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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 2708

Senator CHANEY (Leader of the Opposition)(8.30) —The Opposition is thoroughly supportive of employee share schemes and the need to promote direct employee interest in the success of an enterprise, either by way of employee share ownership, profit sharing arrangements, or whatever. But the Opposition is also quite clear in its view that the general industrial situation in Australia is one of excessive rigidity, too much direction and too little agreement. We are certainly not prepared to agree to a proposal that there be an element of compulsion in these matters. In other words, we do not see benefits flowing from employers being told that they have no choice. In this case, under the Australian Democrats' proposal, it is not absolutely compulsory, because the employer would have the option of not taking the bounty assistance. Of course, in a highly competitive industry, that really amounts to compulsion.

For that reason we will not support the amendments which have been moved by the Australian Democrats. The reality is that there is a need to encourage employee share ownership. The starting point for the Government, in our view, should be to amend the taxation laws which make the issue of shares to employees a very difficult and expensive business, and not practical in many circumstances. We would prefer to see the problem tackled from that point rather than from the point of introducing the sort of element of compulsion that we believe is involved in the proposal which has been put forward by Senator Siddons.