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Tuesday, 19 November 2002
Page: 6733

Senator CHAPMAN (3:33 PM) —As my colleague Senator Brandis said a few moments ago, this is a fundamental issue of the rights of workers. It is a fundamental issue of the employee having the right to determine where their money is going to be invested—not to have some third party, legislation, employer or union tell them where the money that they are saving for their retirement through superannuation funds is going to be invested, but to have the right to determine where that money is going to be invested.

Senator CHAPMAN —I am sorry, I cannot hear Senator Wong's bleating, so I cannot respond to the issue that she is raising.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —All you need to do is address the chair, Senator Chapman.

Senator CHAPMAN —Thank you, Mr Deputy President. This is a fundamental issue as far as employees are concerned. Employers and self-employed people have the right to determine where their retirement funds are going to be invested, so why shouldn't employees? Of course, the Labor Party comes in here and stands up as the knight to defend small business. It claims that some of the administrative costs associated with this choice regime are excessive as far as small business is concerned. That is simply a subterfuge, as we all know, because what the Labor Party is really defending are the union superannuation funds, the industry funds, which until now the superannuation payments made on behalf of employees have had to reside in. That is the only option that employees have had in the investment of their funds for retirement—the industry funds, the so-called union funds. That is what the Labor Party is really defending here. It is not defending small business at all. It knows that when employees have the right to choose the fund into which their retirement savings will be invested then those union funds are at significant risk.

We heard a minute ago from Senator Buckland that the Labor Party therefore wants to exempt small business from this choice regime—completely ignoring the fact that small business is a major employer in this country. If that segment of the economy is exempt then a significantly large number of employees will be denied completely the right of choice as to where their retirement savings will be invested. Their rights are being trampled on.

The Labor Party trumpets itself as the defender of workers' rights. It is nothing of the sort. The fact that it is nothing of the sort is demonstrated by its attitude to choice in employee superannuation. The Labor Party is the defender of union power. It is the defender of the union rights, not the defender of individual workers' rights at all. It does not represent workers; it represents trade union power. That is no wonder when we look across the other side of this chamber and see how many Labor Party senators come from a background of trade union involvement such as being trade union office-bearers and the like. That is what this debate is really all about.

In contrast to that, the government remains committed to introducing choice of superannuation funds from 1 July 2004 because it will not only give employees that fundamental right to determine where their retirement savings are invested but also promote greater competition and efficiency in the superannuation industry. In regard to compliance, it is important to note that the government has allocated some $28.7 million over four years to allow the Australian Taxation Office to conduct an information and eduction campaign on choice and portability and to cover associated administration costs.

That education campaign will ensure not only that employees know how the choice regime will operate but also that the small business sector, about which the Labor Party feigns such concern, will know how this system will operate and will know how to minimise their administrative costs. While there might be some additional administrative work for employers in the transition period, it will certainly be substantially outweighed by the long-term benefits not only to employees, who will have the benefit of this choice, but also to the community as a whole because of the greater flexibility that it provides for employers and employees. The government is determined to ensure that this measure is implemented in a way that minimises impact on small business operators. The government is listening to small business and it will listen to the recommendations of the Senate select committee. (Time expired)