect of that,” Ms O’Dwyer said.
“How can anyone believe that the National Party will do the right thing by consumers when one of its Cabinet Ministers is profiting from the same financially vulnerable Australians this bill seeks to protect?” Mr Hammond said.
Labor’s pay-day lending and rent-to-buy reform bill is a word-for-word replica of the Government’s draft legislation from 2017, which already has Cabinet approval.
Unlike the Turnbull Government, Labor is offering a bipartisan solution to ending the cycle of crippling payday loan and rent-to-buy debt.