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Wednesday, 29 June 1994
Page: 2251

Senator HARRADINE (11.27 a.m.) —Leave will not be granted to the committee to do that. I do not know what gives Senator Patterson the sinking feeling that her amendment will be lost. I would have thought that it has a reasonable chance of success. There is logic to it, although it might yet require the numbers.

  When we are dealing with the holders of allocated pensions we are dealing with a group of people who have contributed substantially to the economic and social wellbeing of this country. We are also dealing with people who are concerned about the future of the country as well as their own future. We are dealing with senior citizens.

  I do not believe, as indicated by Senator Woodley, that all of these people would have known, let alone understood, the statement made about this legislation in mid-1992. It would be unfair to expect that these people would have acted in accordance with the press statement. In any event, is what is being proposed now precisely what was proposed in that press statement of 1992? Perhaps it is but that need not have been so when we think about the time that has elapsed since that announcement.

  For crying out loud, two years would have elapsed since then. It seems incredible that the government has taken this long to enshrine in legislation certain features of that 1992 press release. It is not an adequate way of going about the business of government. We always have to balance the issues before us. I do not deny that, at certain times if a matter urgently needs attention and the parliament is not sitting, the appropriate responsible minister on behalf of the government can make a statement which gives fair warning about what needs to be done to rectify a glaring problem. If it is of such urgency and importance the government should be required to take legislative action to implement that as soon as the parliament sits.

  This is two years ago. I do not think it is the way that we should be operating in this chamber because to do so is to give carte blanche to the government to say something in 1992 and then wait until 1994 to implement it. Honourable senators should perhaps consider that very carefully. As I say, I would not give leave because Senator Woodley was quite right in what he did—procedurally that is; I am not supporting the retrospective element that is contained in his amendment to Senator Patterson's amendment but, procedurally, he adopted the correct course. It might be awkward for the minister to have to pick and chose—for example, if somebody makes a batch of biscuits and asks you to take a pick, you could say, `I don't need it; I've got me hammer'. The government could use its sledgehammer.

  However, I would suggest that Senator Woodley knew what he was doing. I am quite content, procedurally, to follow his lead. Yet I will be voting against that retrospectivity and supporting Senator Patterson's amendment. Certainty before the law is one of the linchpins of good government, and to leave legislative action, which was indicated in a statement, for two years is not a proper exercise of good government.