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Tuesday, 25 March 1997
Page: 2376

Senator CONROY(3.18 p.m.) —I am glad that Senator Ferguson got the opportunity to stand up on his feet. I hope when the preselectors in the South Australian Liberal Party get to hear his sterling performance defending the indefensible, they will know they have a quality member to vote for!

Firstly, I want to take up the issue of constitutionality. Senator Ferguson well knows that not only have the government capitulated to Dennis Rose's opinion but also they still have got to get, from the states, agreement, because they also have admitted in the press release of the Treasurer (Mr Costello) himself that they have constitutional difficulties with the states. They have not been able to get any agreement.

Last Friday, we had the state premiers in town for the Premiers Conference. It ended again, as it had the year before, as a shambles—no agreement, no press release and no press conference at the end to announce that they had solved their problems with the unconstitutionality of taxing the state MPs, state judges and state public servants. Where is the big press release being waved around saying that they have fixed the constitutionality problems?

It is disappointing to see the government's attitude to ASFA. I long remember the previous opposition complaining about how harsh our government was towards interest groups that they perceived to have been opposed to our position. Now, because the head of ASFA is a former member of this chamber, we have a vindictive campaign being run out by the government that she is just doing the Labor Party's bidding, and vice versa. What you have is the industry up in arms about this surcharge legislation. It is a joke. It is a shambles. The only defence that the government are prepared to trot out in this chamber is `It's just Sue Ryan.' It is a disgrace that they are not prepared to debate the issues and it is a disgrace that they want to personalise the serious constitutional flaws in this bill down to `It's just Sue Ryan doing the job for the Labor Party.' It is a disgrace.

We come back to the tax file number question. We had evidence before the committee that as few as one per cent in some funds actually should incur the surcharge, with incomes over $70,000. At best estimates—the best estimate from all the people who came before the committee—30 per cent of tax file numbers could be collected in the first 12 months. AMP, a private organisation as opposed to an industry fund—Senator Ferguson, during the committee, suggested that industry funds needed to get closer to their members and that if they were closer to their members they would be able to collect the tax file numbers—gave evidence that the best they were going to do was 12 per cent.

This means that an organisation like the TWU super fund, which made a submission to the committee, will have to keep an extra $7 million of members' funds in the cash part of their investment portfolio. That is way more than they would normally keep. They estimate that this will reduce returns to members by one per cent. That is right, senators. Each individual member of the TWU fund—I am one, I have to announce—will be one per cent worse off because of this surcharge legislation—that is, the 99 per cent who should never have to incur any cost.

Senator Bob Collins —Even the ones under $70,000.

Senator CONROY —Ninety-nine per cent of them, Senator Bob Collins, who are under $70,000. Every one is going to be one per cent worse off in returns because of this legislation.

There is the question of the money not being in the accounts of the 70 per cent who will be hit by the surcharge because they have not supplied their tax file number. What will happen? The government will say, `Well, they'll get the money back; maybe not in the first year and maybe not in the second year, but eventually they will get the money back.' The fact is that the money will not have been in their accounts, so it has not been earning interest. Is there any suggestion that the tax office will pay back the loss of interest? (Time expired)