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Wednesday, 31 August 1988
Page: 589

Senator MORRIS —I direct my question to the Minister for Finance. Has the Minister received legal advice in relation to Mr Robert Wood's request for payment under the parliamentary superannuation scheme? If so, what was that advice?

Senator WALSH —I said three days ago or it may have been last week-I do not remember for certain-that I had asked my Department to check out the legal position regarding never-was-Senator Wood's application to have refunded to him the contributions to the parliamentary superannuation retirement scheme that he alleged he had made. I have since received, via the Department of Finance but from the Attorney-General's Department, legal advice. I think I can quote the officer concerned. The letter was signed by a Mr D. A. Jessop. It is rather lengthy and I will not quote the whole lot. I will quote what I believe are the most relevant sections. It says:

You ask-

`you' being the Finance officer who initiated the inquiry from Attorney-General's-

whether the superannuation contributions credited to Mr Wood are legally refundable to him or whether the moneys, at law, are considered to be available to the Commonwealth.

The short answer is that the moneys are not refundable to Mr Wood.

The amounts paid to Mr Wood by way of parliamentary and electoral allowance were not, in the light of the High Court's decision, properly payable to him. That is, because Mr Wood was never a properly elected Senator, the appropriation in s. 7 (13) of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1973 that applies, among other things, to parliamentary allowances, never authorised the payments made to Mr Wood. Those amounts would be recoverable pursuant to the principle stated in Auckland Harbour Board v. The King (1924) AC--

What does the acronym AC mean? Anyway it continues:

AC 318 at 326.

I am not sure what that means actually. The letter goes on:

I understand however that the moneys deducted as contributions under the Superannuation Act from the moneys paid to Mr Wood as parliamentary allowances in fact have always remained in Consolidated Revenue. Moneys deducted under the Superannuation Act are paid to the Commonwealth (s. 13 (8)). No question of recovery of those moneys from Mr Wood therefore arises.

Senator MORRIS —Mr President I ask a supplementary question. Can I understand from that answer that Mr Wood would receive none of his own contributions that he had paid into the fund itself? If that is a fact what is the position in regard to Mr Wood when he was serving in this Parliament and voting in the Parliament? Would not the Minister feel that it would be unfair for Mr Wood not to receive back the contributions that he had paid in?

Senator WALSH —The thrust of this advice is that in fact no contributions were paid into any fund. The notional contribution, if you like, remained in Consolidated Revenue. The question, which goes beyond my area of responsibility but is implicit in the supplementary question asked, is whether any votes of the Senate taken during that period between September and May, I think it was, in which never-was-Senator Wood may have been recorded as voting, were affected in the legal sense. I do not know but so far as I am aware there was no vote of the Senate at that time, in which never-was-Senator Wood had his name recorded, which was so close that the subtraction of one vote from one side would have made any difference.