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Tuesday, 25 March 1997
Page: 2447


Senator HARRADINE(10.58 p.m.) —I suppose I am in a cleft stick here in the sense that if I vote for the third reading, the bill will go back to the House of Representatives. If the House of Representatives disagrees with the amendments that we have made, the matter will come back before this chamber and a motion could be moved by the government that the Senate does not insist on the amendments that it has made. What will be the result if that motion is agreed to? It will mean that the amendments that were in fact made will not be in the legislation and the clauses that were removed will be part of the bill. So in fact we will then have a very strange piece of legislation indeed.

I suppose in that sense the only alternative I have got is to vote against the third reading and hope that the government takes notice of what has been said in this debate by Senator Sherry and by others, including Senator Allison, in respect of attempting to get RSAs that are fair and that recognise that this is workers' money that we are talking about which should be held in trust, and that the directors of the RSAs and the RSAs themselves should have all the liability that is imposed by many decades of cases of trust law.

I was very surprised that the government even refused to vote for my amendment, which was to ensure that it is workers' money that is going into RSAs. The RSAs themselves and the directors of RSAs should realise that and that the money is to be there for the workers in their retirement or, in the case of their death, for their widows and orphans. As such, it is absolutely necessary that they act as trustees and that they accept the fiduciary duties of trustees. But, no, the government refused to accept that.

As it so happened, thanks to what you did, Mr Deputy President, that provision did in fact pass this chamber. The trouble is, of course, that it goes back to the House of Representatives. If the House of Representatives disagrees with it, it comes back here. The negative motion means that that is down the drain and all of the other clauses where there was a negative vote will also be lost. That is the practical situation. Even if it were not the practical situation, I believe I have a duty to support this. I have regard to what Senator Sherry said in opening the debate on the third reading. He made some extremely good points.

There were a number of amendments that I thought the government would have agreed to. But there seems to have been no willingness on the part of the government to agree, as Senator Sherry said, to even the 28 days as compared with the 14 days given to a worker to respond. Obviously, there has to be a bit more work done by the government if it intends to honour its election commitment.

Let me remind the chamber, as in fact Senator Sherry reminded the chamber, that the promise was that superannuation funds would be able to establish RSAs. That is as I understand the commitment that the government gave. But there is nothing in here, and all attempts by Senator Sherry to have that included have gone by the board, because the government has voted against it.

I advise the Senate that I will be voting against the third reading, in the hope, as has been indicated by Senator Allison, that the government will sit down and have a good look at this to see whether we can do something to salvage the situation and bring in new legislation which will meet the tests of fairness, honesty and disclosure and recognise that RSAs are in fact the equivalent of trusts and the directors should have the obligations thereof.