“The consumer ‘movement’ has been foaming at the mouth over recent commentary in Crikey about its ineffectiveness, but many consumer advocates can’t go public because of their inherent conflicts,” Stephen Mayne wrote yesterday.

That’s quite an admission, coming from the Mayne Man. He appears to believe that consumers aren’t capable of realising when they’re getting ripped off. But Crikey certainly has ruffled some feathers with our comments on Australia’s consumer movement.

A few questions though. Peter Kell, CEO of the Australian Consumers’ Association says that Choice has 200,000 subscribers. How many actual voting members does the ACA have, though, Peter? Is it more like a consumer clique than a consumer movement?

The ACA gets no government funding, according to Kell. Yet governments often put “consumer representatives” on various boards and committees. It would be interesting to hear from Kell just many of these committees and boards the ACA gets invited to fill.

If ACA members become “representatives”, are they paid board fees or per diems or remunerated in any way? Who does the ACA nominate to fill these positions – and how? Are any of Choice’s directors nominated for these positions? And exactly how many positions reps on boards and committees has the ACA been asked to fill by industry or government? Is there a list of them anywhere?

And when Kell says no government funding, is he also talking about money from Qangos?

Does Choice get money from business in the form of subscriptions? Does Choice provide testing services for business? If so, which companies?

Here’s hoping we have a consumer movement, not a consumer clique. Or cadre. A cadre of professional activists.

After all, we always have to be on guard for rip-offs. Supposedly, anyway.