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Tuesday, 16 February 1999
Page: 2869

Mr HOCKEY (Financial Services and Regulation) (5:18 PM) —in reply—I would like to thank everyone for participating in this debate on the Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Choice of Superannuation Funds) Bill 1998 , including the member for Wills, who made a fairly predictable contribution to the debate.

Mr Kelvin Thomson —It is my third time.

Mr HOCKEY —As he points out, it is the third time that this bill has been debated before the House of Representatives. I would particularly like to thank the member for Curtin and the member for Parramatta for their contributions to this debate. A number of points that they raised focused on consumer choice. That is very much the focus of many of the things that the government is seeking to do or has done in its term in office. It is about giving consumers greater choice about where they should place their money, whether it be through investment or expenditure.

It is about consumer sovereignty—giving consumers sovereignty over their money, over the way that they spend their money, over the way they invest their money and whom they invest with. The choice of super funds legislation is focused on that consumer sovereignty. That is the focus of competition policy, that is the focus of consumer affairs and that is the focus of our tax package which is now before the Senate. It is about giving Australians greater choice.

The member for Wills suggested that my comments about the package before the Senate contributing to an increased level of national savings were incorrect. I challenge that. If you are providing $13 billion of tax cuts to Australian consumers—and to Australians generally, of course—you are, by that very nature, increasing national savings. If you are running surplus budgets, you are, by definition, increasing national savings because the government is no longer going out to the market, going to Australians and borrowing money from them to pay for our day-to-day debts. That is where the tax package before the Senate contributes to a higher level of national savings.

The second part of the equation is competition. Competition brings out the very best in a marketplace. I think even now the Labor Party would be prepared to cast aside the old rhetoric and agree—and be mindful of the fact that the Labor Party began the whole national competition policy program with the initial review under Fred Hilmer—that competition does deliver better results for consumers. There is a range of areas that prove that. You just have to look at the level of competition in telecommunications at the moment to witness the fact that people—consumers—are the beneficiaries of greater competition. In this case, one of the most significant savings activities of individuals in the workplace is going to be their superannuation and we are saying that they, as consumers, investors and savers, should be given the choice of where their super goes.

And it is self-evident that we are going to see greater competition in the superannuation industry which will deliver better results for the people who are saving the money—the employees, the workers, of Australia. They have an inalienable right to determine where their savings should go because they are the ones who are going to have to live off those savings. We are giving consumers a choice about where their savings should go. We are empowering the people who are doing the yards to save money by giving them greater choice.

During this debate I have had the opportunity to consider a publication put out by Merrill Lynch, called Global Economic Trends. They point out that Japan will have the highest proportion of its population aged 65-plus by 2010. In Japan, 21.5 per cent—over one-fifth—of the population will be over 65 in 2010. In Australia, the number of people over the age of 65 is going to increase from 12.4 per cent, which it is at present, to 14.3 per cent by the year 2010—the baby boomer generation. That means that we are going to have more people over the age of 65 by 2010 than Canada, the United States, Poland, Russia, Argentina, Taiwan, Korea, Chile, Thailand, China, Turkey, Brazil, Venezuela and a number of other countries. That says that we need to start to increase our national savings.

So I urge the opposition to, in the first place, support the taxation package before the Senate. That is the first step. The second step is for the opposition to support empowering consumers—support any initiative which will give greater power to consumers to determine the fate of their savings. By supporting this bill we are in fact empowering consumers—hardworking, dedicated Australians, saving their money through superannuation—by giving them the opportunity to decide where their hard-earned savings should go. That is a very crucial part of the policy platform of this government and that is why we are reintroducing this bill. We will be opposing the amendments. We have seen them before; they are no different. We will oppose them in consideration in detail. We look forward to this bill going to the Senate.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.