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Thursday, 5 May 1994
Page: 299

Senator SHERRY (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy) (11.06 a.m.) —Senator Watson may not have heard my previous comment.

Senator Watson —I did—every word of it.

Senator SHERRY —Then I will not repeat that. The issue of unfunded government liabilities and superannuation generally is an important issue of public finance. We share common ground on that point. We have a unique situation where a government instrumentality is being transferred to the private sector because of debts that have arisen. Because of that transfer, the liabilities will have to be funded. There is no attempt to not pay existing liabilities. That is unique. It means a significant and very quick infusion of money into that fund. I am not sure over what period of time that will happen. We do not know the total sum, as I indicated earlier. It is somewhere between $45 million and $60 million.

  I do not have the detailed agreement that has been negotiated between the parties at the state level. I have asked for a copy but I do not have it available. Even if I did, it is not up to the Australian government, having an interim agreement with the South Australia government—which has been accepted by the new South Australian Liberal government—to interfere with that agreement.

  The South Australian government has been involved in these negotiations on superannuation arrangements. Presumably, other parties such as unions have been involved. I understand that agreement has been reached. The Commonwealth is not prepared to override that agreement. The South Australian government, both the previous Labor government and the current one, has reached an agreement. It is simply not up to us to interfere in that process. The government is not prepared to entertain that as a theme. That is our response to Senator Watson's position.