Cyberspace war heats up

The website says: "The need for a site such as this has been brought about by the intransigent and bullying campaigning of the (FCA) towards any meaningful recognition of the problems faced by many franchisees at the hands of problem elements within the industry".

http://www.watoday.com.au
February 4, 2011

Cyberspace war heats up
Chalpat Sonti

The battle to get a contentious piece of legislation through various state parliaments has taken another twist, after the man behind the Hungry Jack's franchise launched a cyberspace front.

Jack Cowin's Competitive Foods is behind a new website FairGoLegislation.org, set up to counter what the company - a supporter of proposed franchise law reform in WA and South Australia - says is misinformation being spread by franchisor lobby group, the Franchise Council of Australia.

Competitive Foods has also got some significant legal muscle on its side, saying legal opinions by leading QCs Malcolm McCusker and former Commonwealth Attorney General Daryl Williams have been submitted to the state parliamentary committee reviewing the proposed WA legislation.

It also commissioned an opinion from prominent Sydney SC Alan Robertson.

MPs in WA and South Australia introduced legislation to cover monetary penalties for those who breach the laws and a good faith provision, two matters that were not covered when the federal government made changes to the national franchising code of conduct.

The laws have been backed by many franchisees - Mr Cowin is Australia's largest and also runs KFC stores in WA under franchise - and some franchisors, though is strongly opposed by the FCA.

The website is also backed by Jim Penman, owner of Australia's largest privately-owned franchisor, Jim's Group, and a critic of the FCA.

The website says: "The need for a site such as this has been brought about by the intransigent and bullying campaigning of the (FCA) towards any meaningful recognition of the problems faced by many franchisees at the hands of problem elements within the industry".

The WA legislation was introduced by government MP Peter Abetz as a private members bill, but the battle got heated when the FCA claimed Competitive Foods was only backing it to advance its own interests in a court case against Yum International, the owner of KFC.

It also questioned the franchising expertise of Mr Abetz and the man who drafted the bill, University of NSW associate professor Frank Zumbo.

Mr Cowin counter-claimed that prominent FCA member Steven Giles - who has been one of the public faces against the WA and South Australian bills - was compromised because of his legal work for Yum.

The bill was sent to a committee amid Opposition claims that then-government backbencher Troy Buswell - under the urgings of the FCA - bullied Mr Abetz to try to get him to drop the legislation.

The FCA, in its submission to the WA parliamentary committee, again called for the bill to be abandoned, saying it was "all risk and no benefit".

It was recently backed by federal small business minister Nick Sherry, who said supporters of the state-based legislation "erroneously" considered the federal reforms had not dealt with the issues.

"Separate state-based franchising legislation will create (un)certainty for franchise businesses, lead to more duplication and create additional compliance burdens," he told a forum in Hobart on Wednesday.

"Franchising requires a national approach and the Australian Government is committed to continuing on the path of a uniform, national system."

The new website follows another excursion into cyberspace by South Australian Labor MP Tony Piccolo, who started a Facebook page as the battle in his state heated up.

"Unfortunately, those who oppose reform have access to greater financial resources so those supporting reform need to find efficient and creative ways to get the message out," he said.

The South Australian legislation has yet to be introduced into its Parliament. The WA committee is due to report to parliament in May.

Both those proposals were initially introduced by government MPs, while Queensland Opposition MP David Gibson has indicated he will introduce legislation in that state.

http://www.watoday.com.au/small-business/franchising/cyberspace-war-heats-up-20110203-1afd2.html


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