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Thursday, 2 June 1994
Page: 1191

Senator SCHACHT (Minister for Small Business, Customs and Construction) (12.57 p.m.) —I have listened to the remarks of Senator MacGibbon. His description of the bill is clearly correct. The government has stated its views in the speech on the second reading given by the minister, Mr Sciacca, which Senator MacGibbon has mentioned. I think some of Senator MacGibbon's remarks about his relationship with the veterans community may be of interest but I do not think they particularly pertain to this bill. I was only interested in one aspect: he said he had never politicised his relationships with the veterans community. I am not close enough to know whether that is correct or not, but maybe—

Senator Panizza —Why not just take it as correct?

Senator SCHACHT —The point I was going to make which I think is a political point is that maybe the new leader of the Liberal Party should have taken that on board when sorting out the allocation of new shadow ministers. Obviously he did not take that on board because Senator MacGibbon is no longer the shadow spokesperson. I do acknowledge Senator MacGibbon's long interest in defence and related matters, including veterans, and our time together on the joint foreign affairs, defence and trade committee. I do acknowledge that and I do acknowledge his genuine interest in veterans' affairs.

  The government's bill, as Senator MacGibbon has said, is a bill amended from what was originally proposed. The government's view is that the proposed amendments to the managed investment legislation are beneficial for service pensioners with this form of investment. There are not winners and losers, as the opposition tried to argue during the debate on this bill last year, there are only winners. In fact, this is reflected in the commencement date of the proposed changes. The amendments retrospectively commenced from 1 April 1993. In weighing up the total bill, the minister felt there would be greater injustice for the 10,000 veterans and their dependants in not passing the bill at all. They would not be able to get the Commonwealth seniors health card from the Department of Veterans' Affairs from 1 July 1994.

  So Mr Sciacca and the government have made it quite clear that we do not want to punish in any way the 10,000 veterans and their dependants who we think clearly deserve this entitlement. We do not accept the opposition's criticism of the other part of the bill. We think it was a relevant policy as part of retirement issues in Australia. Nevertheless, we do not want to be a dog in the manger and have the whole bill collapse and have over 10,000 legitimate, eligible veterans and their dependants miss out. So we have put the bill forward. We appreciate the fact that the bill will proceed quickly and speedily through the Senate during today.

  Question resolved in the affirmative.

  Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

Sitting suspended from 1.02 p.m. to 2.00 p.m.