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Tuesday, 24 June 2003
Page: 17325

Mr PRICE (5:18 PM) —I want to make a few remarks about the Governor-General Amendment Bill 2003. Firstly, I do not want to traverse the circumstances surrounding the reasons why we have this bill—I think that is on the public record—but I do want to put on the public record my appreciation that in the end Dr Hollingworth made a difficult decision that protected the very office he held; and I am grateful for that. We have this bill, as previous speakers have pointed out, because we have a new Governor-General elect. I would like to offer my congratulations to Major General Mike Jeffery, who is the Governor-General elect. I hope I do not malign him in saying that, when he was with the defence forces in charge of Army materiel, we got on very well and I particularly enjoyed working with him. Major General Jeffery has been Governor of Western Australia and, while I am not in a position to set myself up as a judge of his seven years in that office, from a distance he does seem to have carried out the office with distinction. I am sure that all members on both sides of the House wish him well in this appointment.

The member for Barton, the shadow Attorney-General, has moved an amendment and it has been seconded by the member for Grayndler. I want to draw the House's attention to points (5) and (6) of that amendment, which read:

(5) to ensure greater public accountability the Governor-General's Annual Report should be considered and commented on by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, and then ultimately by all members of Parliament;

(6) Standing Order 74 should be deleted in recognition that no holder of a public office should be above parliamentary scrutiny.

I support entirely the matters of principle behind those amendments, as argued by the honourable member for Grayndler. But I do have a couple of questions that I would like to pose to the minister at the table. Firstly, I think we should all congratulate Major General Jeffery on his announcement that he will be donating his military pension to children. It follows a similar decision by Governor-General Deane, and I congratulate Major General Jeffery on that decision. However, what is unclear to me is: did Major General Jeffery, as Governor of Western Australia for seven years, have an entitlement for superannuation for that period of time? I am not trying to be smart; I just do not know, and I would be most grateful if the minister at the table might clear that matter up.

The proposed salary for the Governor-General, as previous speakers have commented, is based on the salary of the Chief Justice of the High Court. This involves increasing the salary from $310,000 to $365,000 per annum, and that amount will be fixed for the three years of this appointment. Chief justices and judges, or members of the judiciary in federal jurisdictions, as I understand it, have to serve a period of 10 years before they qualify for superannuation. It is unclear to me from this bill whether the length of service of a Governor-General affects the quantum of superannuation that they will be entitled to. In other words, if Major General Jeffery had a five-year term or, as in Western Australia, a seven-year term would that impact on the quantum of retirement allowances?

I would also like to draw to the attention of the House the explanatory memorandum, which says:

However, the net financial impact of the new arrangements is unquantifiable as it is not possible to estimate the exact taxation liabilities or retirement allowances, which will depend on the individual financial circumstances of the Governor-General. The overall impact, however, is expected to be negligible.

In highlighting that statement, I am wondering whether the minister could outline the principles that would determine the amount of the superannuation. Were the difficulties that are mentioned in the explanatory memorandum directed to any superannuation entitlement the Governor-General elect may have in relation to his period of office as governor? Why, for example, can newspapers speculate that the superannuation is approximately $180,000 per annum? I would be most indebted to the Leader of the House if he could answer those questions.

Lastly, I am not aware what vote the superannuation of former governors-general is paid under but I would have thought that if one Governor-General's term has been terminated and they accrue a superannuation entitlement and another Governor-General is about to be appointed in the next financial year—that is, 2003-04—that would be a significant impact, and more than the $48,700 in the financial impact statement. However, I qualify that comment by saying that I am not sure what particular vote the pension or superannuation arrangements for former governors-general are paid under.

Having raised those matters, I want to finish on a very positive note. I congratulate Major General Mike Jeffery on his appointment. I am looking forward to him occupying the residence, and I certainly wish him and his wife every success in his stated quest to be a man of the people.