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Monday, 25 June 2001
Page: 25040

Senator HARRIS (9:41 PM) —I would like to respond to Senator Forshaw's contribution with a couple of comments. Senator Forshaw expressed extremely well the present situation in the industry. I would be interested to have a comment from Senator Forshaw as to whether the Labor Party now recognise that they erred in voting down an amendment that Pauline Hanson's One Nation moved that would not have changed the payments to lessee or lessor but would have ensured that the payment remained with the lessee only while they continued within the industry. Had that amendment been passed in this chamber when the original bill was passing through, a large percentage of the lessors would have been in a much better position. It would not have contributed directly to change their financial position in the percentage that they received but it most certainly would have ensured that they had a viable operation and also had a restructuring package that they could have handed on to a lessee if that lessee had intended to exit the industry. That simple, practical amendment was turned down by both the government and the opposition. It would have contributed to a large degree to resolving the issues for the lessor/lessee.

Senator Forshaw said he is interested in how this bill will work. I intend to move an amendment later in this debate that will in actuality ensure that we have a look at how this process is working, because my amendment is to review the operation of the act. I look forward to the opposition's support, based on Senator Forshaw's comments and interest in seeing how it will work.

I would like to come back to a comment that Senator Macdonald made in relation to his description of the sharefarmer lessor/lessee comparison. In that description and in defining the differences between those two legal processes is it the minister's intention that, if a lease is drawn up in such a way that, rather than there being a fixed payment for the lease of a property, it is on a basis of a share of the return from the property, then the shared proportions should be similar to the sharefarmer's? Because that is the basic difference he is explaining to us: one entity, the sharefarmer process, is on the basis of a share of the income and the lessor/lessee agreement is a flat, fixed figure to lease the property. I ask: if a lease is structured in such a way that it divides the income, then does it equate with a sharefarmer's position?

The other question I put to Senator Macdonald is: in the event that the Commonwealth has paid an assistance package—in this case we will use the lessor/lessee—to a lessee who has breached the agreement, and with the Commonwealth continuing to pay the adjustment package to that lessee, what would the Commonwealth's position be if the lessor took the Commonwealth to task about its continuing to pay a benefit to that person under a contract where that entity had breached that contract?