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Tuesday, 22 June 1999
Page: 6993

Mr HAWKER —My question is to the Minister for Financial Services and Regulation. Could the minister inform the House of initiatives that will help increase the number of Australians owning shares in public companies, and how does this compare with other countries in the world?

Mr HOCKEY (Financial Services and Regulation) —I thank the member for Wannon for his question. May I take this opportunity to congratulate the member for Wannon for his hearings with the Governor of the Reserve Bank. The governor could not have been more glowing about the state of the Australian economy, and that is just one reason why we are the second greatest share owning nation in the world. Australians have taken to the stock market in very considerable numbers. In fact, I can advise the House that, over the last nine months alone, three-quarters of a million Australians for the first time invested in shares listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. That means that 57 per cent of direct share owners invested for the first time in the three years to 1998.

As the member for Wannon and many other members would know, 5.5 million Australians now own shares. That means we are the second largest share owning nation in the world after the United States, where 43 per cent of the population owns shares. If the Minister for Finance and Administration is able to repeat the very successful effort of Telstra tranche 1 and encourage enough Australians to invest for the first time, Australia will become the greatest share owning nation in the world.

I ask this question of the ALP: why does the Labor Party oppose extensive Australian share ownership? Why does the Labor Party oppose any effort that is made by the government to give the people of Australia a chance to invest in Australian companies? Why is the Labor Party opposing the abolition of stamp duty on the transfer of shares? Why is the Labor Party opposing the sale of a second tranche of Telstra? Why is the Labor Party doing everything that it can to stop people in its own constituencies—and in fact its own parliamentary members—from owning shares in Australian companies and in Telstra?

There are a number of parliamentary members of the ALP who think Telstra is a pretty good investment. I do not think we have time to go through all their names. I cannot; I am going to resist.

Mr Howard —Go on! Just a few.

Mr HOCKEY —Just to appease the Prime Minister, I want to point out that I know the member for the Northern Territory thinks they are a good investment.

Government members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —Members on my right!

Mr Snowdon interjecting

Mr HOCKEY —They are a good investment. I cannot hear your investment advice from here. We want to find out whether more Australians want to invest in shares and, accordingly, I have approved $180,000 being allocated to a study to investigate the level and extent of share ownership in Australia. It will be an independent report. We could probably save some dollars if we just sent the surveyors to ask the Labor Party some questions about share ownership. But what we want to do is put aside the class warfare that has entrenched the philosophy of the Labor Party. We want more Australians owning shares; we want to become the most significant share owning nation in the world.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper .