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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 4045


Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (16:56): To expedite the debate, I want to be perfectly clear about the coalition's position. In relation to amendments (1) and (2), we will not oppose those amendments, where it is specifically about a period of 12 months or more. In relation to amendment (3), which is a slight change in the wording of 30-day period for the annual fee disclosure statement, we will support that. Amendments (4), (5), (8) and (10) in relation to the period to which a fee disclosure statement relates we will support. Amendments (6), (7) and (9), an argument about easier compliance by industry with the information required to be provided in fee disclosure statements, we will support.

Amendment (11), which removes paragraph 962H(2)(e), we will support. We will also support amendment (12), which removes paragraphs 962H(2)(f) and (g) the same way as our amendment (13) does to the extent that it is a catch-all regulation making the clause slightly wider than the existing clause. We will support improved wording on disclosure day in amendment (13).

We are opposing amendment (14), which changes the wording in section 962K, the opt-in clause, because we do not agree with opt in. The minister has clearly stated today that opt-in still exists—red tape. Amendment (15) changes the wording in section 962K opt-in clause to make it consistent. Similarly we oppose that. On amendments (16) and (17), our amendments are clearly better. This changes the anti-avoidance provision in the bill to potentially exempt arrangements in existence before the commencement of the bill from the anti-avoidance provisions but the way the amendment is drafted unquestionably creates uncertainty and leaves it to the courts to decide what is permitted and what is not permitted.

We are, without qualification, strongly opposed to the government's amendment to opt-in because we get rid of it. This is the key amendment, as identified by the minister, on ZA284: ASIC may exempt a person or class of persons from section 962K. This is going to kill small businesses. Have no doubt about it: this is going to have a very significant impact on small businesses. We have had the Independents talk about transparency, we had the government talk about letting the light in. How was this negotiated? Maybe the member for Lyne, who is given credit for this, can explain to the Australian people and the parliament how this was negotiated. It does not remove opt-in from the bill. It does not sort out the problems with the best interest duty. It does not provide certainty around the provision of scaled advice. It does not legislate the one-year extension for the implementation of FoFA that the government has promised. It does not fix a whole lot of outstanding issues with FoFA. But, specifically, this is going to increase unnecessary red tape.

Red tape is the bane of the life of small business. Red tape is what makes it so hard to undertake small business. Yet, here we have the minister negotiating exclusively with the member for New England and the member for Lyne a deal to keep opt-in in place, which is going to pile the red tape on. They could say, 'It is a class of people that will be subject to a code of conduct.' What code of conduct? A code of conduct has to go to the ACCC. A code of conduct has to engage all the businesses. Businesses all of a sudden have to have these new codes of conduct that they have to comply with. If it is a mandatory code, of course the ACCC needs to approve it. Then, 'If we haven't worked with one regulator, let's go to another regulator.' ASIC needs to approve it. This is small business. This could be a single financial planner in a country town who needs to comply with a new code of conduct for his industry, and that has to go to the ACCC, and that will take months and months to negotiate. It will take months and months to negotiate a new code of conduct for a particular class of advisers. (Time expired)