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Thursday, 18 June 2009
Page: 6620


Mr BOWEN (Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law and Minister for Human Services) (10:52 AM) —The honourable gentleman, the shadow Assistant Treasurer, has just highlighted the inconsistency of his own argument. His opening question to me stated that the government had ignored, deflected and denied. That is somewhat contradictory to the member for Casey pointing out that the Treasurer had indicated that mistakes had been made and that I had indicated also that the government was moving to recalibrate the measure to meet the government’s fundamental policy objectives, so as not to involve the unintended consequences, and to address the concerns of industry. That was the sensible, decent and, I would have thought, pretty obvious thing to do. I would have thought so because I am a member of this government. I would not expect the member for Casey to think that, because he was a member of the previous government, which did not have that approach and which ignored these problems. The Treasurer was indicating that the measure could have been better calibrated. That was an indication of the government’s position, because we have recalibrated the measure. My successor as Assistant Treasurer is further considering the matters in the discussion paper and taking into account industry feedback, as we should.

I make this point to the shadow Assistant Treasurer: this budget contained 654 separate measures. Budgets that he was involved in would have contained a similar number of measures. It is not unusual, from time to time, for budget measures to be further developed and for finetuning to occur as the legislation is drafted. The budget involves an announcement of a measure which is sometimes three or four lines in the budget papers. Then it is normally the role of the Assistant Treasurer to go away and work those up into much more detailed proposals. Should the honourable gentleman ever have the chance to serve as Assistant Treasurer, he will, I am sure, do the same—that is, work up budget measures into detailed proposals. As those budget measures are worked up, there is consultation and there is sometimes finetuning.

On this measure, because of the concern from the business community about uncertainty, we took the decision to significantly fast-track that process—that is, the discussion paper and the development of the draft legislation. That is not something that we would have done normally, but it supports the comments of the Treasurer that mistakes had perhaps been made, that we could have better calibrated the measure and that if that was to be done it was best done quickly. So we moved very quickly to fast-track the process—that would have occurred in the normal course of events—of drafting legislation and having discussions about impacts and whether any finetuning was necessary.