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Tuesday, 5 June 1984
Page: 2508


Senator Dame MARGARET GUILFOYLE(4.45) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the papers.

I use this opportunity to note the outcome of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics-Iran compensation scheme, which was set up by the former Government and which related to the sanctions imposed against the USSR and Iran. I was interested to read the report titled 'Report on the operation of the Scheme to Compensate Persons Affected by the Government Sanctions Imposed Against the USSR and Iran' that was presented by the Minister for Finance (Mr Dawkins) and his accompanying statement. I noted that some 83 claims have been submitted since 1980, and that 20 of those were subsequently withdrawn. The figures showed that there were 63 settled claims, at a cost of about $9.5m. There was a subsequent repayment of $0.8m.

The outcome of the scheme leads me to comment on some of the remarks that were made by the Minister for Finance with regard to specific compensation schemes that are set up by the Government, for whatever purpose. I note that the Minister used the opportunity to make the statement that he felt he should bring to public notice both certain deficiencies in specific compensation schemes and a factual report on the operation of this particular one. It is clear from the Minister's comments that he does not favour specific compensation schemes. It is of interest that over the years very few specific compensation schemes have been set up by the Commonwealth Government. The one in 1967 on revaluation made no actual payments. The structural adjustment assistance scheme was set up in 1973 by the Whitlam Government. Some $60m was paid under that scheme to individuals, and a further $7m to firms, following the 25 per cent across the board tariff cut that was instigated in that year by the Whitlam Government.

Just a handful of schemes have been involved over the years. As the Minister for Finance said at the time that this scheme was set up, it is extraordinarily difficult to set out compensation guidelines and then see that there is equity, fairness and consistency in the way in which those guidelines are administered. With regard to the Government's compensation to those who were affected by the decision relating to the Olympic Games, the USSR and Iran, this scheme caused the Department of Finance great difficulty in making sure that the compensation was administered in accordance with guidelines which had been very carefully drawn. It will be remembered that the guidelines were to compensate for unrecouped expenditure, which entailed consultation with other departments and decisions between Ministers and departments with regard to claims that could be supported under the guidelines that were devised. In the case of this scheme, the report from the Minister for Finance notes that about half the money had gone to three companies which had made claims as a result of the decision regarding the Olympic Games-the Seven Network Pty Ltd, Australasian Training Aids Pty Ltd and the Royal Agricultural Society. They suffered larger unrecouped expenditure than any other claimants. Indeed, some of the claims were for very small amounts. That led the Department to contrast the administrative costs with the benefits that were actually gained by those who were successful in their claims.

I think that governments should look at the experience of this scheme and note the difficulties and the costs of administration. I certainly welcome the general statement made by the Minister with regard to specific compensation schemes. I hope that as we take government decisions that may adversely affect individuals we do not immediately seek to apply some specific compensation scheme that may relate to the problem that arises as a result of such a decision . I welcome the report of the Minister. I certainly discount some of the remarks that he has made with regard to the decision itself. But I commend the report for what it has said about specific compensation schemes, the cost of administration of them and the difficulty that there is in seeing that there is compliance, equity and fairness in the guidelines which are sometimes very hard to draw when one is looking at the effects that are occasioned by individuals in a variety of ways.

Question resolved in the affirmative.