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Wednesday, 25 November 1959

Sir EARLE PAGE (Cowper) .- Everything that has been said by those who have spoken in this debate, on both sides of the House, seems to stress the importance of passing the legislation that is before us. From very lengthy experience in this Parliament I have found that if you do not accept a measure that ameliorates an existing position when it is put forward, it is often many years before you get another chance to look at it. I remember an occasion when I brought down a seamen's compensation bill. Every one wanted to amend it in some way or other, and finally it was not passed. About seven years later another bill in precisely the same terms was brought down by a Labour government.

This legislation undoubtedly improves the present position materially in certain respects. It certainly represents an improvement for those persons in the Public Service occupying the higher positions. This is very important, because with the extent and magnitude of public undertakings in Australia at present we must attract the best possible men into the Public Service. I believe that the Government is taking the right steps to do so.

There are many good features of this bill, such as those relating to widows, which have been referred to. I believe the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) made a worthwhile suggestion when he said in his secondreading speech -

I suggest that, over the period of recess between now and the next session, honorable members from both sides of the House give such study as they can to the more technical and detailed provisions of the bill. For my part, I shall make myself, and the officers of the Treasury, available in the New Year for discussions with honorable members, who may be interested, to see whether, out of our consideration of the legislation together, there are improvements which can usefully be adopted.

The Treasurer has made a definite offer. He has said that some points may have been omitted or points already in the bill may be improved, and these matters will be discussed with honorable members who wish to raise them. Surely, no good reason exists for opposing what is offered now. In my experience, if you do not take the fish when it is on the hook, you will not see it again. -- =v

Some features, other than those already enumerated, should be considered. One is that the contributor to the superannuation fund should not receive merely the money that he has put into the fund; he should get some interest from the Government for the time that his contributions have been available to the fund. As the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) pointed out, this fund has reserves of many millions of pounds. This is invested in many lucrative ways, and the contributions of members of the fund are not lying idle. Therefore, it would be reasonable if interest at 3 per cent, or 3± per cent, were paid on the contributions. After all, this money is earning 4 per cent., 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, for the Superannuation Fund. If interest were paid on contributions, young people would be encouraged to become members. Even if they left the fund after a short time, a fairly substantial amount of money would be available to them and could be used by them to go into some other vocation, if they wished to do so. This suggestion could be examined during the period suggested by the Treasurer.

I see no advantage at all in deferring consideration of the bill for six months, as Opposition members have suggested. If that were done, we may not get it back again. If a measure improving an existing situation, as this measure does, is rejected, the advantages which would flow from it may be lost for ever. I suggest to honorable members, therefore, that they permit the bill to become law, and accept the assurance of the Treasurer. I think that it is the best assurance that I have ever heard given by a Minister to an Opposition. He has said that he is ready to work with honorable members and, if improvements are needed, to bring down something better at a later stage. I suggest that we should take what we are given at this time and, if necessary, make certain that we get something better later.

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