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Wednesday, 21 June 2000
Page: 15305

Senator SCHACHT (12:09 PM) —I appreciate your honesty, Minister, in telling me that I am not going to get much comfort as far as the suggestions I have made are concerned. I presume then that, if this amendment is carried as it is, it will go back to the House of Representatives.

Senator Newman —The Labor Party will then be responsible for a commitment of $52 million of extra Veterans' Affairs funds.

Senator SCHACHT —In that case, we will claim full credit for the extra money going out to all of those beneficiaries, and so on. Of the extra $7 billion that the GST is now bringing in, $52 million to veterans is probably a small amount of money, and they deserve to get it in view of the fact that you are going to be putting up the cost of their food and everything else. In that argument, we will batter each other around the head. I think we will win on points on that, because you will be the ones looking like Uncle Scrooge.

Senator Newman —You spent 14 years not doing those things!

Senator SCHACHT —But we also spent 14 years not putting a GST on everything, including for the veterans community.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Boswell, you know interjections are disorderly at the best of times but totally so when you are not in your seat.

Senator SCHACHT —I am glad Senator Boswell has arrived. The crisis a day National Party has now arrived. If it is not caravans, it is the dairy industry. If it is not the dairy industry, it is the sugar industry. If it is not the sugar industry, it is the wool industry. Every industry in the rural area is in crisis.

The CHAIRMAN —Order! Senator Boswell, you know interjections are disorderly at the best of times and even more so when you are not in your seat. Senator Schacht, I would ask you to address the veterans affairs and social security legislation.

Senator SCHACHT —Can I, through you, Madam Chairman, suggest that Senator Boswell go to his seat so he can interject properly with me and I can respond?

The CHAIRMAN —No. I do not wish to have any further interjections. I wish you to continue your remarks.

Senator SCHACHT —Therefore, Minister, you will send it to the House of Representatives, and the government in the House of Representatives will send it back. In that case, we will make up our mind whether we insist on it, and so on. As a senator who has spent a fair length of time in opposition, you know this place as well as I do.

Senator Calvert —You won't be here much longer to worry about it!

Senator SCHACHT —That might well be true, Senator Calvert. You might be joining me too, who knows? If Senator Eric Abetz gets his way, you might be on the death seat, as I am. Irrespective of that, Minister, when the bill does come back, we will have a look at it. We may discuss it with the Democrats to see whether we will then move a further amendment that might reduce the outlays on this proposal. But it will be very hard for the opposition at the very minimum not to support an amendment that deals with the DVA and the $22 million. We already made a public statement last year that we believe that expenditure is reasonable in the circumstances. So, when it does come back, that would be the very minimum we would be insisting on. Then the government has to make up its mind what it does with the legislation. I appreciate your honesty in telling us the attitude of the government.

I did not have the opportunity to respond to Minister Scott's offer last night to be briefed about this matter, and it was the same this morning. Yesterday, I was away at the funeral of Mr Greg Wilton and, with all due respect, last night I was not thinking much about details of amendments and legislation. This morning, I did not have a chance to get back to it, but I will have a further chat about it in the next day or so as we deal with this.

Senator Newman —We're always cooperative.

Senator SCHACHT —I appreciate the cooperation of the minister's office and the officers of the department on this issue. But, in the meantime, we will vote for the Democrat amendment.

Request agreed to.

Bill, as amended, agreed to, with request.

Bill reported with amendments and request; report adopted.