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Thursday, 8 April 1965

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) . - I move -

That the House of Representatives be requested to make the following amendment, namely -

After clause 6 insert the following new clause - "6a. Section15 of the principal Act is amended -

(a)   by omitting from sub-section (2) the words as at a time before the prescribed date ' and inserting in their stead the words ' on, or at a time before, the prescribed date ' and

(b)   by omitting sub-section (3.)."

The purpose of this request is to provide on opportunity to honour the assurance that Senator Sir William Spooner gave me when the original Bill was introduced last May. That assurance related to people whose prescribed date was in 1964. It will be realised that not a great deal of expenditure would be involved if the amendment were made. The point is that, according to section 16, these people were required to have their money in a restricted form of savings account at the prescribed date, but Senator Sir William Spooner gave me an assurance that this was not necessary.

I referred to this assurance yesterday. Although I thought that some doubt had been cast upon the honesty and integrity of the honorable senator - who, when the original Bill was introduced, was the Leader of the Government in this place and the Minister in charge of the Bill - and although it seemed that the Government had no intention of honouring the undertaking that he gave, when he followed me in the debate yesterday he lightly evaded the issue, put himself under the protection of the present Leader of the Government (Senator Paltridge) and said that the Minister would reply to me. Today the Minister replied and did not dispute that the assurance was given. In fact, he could not dispute that the assurance was given, because it is recorded in " Hansard ". However, he stated that whatever had been said on the previous occasion, section 16 of the Act was so clear that I must have been dumb to have wanted some assurance, and that I could not read what was in the legislation.

Senator Paltridge - I did not say that.

Senator CAVANAGH - The Minister did not say that in so many words. He said that the wording of the provision was so plain that its meaning must have been obvious and that anyone could have understood it. In effect, he said to me: " You are exceptionally dumb. The section in question " - that is the section we are now seeking to delete - " provides that the money must be in a prescribed account. The Act is as clear as day." The fact of the matter is that I was not that stupid, and I could see that that was so. The only one who could not see it was the then Minister in charge of the Bill. He was the only one in the House who was not brilliant enough to see it.

The logical interpretation of what the present Minister has said to us today - I do not accept it - is that if the Government appoints a Minister who cannot see something that is apparent to everyone else and we accept an assurance from that Minister, we must pay the penalty. Is this a proper approach when an assurance is given by a respected Minister, the senior Minister in the chamber? Is it proper that we should dishonour the assurance that he has given?

Honorable senators will remember that last night 1 quoted an extract from the " Hansard " report which made it quite clear that in the previous debate I read section 15(2.), which states that savings before the prescribed date can be in any form but that at the prescribed date they must be in a particular restricted form. The then Minister said: "That is not so. Until the end of this year the savings can be anywhere." I said that this seemed to be unfair to those who qualified before the Act became law and that the matter should be clarified for them. I asked the Minister how we could overcome this injustice. Obviously it was my intention to propose an amendment whereby those who did not know the requirements and who had their money invested in another form could receive the benefit of the legislation. I was prevented from moving the amendment because I had the firm assurance from the Minister in charge of the Bill at that time that I. was wrong.

The CHAIRMAN - Order! The honorable senator's time has expired.

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