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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 2454

Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (10:02): As we drew towards the adjournment debate last night, I was speaking about this legislation, the Corporations Amendment (Phoenixing and Other Measures) Bill 2012, and how it makes modern sense of the previous regulations requiring companies that had become failed companies to advise people, the public, through the usual broadsheet method of getting that advice into a regular publication. However, the world has moved on somewhat since broadsheets were the only way of communicating about businesses that had become insolvent and the reality is that Australians use the internet to find very important information that impacts on their lives. That is one of the key things that this bill will bring into being: the opportunity for ordinary Australian citizens who have been impacted by a failed business to be able, in a free and easily accessible way, to go to a website and find out about the company that they might have a particular interest in. This is very important for the sorts of people that we are seeking to represent here, ordinary working families who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves with an unscrupulous sort of employer who has sought to use their labour and not pay for that labour. So this is a very significant modernisation dimension that is embedded in the bill.

Obviously, one of the things that we hope this bill will achieve is to make sure that power is given to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to ensure that people have the security that they need in this situation where companies fail. Our concern, as a Labor Party putting forward this piece of legislation, is particularly as to the employees of such companies as those that become failed companies. We understand that when a company fails employees can miss out on some or all of their entitlements: unpaid wages and other accrued benefits. The General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme, GEERS, will certainly protect those workers' entitlements in these situations and make sure that the workers can actually recoup as much as possible of their entitlements as quickly as possible.

The reality is that some companies will fail. At that time when they fail, if it is a genuine failure and not one that has been orchestrated, the reality is that they might not have quite the agency to go through the proper processes to wind up their own company. This bill will give ASIC the power that it needs to place a company into liquidation and to deregister a company where the company itself has failed to take that action. So, in essence, this bill, which I commend to the House, is one that will certainly benefit the business sector and employees. It paves the way for a much more streamlined and cost-effective process involving the publication of insolvency notices via a single, publicly available website and it gives the benefit to creditors of companies in external administration by absolutely reducing the costs of complying with their regulatory obligations. So for those particular reasons and many other good elements that are embedded in the bill I commend it to the House.