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Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Page: 2371

Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (18:56): I also am very pleased to talk today to this very important piece of legislation, the Corporations Amendment (Phoenixing and Other Measures) Bill 2012. I will make a few comments about the outstanding argument for this bill that has just been made by the member for Canberra. I noticed that her speech was littered with the terms 'workers' and 'workers rights'. In contrast, the member for Bradfield bemoaned the fact that ASIC will get more powers to deal with these dodgy participants in the practice of phoenixing. He talked about rights and liberties towards the end of his speech and listed—I know it was probably in descending order of those he thinks most important—the board members, the directors and the owners. I know he said employees, but he positioned them down the list and in service of those who are going to have most profit.

But this is a Labor piece of legislation that deals with ordinary workers and makes sure that we give to people the very rights that they have every right to expect. If you go to work you expect to be paid for your labour. To his credit, the member for Bradfield explained quite clearly the disgraceful practice that is phoenixing. My only worry is that perhaps he gave a bit of a manual to the less civic minded people listening to this broadcast and perhaps gave them a few ideas about what they might do. Luckily for those naughty people we will keep them out of jail, because we will stop them from phoenixing.

Mr Schultz interjecting

Ms O'NEILL: We will give them the opportunity to do the right thing, because we will put in a framework that will support them as they act in the interests of their company's success. We support small businesses and their success. The employing capacity they have makes a really big difference to our country. Ninety-four per cent of our employees are in small businesses. We understand that.

Mr Schultz interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The member for Hume has been thrown out once today. He should not tempt fate again.

Ms O'NEILL: I am glad I did not have to hear that, Madam Deputy Speaker. As I was saying, the reality is that we have companies that are engaging in extremely unethical practices and that are taking money away from employees. This legislation does three very important things. It introduces the administrative power that ASIC needs to make sure that, if it is planning to become bankrupt suddenly in order to keep its assets to itself and not pay its workers fairly, a company will have a whole lot more trouble achieving that end. Secondly, we understand that the publication of insolvency notices is going to change the way in which companies can make public the fact that they have become a failed company. I noticed that not many people from the other side of this chamber spoke about the fact that one of the things this legislation does is shift the place in which notification of a failed company has to be advised. Currently it can be in a newspaper. My understanding is that if a company becomes a failed company in New South Wales the less ethical types might decide to put a notice of that failed company in a newspaper as far away as Victoria. This legislation is going to require companies that have failed to put their details on to a public website.

Debate interrupted.