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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 4049


Mr FLETCHER (Bradfield) (17:12): The question of opt-in has been one of the most contentious in the approach to the Future of Financial Advice for the whole period that this package of reforms has been under consideration by the government and by the parliament. Financial advisers all around Australia have been anxiously approaching their members of parliament, saying that this is a fundamental challenge to the way they conduct their business and it is also a fundamental restriction on the freedom of both financial planners and their clients to contract, because an extraordinary proposition is being put into the law here.

The extraordinary proposition is that, if you as a client want to go to an adviser and say, 'I wish to retain your services indefinitely; I wish to retain your services until such time as I no longer wish to retain your services,' you are now prevented from doing that by law because of the opt-in requirement. It is now a requirement in the law, subject only to the amendment the sketchy details of which have just been provided to the House, that you may not contract without limit even if you, as a citizen seeking advice, believe that you are perfectly within your rights and capability to do so. So there are very good reasons why both the financial advisory industry and people seeking financial advice have been very concerned about opt-in.

We are now told at very late notice that a deal has been done between the government and the member for Lyne which sorts it out. It sorts it out, no problem—no problem at all!

It may still be the case that as a matter of black letter law the statutes of this country will say: 'You are not free to contract with your financial adviser for more than two years. But don't worry, there'll be a code of conduct which will sort it out.' What details do we have about this code of conduct? They have not been provided to the House. In fact, as a matter of law we are simply being asked to take it on trust from the government that the government will cause ASIC to approve a code of conduct which will allow these arrangements to proceed and that it will grant relief. Mr Speaker, I put it to you that that is a deeply unsatisfactory way in which to proceed. We are not being given the detailed information that this House has a right to expect if it is to give consideration to the substance of this deal, which we are told addresses this problem. And I think the minister ought to give a much more comprehensive explanation of what is proposed than he has done so far.