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Thursday, 6 May 1993
Page: 228


Senator COULTER (11.28 a.m.) —I want to make only a couple of points. Firstly, we are quite happy with the general principle that the detail of the Social Security Amendment (Listed Securities) Bill in relation to the committee and third reading stages be delayed, and that the Bill not proceed through all its stages at this time. However, as both Senator Patterson and Senator Reid have indicated, the broad principle of the Bill is very strongly agreed to by both the Democrats and the Opposition. I understand that the Opposition will be introducing a similar Bill in the House of Representatives. We would certainly support the idea that we get this Bill to the end of the second reading stage, take the vote on the second reading, and then adjourn the committee stage for whatever time. It should not be too long—perhaps a week or something like that—and then we should bring it back and deal with the committee stage. The Bill, in fact, is very brief. It is only a single page, so it should not take anybody too long to read the Bill and explore its ramifications.

  As to the urgency of it, I think there are a couple of points that need to be made. The full operation of this legislation will not occur until later on in the year. Nonetheless, right at this moment pensioners are selling shares or being advised to sell shares in anticipation of the way in which the law will operate, and those people are being very significantly disadvantaged. I think it is also for that reason that it is important that we get this to a vote at the second reading stage; so we get on the record in Hansard that there is solid support from the senators of the Opposition and the Democrats for this Bill, and so the matter will proceed and cannot just simply disappear.

  Not only are pensioners selling their shares or being advised to sell their shares because of the imminence of the application of this legislation, but also the legislation does not apply to foreign shares. It applies only to shares in Australia. We want pensioners with small amounts of excess funds to invest in Australian companies, not to go and invest in foreign shares. We want them to invest. We want that money put to productive use. The fact that they may be selling shares in Australian companies and shifting that money elsewhere is something that needs to be addressed urgently.

  For those reasons, we believe that it is very appropriate that we bring this matter to a vote at the second reading stage. We are quite happy if the committee stage and the third reading are delayed until sometime in the near future—I stress, the near future, the not too distant future—and the matter is brought back. That would provide adequate time for everybody to look at this single-page Bill and make sure that there are not any hiccups in the wording and the extent to which the Bill covers this matter.