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MR HUMPHRIES (Attorney-General) (4.44), in reply: Mr Speaker, I thank the Opposition for its support of this Bill. As Mr Connolly indicates, this Bill does arise out of agreements made by, I imagine, a number of parties before the last election to see a freeing up of the position in respect of credit unions. Banks have long been seen in some way as more reliable than other financial institutions. I am not entirely sure what the basis for that assumption is. Certainly, as Mr Connolly suggests, there is some suggestion that, be they more reliable, they may also be more capable of some rapacious activity in dealing with their customers. Whatever we might think about banks, it is obviously in the interest of consumers generally that they be placed under considerable competitive pressure, and to preserve what is essentially a restriction on people's capacity to invest in credit unions in favour of banks is clearly not required in this day and age.
The suggestion originally against allowing credit unions, particularly those outside the ACT, those not incorporated in the ACT, to be a suitable object of investment by trustees was that banks were regulated by the Reserve Bank of Australia, whereas credit unions were regulated and monitored for their ongoing capacity to provide services and not go under by the particular State departments responsible for administration in the State in which they were incorporated. That is probably a fairly unsatisfactory dichotomy, but it is a fairly marginal case as to whether that really disenfranchises someone from being capable of then investing in a particular credit union.
It may be, Mr Speaker, taking into account the amendment which Mr Connolly has just mentioned, that we are not going far enough in what we are doing today. I am advised that Victoria is about to abolish the list of authorised and trustee investment sources and instead introduce the prudent person principle - namely, that a trustee with trust moneys to invest may make a decision which, in all the circumstances, it would be prudent and appropriate to do. Perhaps even restricting people's choices might be inappropriate. Obviously, there will be a variety of decisions that a trustee might make. Some might decide to invest in shares or offshore companies. Who knows? Trustees might even be tempted to invest in, say, small betting agencies on remote Pacific islands. But whatever they might choose to do they would, under the test to apply in Victoria, have protection if the decision that they might make was prudent to a reasonable person. For us to provide lists of organisations in which trustees might invest is perhaps a little bit on the way out. Nonetheless, I think it is appropriate for us at least to widen the net that far, and I welcome the support of the Opposition in that process.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to in principle.