Finance Consumer Government inaction on product safety laws putting kids’ lives at risk, parents say

Government inaction on product safety laws putting kids’ lives at risk, parents say

Product safety campaigners Allison Rees and Andrea Shoesmith lost their daughters to button batteries. Photo: Choice
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It’s not illegal for manufacturers and retailers to sell unsafe products to unsuspecting shoppers in Australia – and parents say that government inaction on the issue is putting kids’ lives at risk.

On Wednesday afternoon, the mothers of toddlers who died after ingesting button batteries will join consumer advocates Choice at Parliament House in Canberra to lobby for urgent product safety law reform.

Spearheading the campaign are mothers Andrea Shoesmith, whose four-year-old daughter Summer died tragically in 2013 after swallowing a button battery, and Allison Rees, who lost her 14-month-old daughter Bella in similar circumstances in 2015.

Now six years after Summer’s death, Ms Shoesmith said she is frustrated by how little has changed.

“These things [button batteries] are like loaded guns and they’re everywhere. I feel like we’re being fobbed off,” she said.

Ms Rees said that while it’s too late to save her daughter, “it’s not too late for everyone else and I want to do all I can to protect the kids of Australia”.

“It’s been four years since I lost Bella and there have been countless injuries to children because of button batteries,” she said.

“Some can’t eat, have breathing injuries, others are paralysed. Something should have been done a lot earlier.”

The two mothers will deliver a petition with more than 25,000 signatures to the office of the government MP responsible for consumer affairs – Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar.

“It should be illegal to sell unsafe products. No child should be put in hospital because of something like dangerous button batteries,” the petition simply reads.

Mr Sukkar declined to meet the campaigners, despite a slew of politicians including Labor’s consumer affairs spokesman Stephen Jones and Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff accepting meetings.

Mr Sukkar’s office ignored The New Daily’s question as to why he would not meet the campaigners.

In March, Choice accused manufacturers and retailers of turning a blind eye to the safety risks posed by button battery-powered items.

There have been at least 17 cases of children being seriously injured since December 2017.

Infants and children are particularly at risk of death or injury from unsafe products, with Choice test data showing that many potentially unsafe products designed for children remain on store shelves.

Portable cots were found to be the most risky, with 98 per cent failing to pass Choice’s safety tests, followed by 83 per cent of strollers and 59 per cent of cots.

Government accused of dragging feet

Choice chief executive Alan Kirkland accused the government of dragging its feet since agreeing to consider product safety law reform two years ago.

“We’re still waiting for them to take the next step and release a consultation paper on how it might be enacted,” Mr Kirkland said.

“Every day there’s a delay means that there’s another day where a products being sold and taken home by parents that are dangerous, that wouldn’t otherwise be being sold.”

Without new safety laws that make it illegal to sell unsafe products people will “continue to be hurt and even killed by dangerous products like button battery-powered devices”, Mr Kirkland said.

“Most people think that when a product is sold in Australia there’s a requirement that it’s safe, but that’s not what the law currently provides.

“Really all we’re calling for is a simple, clear, strong law that requires that if you’re going to manufacture or import or sell a product here that you should take some basic steps to check that it’s not going to injure or kill somebody.”

A spokesman for Mr Sukkar said the government “takes the safety of Australian consumers very seriously” and is “currently working with the states and territories to develop options to improve the national product safety framework”.

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