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Wednesday, 20 June 2001
Page: 24777

Senator CHRIS EVANS (4:56 PM) —I am very sympathetic to the arguments put by Senator Bartlett, and the Labor opposition in general are keen to facilitate some resolution of this. We agree that people should be treated equally. If these compensation payments for people from Chile are comparable to those made by the Federal Republic of Germany to victims of the Nazi regime, it seems to us appropriate that we support the Chilean people's treatment in the same manner. If there are other compensation payments from other countries that need to be considered, we need to pick those issues up as well. I think the minister indicated that there might be a couple of instances where that might be the case.

The minister did indicate in response that there was a process occurring; effectively she asked for more time for that process to continue. I would appreciate an indication from the minister on the likely timetable to be applied and when we could expect some resolution of these things. While I am happy to take the minister's word that these things are being resolved, I think it is only appropriate, if the government is asking us not to support amendments, that we get some sort of indication as to not only the timing but the process of how this matter will be resolved. There are people who are waiting on this matter to be resolved. They have suffered very badly and are looking to us to help resolve these issues for them.

While I accept that the government wants to get it right and that there does need to be formal resolution of the issues surrounding whether they are appropriate compensation payments and whether the people are treated in the appropriate way, I think Senator Bartlett's point about it being perfectly appropriate for them to raise the issue here is right. That is how you get these issues on the agenda. For the minister to say, `We don't want to do it now because there are processes in place,' is perfectly okay as well, but I would like to hear from the minister as to when those processes will reach fruition and how the government intends to resolve the issue.

I think the parliament needs more than an assurance of, `Trust us; we're working on it,' if we are to be persuaded not to support Senator Bartlett's request for amendment. At least Senator Bartlett's request for amendment gives us the option of saying, `Well, here's a way of resolving this issue.' The government is saying, `We don't want to do it now because there are other issues.' I understand from the briefings from Mr Swan's staff that those issues are relevant, but we do want to know how they are going to be resolved. We would like some indication from the minister as to the process from here if the request for amendment is to be defeated.