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Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Page: 5021

Mr BALDWIN (5:44 PM) —I do not intend to take up too much of the House’s time, and the comments I am about to make in this consideration-in-detail stage relate to all three bills: the Governance of Australian Government Superannuation Schemes Bill 2010, the ComSuper Bill 2010 and the Superannuation Legislation (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2010. I want to restate for the benefit of the House and those who will read these speeches—and there are a lot of vested interests in these speeches: a lot of serving and ex-serving ADF people whose financial position depends on the decisions we make in this parliament—that this is the minister and the government that say they consulted. The fact is they did not. One meeting with the coalition, followed by a couple of months of dodging phone calls, is not consultation, it is a joke.

Mr Tanner interjecting

Mr BALDWIN —Yes, Minister, we rang your office many times looking for what your position was after our discussions, when you and I sat down in my office, and where we were going. We got no response at all. If Minister Tanner or Minister Griffin were serious about this reform, why didn’t they begin the process with consultation? Why is it—and this is an apparent trait of this government—that it is always after they put the legislation to this House that they then want to do the consultation? If you want to get bills through that are at all contentious, you consult before, not after. A hollow apology today from Minister Griffin regarding his failure to consult is absolutely meaningless. The veteran community see right through it, just as they see right through this failed minister.

The government have assumed that, just because one ex-service organisation agreed with their amendments, all veterans and all ex-service organisations agree with their amendments. I have some real bad news for Minister Griffin and Minister Tanner: not everyone agrees. To believe that silence equals agreement is a very dangerous assumption; to state otherwise is a deliberate act of deceit. The legislation is failing because it was never properly thought through. They have not listened to well-thought-out different opinions on how to achieve the same goal. They have just gone blindly forward, to the detriment of those fine men and women of the Australian Defence Force, past and present, whose retirement income depends on the actions and representations of members in this House.

The amendments being put forward by the government are not being opposed, just the bills themselves. The bills do not go far enough in protecting the interests of our military men and women. Merely legislating to consult is not good enough, and it is not an answer in itself. But that is what can be expected from a government that is all about talk and no action and that has not made a single hard decision during its time in office. It would rather talk than produce outcomes. Does anybody remember any outcomes from the much-vaunted 2020 conference? That conference was the great media event in this House. Where are the outcomes? There are none.

I reiterate that three trade union directors on a board which contains only two CDF appointed directors is not in the interests of military members. Perhaps the minister needs to explain why there are only two CDF and three ACTU appointees, not three and three. Nor is it in the best interests of those members that the said ACTU appointed directors can only be removed by the President of the ACTU. Talk about leaving the fox in charge of the henhouse!

I and my colleagues in the coalition considered the amendments that we discussed with the minister in some detail. The coalition’s amendments are not radical, nor are they difficult to implement. They simply seek to gain the best outcome for military members. We recognise the uniqueness of their service and we understand that we must act in their best interests. The Minister for Finance and Deregulation and the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs are simply too obstinate to admit they got this legislation wrong. They are too proud to admit that the coalition’s proposed changes ensure better financial terms for military and civilian members while ensuring the unique nature of military service is retained.

For the minister for finance to stand here and lecture the coalition on the financial benefits to members is also very disingenuous. The minister never provided the Treasury briefing to the coalition on how much extra members would accrue. He did not reveal the data because he is playing politics with this issue, whereas the coalition are fighting for a better outcome for military members. Furthermore, we have said time and time again that the amalgamation of investment funds is agreed upon; it is the governance structures that need to be changed. But, no, the finance minister simply dismisses that point out of hand. And what of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs? (Extension of time granted) When he came into this House to address this legislation he spoke for 20 minutes and barely addressed the bills. He said he was sorry for failing to consult the veteran community. You would think that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs and his office would be in almost daily consultation with the veteran community, but he has underestimated the impact this legislation has on the financial position of many men and women who are fighting for an increase to their DFRDB. The minister dismisses outright that they have a genuine case or need. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs also failed to articulate one reason why this legislation should be passed, showing again that he has absolute disdain for veterans and veterans issues.

I do not wish to delay the House any further, but let me say this: this issue will not go away, nor will the issue of DFRDB indexation. The government, when in opposition, made a clear and unequivocal promise to members of the veteran community that they would address the issues of indexation of military superannuation. After they came to government, on 24 December 2008 they tabled the review. Then it sat there until the coalition made them publicly release it. The comments are yet to be released.

They conducted another review and that review was responded to by the minister for finance. In that response, he said that the defence community did not deserve to have their superannuation indexed at the same rate as people on a pension or indeed at the same rate as members of this parliament. He thinks so little of the men and women of our Australian Defence Force that he denied them fair indexation. Again, as I have said, this was a rolled gold commitment from the Labor opposition prior to coming to government.

If you cannot take their word and you cannot trust as ironclad what they said in their election manifesto that they were going to do when they came in, how can we trust them when they say that all will be well with just two ADF appointments but three Labor ACTU appointments? How can we trust that the best interests of the veterans community will be served? The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs came in and made an apology to this House, but he needs to do more than just make a simple apology. He needs to spell out very clearly why our veterans community, past and present serving members, do not deserve the support of their government—support that they demand, support that they were promised and support that this government has failed to deliver.