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Tuesday, 22 October 2002
Page: 5593

Senator CHAPMAN (3:11 PM) —What a gall Senator Conroy has to come into this chamber and accuse ministers of the government of misleading the Senate when that is exactly what he has done in his remarks to the Senate today by comparing two completely different circumstances!

Senator Ferris —He's not interested in listening.

Senator CHAPMAN —He does not even want to listen. He cannot cop the heat. Senator Conroy talked about AMP on the one hand and Ansett on the other. He talked about the limits placed on redundancy payments to Ansett staff compared with what he regarded as excessive redundancy payments made to a former employee of AMP. The facts that he ignores are that Ansett has gone broke—Ansett is insolvent—and that the redundancy payments being made to Ansett employees are as a consequence of that insolvency. AMP is not an insolvent company; it remains a profitable, successfully operating company, and the payments that it might make to redundant employees are therefore completely incomparable with the situation at Ansett.

Senator Conroy ignores that the government has announced its intention that, where what might be regarded as excessive or inappropriate redundancy payments are made to senior officers of a company that subsequently goes broke, the government will have power to reclaim those payments and put them back into the company for the benefit of all creditors, including all employees. Let us compare like with like. If a company like AMP goes broke and inappropriate payments are made to its senior executives, the government will have capacity to claw back those funds for the benefit of all creditors. Therefore, the government has acted to deal with the situation—quite contrary to the misrepresentation that we have heard from Senator Conroy.

We need to remind the Senate that the Labor Party did absolutely nothing with regard to employee entitlements. Only this government has taken the initiative to provide any benefit for employees when a company goes broke. It is no wonder that Senator Conroy wants to concentrate on this issue today, because he wants to try to divert attention from today's excellent news with regard to the restoration of the Commonwealth of Australia's AAA credit rating—a credit rating that we have not enjoyed for 16 years. It took only three years of the life of the previous Labor government for our AAA credit rating to be lost, and it has been below that level ever since. As a result of six solid years of sound economic management by this government, we now have the good news that that AAA credit rating has been restored— the very top level credit rating that you can achieve through the well-known international credit rating agency, Moody's.

That brings us into line with the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany and it restores the credit rating that we lost in the early years of the Labor government. This is of benefit not only to the Commonwealth government in relation to its financing; it also benefits all the key players in Australia's economy. It benefits state governments and private sector companies because their credit rating in turn is dependent on the credit rating given to the Commonwealth government. All those other bodies can have their credit ratings re-rated to a more beneficial level to enable them to borrow money at a lower interest rate because of the lower risk premium that will apply from that better credit rating.

As I said, it is a direct result of 6½ years of hard work by this government to restore the economic credentials of Australia. This re-rating has not just occurred; it is the direct result of the hard work and sound policy initiatives of the Howard Liberal government. It is worth noting that even the Chief Economist at HSBC, Dr John Edwards, issued a report this month which commended the state of the economy under the Howard Liberal government. He said that growth was expected to remain strong despite the international downturn and difficult conditions. That was from Dr John Edwards, a friend of the Labor Party and, indeed, a former senior adviser to a Labor Prime Minister. Even Dr Edwards is acknowledging the sound economic management of this government.

I might contrast that with the situation I witnessed recently in Germany, which is now lamenting the re-election of a social democrat government because of its poorly performing economy. Currently it has a growth rate of about 0.6 per cent compared to our growth rate of nearly four per cent, and the necessary reforms will not now be implemented in that country to restore strong economic growth. (Time expired)