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Monday, 9 December 2002
Page: 7397


Senator SHERRY (3:27 PM) —We have just had from Senator Chapman an extraordinarily comprehensive outline of what Senator Coonan has been doing in respect of the implementation of the Ipp report, which deals with a whole range of issues with regard to insurance matters. The Ipp report makes recommendations on some important aspects of insurance in this country. Senator Chapman has spent five minutes outlining to us what Senator Coonan has been doing in apparently taking a lead role in activating action in response to the recommendations of the Ipp report. According to Senator Chapman, apparently Senator Coonan has been involved in these meetings no less than four times. Why is it, then, that last Wednesday in the Senate, in response to a direct and clear question from my colleague Senator Collins about what she was doing about the recommendations in the Ipp report, the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer, Senator Coonan, said, `Absolutely nothing'?


Senator Hill —She explained all that in question time.


Senator SHERRY —She did not explain it, Senator Hill. We have got a case of a minister who either forgot all about the activities that have been outlined by Senator Chapman—the minister is absolutely incompetent if she cannot remember all the activities she carried out in respect of the recommendations of the Ipp report that Senator Chapman has very kindly accredited to her— or was misleading the Senate. I find it amazing that on Wednesday of last week the minister came in here and said she had done `absolutely nothing' about the recommendations of the Ipp report and then on the Friday in the Financial Review she claimed credit for all the activity she had been carrying out. There is a fundamental contradiction in Senator Coonan's response.

Two other questions were raised in the Senate today. The issue of former Senator Michael Baume's appointment to the position of either chair or deputy chair of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal was raised by my colleague Senator Cook. Senator Baume, a longstanding Liberal senator in this place, a mate of the Prime Minister, Mr Howard, was appointed by the former minister, Mr Hockey, as a member of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal last year, just prior to the election being called. Former Senator Baume had been the consul general—that is effectively a type of ambassador—in, I think, New York for a number of years, representing Australia. As I understand it, it was an appointment made by the Prime Minister for his former mate—a current mate, apparently. Then Mr Baume bobs up on the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal.

We have looked at the contribution of former Senator Baume to superannuation matters while he was a member of the Senate. It is absolutely nothing. Here is a person appointed as a member of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal who has no record of activity in, knowledge of or involvement in superannuation matters in this chamber. It is not as though the Labor Party are opposed to political appointments—they do have their place. However, here we have a bloke appointed to the consul general's position in New York for a couple of years. It is a very lucrative position and he is a mate of the Prime Minister. It is not as though we are saying that all political appointments are inappropriate but he has come back to Australia after being in New York for a couple of years and he ends up on the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal.

With credit to Senator Watson, if it were Senator Watson who was being proposed as chair or deputy chair of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal, the Labor Party would not be complaining. But this bloke, who has already had one job, and who has absolutely no record of service in the area of superannuation, is being touted by this government as a future chair or deputy chair of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal—a tribunal that is responsible for guarding the superannuation of nine million Australians. A bloke who has absolutely no involvement or record in the area of superannuation is being touted by this government for an appointment to safeguard the superannuation of nine million Australians. It is absolutely outrageous. He has no qualifications and the minister, Senator Coonan, refuses to rule out— (Time expired)