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Monday, 25 November 1996
Page: 5895

Senator MURRAY(3.19 p.m.) —I too wish to take note of Senator Parer's answer to Senator Cook's question—and I was somewhat incredulous at the answer, I am afraid. I was present at the estimates committee where I listened to Senator Cook's detailed, measured, persistent and careful questioning of the minister and department on this issue. I conducted my own questioning. I was interested in establishing just what validity there was for two things: firstly, the aspect of rorting, especially after the tightening of the system in December 1995 and January 1996; and, secondly, whether syndication should be dumped because it was ineffective.

On the first question, Minister Parer began the estimates by using what I refer to as the `demon-speak' of the Treasurer (Mr Costello) —a method of demonising things he does not like—such as rorting. By the end—and the instant will be recalled, and I will paraphrase it—Minister Parer was saying that rorting was not perhaps the appropriate way of talking about this matter. Today I heard Minister Parer back onto the marketing or propaganda line of knocking it over.

I have no quarrel with the belief that syndication might not be an effective or appropriate system. But to keep using the demonising language of rorting, I think, weakens the government's argument. Let me say quite clearly—and I have no ministerial record to protect, and I say this as an independent, objective person, I hope—that to me there has been no empirical objective or even circumstantial evidence on the record, in the budget debates, the estimates or the inquiry that has proven that rorting, which means scams, corruption, illegality, for those who got through a tight screening process, has gone on. Certainly, there were shonky people who tried to get up, but they did not get through the screening process—and that was acknowledged by the department.

As such, the use of the word `rorting' is a clear slur, until proven, on the three firms that constitute 90 per cent of the approved syndication systems. I think, if I may say so, Mr Deputy President, that is an unattractive and unhappy way for the government to pursue their agenda, which is one of saving money by reducing these programs to cut the deficit. If that is your aim, that is clearly understood. But do not do it by casting aspersions upon those who have conducted their programs in a legal manner and who have not been proven—by the Treasury, the ministers or extensive inquiries—to have rorted or corrupted the system.

Question resolved in the affirmative.