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Tuesday, 16 February 1999
Page: 2876


Mr HAWKER (5:31 PM) —I join in this debate because I would like to support the words of the Minister for Financial Services and Regulation. I have some concerns with the amendment that has been put forward by the opposition. As I see it, it is one of those amendments that is often put forward, probably with good intentions, but which we have to look closely at to see what the effects could be. As I understand the amendment, they are trying to argue about choice versus investment, versus the choice of fund. Clearly, in offering this move to choice—and it is long overdue—the government is already taking a very big step forward in giving employees, through their workplace, the opportunity to have that choice.

The member for Wills overlooks a very simple point when he raises the question of additional costs. While they certainly sound like large sums in themselves, in terms of the amount of money that is being invested in superannuation funds, proportionately they are not large sums. However, the most important thing is not the question of the additional cost but the question of whether it will lead to better returns. One of the points that the minister has already made—and one of the points that has to be made again and again—is that the introduction of competition, whether it be in superannuation or in other areas, is the best guarantee we can offer for people to get better returns.

We should not be focusing on the question of cost. We should be focusing on the question of whether or not people are going to get a better return for their superannuation. This is a very important point and one that I would ask the opposition, through the member for Wills, to consider very carefully because that focus is one that they would see much better results from.

The amendment is also in some ways splitting hairs because this choice is already being offered. The question of the employee being able to exercise choice through the way the employer offers it offers sufficient choice and, by going down this path, the employee would see that opportunity to exercise that choice much sooner than following the opposition's role. I believe that the amendments put forward by the opposition should be rejected. They should be rejected on the very sound grounds that they are unnecessary and could be counterproductive. What the government is proposing offers not only reasonable choice but, more importantly, the opportunity for employees to get a better rate of return and to have the opportunity to get a better superannuation payout when it is due.

We are very conscious of that need given the figures that the minister has already put forward about maximising that return. Clearly, the need to increase savings and to increase opportunities through superannuation for people to be self-sufficient when they retire is of paramount importance. It is something that the community is trying to come to grips with now. It is something that, through this bill, the government is making a very substantial step towards helping. I therefore believe that the bill should be passed as it is proposed by the government.