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Monday, 2 March 2015
Page: 1602


Mr WILLIAMS (Hindmarsh) (12:41): I rise today to contribute to the debate regarding the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Amendment (Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee Abolition) Bill 2014. As the member for Oxley departs, I have to say that I expected to hear far more intellectual input from him, as did members of the gallery. When he started there were floods of people up there. They disappeared after a few minutes, and it is no wonder; there was very little evidence. The speech given by the member for Oxley was full of generalisations, rhetoric and heady statements. He talked about markets and who understands markets. We could reflect on the last 15 months, as the member for Moreton stated. We could talk about the free trade agreements and how they benefit business. We could talk about removing taxes. I would have thought that maybe the mining tax might have assisted his good state of Queensland.

Importantly, we are here today to remove unnecessary regulation, red tape and compliance. This bill will cease the operation of the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee, or CAMAC. The cessation of CAMAC will result in the formal termination of CAMAC's legal committee, which was established in 1991. The decision to abolish CAMAC is a result of the federal government's broader smaller and more rational government reforms. This is a very small piece of the puzzle. It will drive greater efficiency and effectiveness. Unfortunately, we did not hear much about efficiency or see much efficiency from the member for Oxley in his presentation—it could have been done in 7½ minutes rather than 30 minutes—but we know that the opposition are not that efficient, productive or effective anyway.

This bill will involve the abolition or merger of government bodies where possible to eliminate duplication, remove waste, streamline government services and reduce the cost of administration for taxpayers. CAMAC and its legal committee are two of the 36 government bodies the Abbott government has committed to abolishing as part of our smaller government reforms. These reforms are expected to deliver net savings of about $500 million over the forward estimates, no small amount. In recent years the number of government bodies has grown out of control, which is why we have taken affirmative action on this front. The National Commission of Audit estimated that there were around 900 bodies. Further research prepared by the Department of Finance for the 2014-15 budget found the number to be closer to 1,000 different government bodies. Obviously things have become unwieldy and need to be changed. With so many bodies and agencies, many with overlapping responsibilities, lines of accountability become blurred and action can too often be uncoordinated. All of this is unnecessary and confusing for many, resulting in costs for the community.

The first phase of the Abbott government's smaller government reform agenda was implemented after the 2013 election and reduced the number of government bodies by 40, making a good start to our commitment to help government efficiency. CAMAC and its legal committee are two of the 36 government bodies the Abbott government has committed to abolishing as part of the second phase of our smaller government reform agenda. These actions and the savings associated are absolutely necessary so that the government can repair the budget and strengthen Australia's economic future.

The move to abolish CAMAC and its legal committee is also part of what we are doing in terms of cutting hundreds of millions—in fact, billions—of red and green tape each year. Why is this important? That is because bad regulation and too much regulation hurts productivity, deters investment and innovation and costs jobs. After essentially flatlining for a decade, total factor productivity fell in 2013. This is one of the many challenges that our country faces in terms of lower productivity growth. In 2014, Australia ranked 124 out of 148 countries for the burden of government regulation in the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index. Obviously, things need to change and improve. While we improved four spots on last year, we are still immediately behind Colombia and Spain and just in front of Iran. They are not exactly the OECD nations that we compare ourselves with more regularly.

The Productivity Commission has estimated that regulation compliance costs could amount to as much as four per cent of Australia's GDP. When our economy is challenged, little things like this matter. The government's efforts to reduce unnecessary costs and increase efficiency in how public funds are used to deliver services to the community are vital. The government believes an additional layer of taxpayer-funded bureaucracy is not required for industry to put its views on corporate regulation reform to government. This is about common sense.

We have heard of Labor's efforts. In little more than five and a half years, Labor introduced an additional 21,000 regulations. This is despite Kevin Rudd's promise in 2007 of one regulation in and one regulation out. I put this to the member for Oxley; the member for Isaacs, who is sitting here; and the member for Moreton: how many additional regulations did you put on the table and how many did you remove? I imagine that there were thousands added rather than removing any.

This question has been asked: how will the government regulate corporations law, financial products and the services industry? Part of the answer is the Treasury's Markets Group, which will continue to advise the government in relation to corporate law, financial markets and financial services. The advice of Treasury will continue to be informed by regular engagement with relevant experts and industry. While the government recognises the contribution that CAMAC has made to the development of corporate and financial services law reform over the past 25 years, the business environment has changed from 1989 when the agency was first established.

The government is committed to good policymaking processes. Where any significant regulatory changes are proposed, the government will engage in genuine consultation with stakeholders, including through the quantification of the cost of any new regulations in a regulation impact statement. That is an important initiative of this government.

What other bodies can provide advice to the government on corporations law? The member for Oxley identified one himself: ASIC. That will retain the capacity to advise the government on matters associated with the administration and reform of corporations legislation, companies, segments of the financial products and services industry, and proposals to improve the efficiency of financial markets. The government will continue to obtain high-quality, independent advice in relation to the reform of corporate and financial services law by commissioning specific reports and inquiries that utilise market specialists on an ad hoc basis. This approach will ensure that the advice provided is practical and supported by evidence.

We do not hear much evidence from the member for Oxley until about 20 minutes through his presentation. Then we heard a few quotes from industry bodies. It was good to hear, but it could have been done earlier in the speech to identify the areas outlined. The government's approach will ensure that the advice provided is practical and supported by evidence and that the most appropriate specialist expertise can be utilised. The government can also refer matters regarding the corporate regulatory framework to other government research and advisory bodies, such as the Productivity Commission and the Australian Law Reform Commission.

It is anticipated that the bill will be introduced in the spring 2014 sitting period and CAMAC will be wound up early in 2015. The cessation of CAMAC will generate savings of $2.8 million over the forward estimates. However, ceasing the operation of small bodies and committees like CAMAC generates savings beyond merely the savings of annual appropriation in funding. The ongoing operation of small agencies absorbs resources across the broader Commonwealth public service; for example, there are oversight and administrative costs.

The majority of the provisions in this bill relate to transitional and saving matters. Many of these provisions are standard provisions that are included, in some form, in all agency abolition bills. They preserve rights that currently exist. In no way do they purport to preserve CAMAC as an entity. The transitional and saving provisions do things like continue CAMAC's assets and liabilities after cessation as if they belong to the Commonwealth and substitute the Commonwealth for CAMAC in relation to contracts and other instruments, in relation to things that CAMAC did or does before its cessation and in relation to legal proceedings that are on foot upon the commencement of the bill. They also provide for the continued protection of information.

In summary, this bill provides the necessary framework going forward in terms of the area of corporations and financial markets. I commend this bill to the House.