Saturday, July 12, 2008

Swindler's beware. Samuel's back

The man who spearheaded the government’s push for a FuelWatch scheme in the face of opposition from the Coalition and the oil companies has been reappointed Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

But Graham Samuel, a former investment banker and Liberal Party office holder will serve in the position under Labor for only three years instead of the usual five.

He told the Canberra Times that the decision was his. In three years time he will be 65 and would like to be able to move into another role in public service, in corporate life or in the not-for profit sector.

“Most of those roles expect people at 65 to be able to devote at least five years to job. If you go at 67 or 68 you’ve only got two years in it, and it’s just too late,” he said last night.

Mr Samuel will be joined as Deputy Chair by Peter Kell, the current head of the consumer organisation Choice and a former head of Consumer Protection at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Peter Kell has been appointed for five years.

When asked whether the consumer advocate had been chosen to succeed him Mr Samuel replied: “Listen. I’ve got three years mate. People have been trying to retire me for years...

...particularly over the past three or three or four months, when it wasn’t clear whether I would get reappointed, but as it turned out the Australian government didn’t agree with them”.

The government has also appointed a second Deputy Chair, Michael Schaper, a former ACT Small Business Commissioner who will have special responsibility for assisting small businesses in their relationships with big business, - a promise made by Labor during the election campaign.
The current Deputy Commissioner Louise Sylvan will be appointed to the Productivity Commission in order to broaden its expertise in consumer protection and social issues.

Graham Samuel next challenge will be to present the government with the report of his six-month investigation into grocery prices.

“I’ll be going through the drafts of the chapters this weekend,” he said. The report is due in a fortnight.

In the meantime the Melbourne-based ACCC Chairman has a recommendation for ACT shoppers. When he stays overnight in his flat in Barton mid-week he buys small $4.95 cans of caviar from a local supermarket and eats them with toast and avocado.

“They’re good value, with sardines and scrambled eggs as well,” he said.

“I enjoy staying the ACT mid-week”.