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Thursday, 12 May 2011
Page: 3817


Dr LEIGH (Fraser) (11:30): I rise to speak against the amendments to the Corporations Amendment (Improving Accountability on Director and Executive Remuneration) Bill that have been moved by the Liberal Party with all the energy and passion that the member for Casey has been able to muster today. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer has raised the central flaw in the opposition's amendments, which is that by watering down the 25 per cent threshold, by including all those who fail to vote as effectively voting in favour of the remuneration package, the opposition's amendments would make the 25 per cent no vote threshold extraordinarily difficult to achieve.

While the parliamentary secretary has talked about the overall turnout figure—turnout for the typical company is 58 per cent of shareholders—I think it might assist if I take the House through a few recent examples which the Parliamentary Library has drawn for me of ASX 100 companies where more than 25 per cent of shareholders voted against a remuneration package. According to the figures that were extracted for me, nine ASX 100 companies were in that position—that is, they would have received a first strike. But if the opposition's amendment were to get up, were it to be the case that it was not 25 per cent of voting shareholders but 25 per cent of all shareholders, only five of those companies would have met the threshold and got a strike. AGL Energy received a no vote of 29 per cent on its remuneration report, but because they only had a 40 per cent voter turnout it would not have met the 25 per cent threshold under the opposition's amendment. Aristocrat Leisure: 29 per cent of voting shareholders said no to the remuneration report, but because only 60 per cent turned out that would not have met the 25 per cent threshold under the opposition's amendment. Mirvac Group: 25 per cent of shareholders voted against the remuneration report, but only 65 per cent of shareholders turned out, so under the opposition's amendment that would not have met the test. OneSteel: a full 43 per cent of OneSteel shareholders voted against the remuneration report, but because only about half of OneSteel shareholders voted, if the opposition's amendment had come into play, it would not have met the 25 per cent test.

It is very clear where the opposition stand on this. They are on the side of overpaid directors, not on the side of shareholders. As usual, the modern Liberal Party have lined up in favour of the few, not in favour of the many. They like to come into this place and put themselves forward as a party of reform, but every time you look you see that the reforms they favour are Clayton's reforms. If you think Work Choices is good for workers, you will like the opposition's amendments. If you think Direct Action can deal with dangerous climate change, not only would you be unlike every other business leader and economist in this country but you would probably like this reform as well. If you think a budget can balance even when it has an $11 billion black hole, I reckon you would probably like the opposition's amendments today.

The modern Liberal Party are the Clayton's reformers of Australian politics. They come in here with toy amendments—things like tax receipts. While we in the Labor Party are putting forward real reforms—overhauls of mental health, the MySchool 2.0 website—the Liberal Party stand against reform. They are doing it again today. They come sliding into this chamber trashing the 25 per cent rule, wanting to remove the accountability that rule would provide to shareholders. Instead, they are raising the bar in such a way that would mean shareholders lose the opportunity to hold their directors to account. It is a reasonable package that the government is putting forward in this bill. It is a package that is aimed at giving more power to shareholders. It is a package that supports capitalism the way capitalism is meant to operate: empowering shareholders to hold directors to account. But the only people who do not want directors held to account are the modern Liberal Party. They are happy to see their mates unaccountable to shareholders. They are standing up for the few.

Question put:

That the amendments (Mr Tony Smith's) be agreed to.

The House divided. [11:40]

(The Speaker—Mr Harry Jenkins)

Question negatived.