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Wednesday, 28 February 2001
Page: 24717

Mr SLIPPER (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance and Administration) (11:11 AM) —in reply—In closing the debate I would just like to comment briefly on the third version of the amendment circulated by the honourable member for Wills. I must say that the government was not notified of this particular amendment, and as we sat listening to the contribution of the honourable member opposite we had version one, then version two and then version three. Finally I see that the version we now have is the version which is ultimately being moved by the honourable member for Wills. Some would say that the movement in the wording of the motion and the constant changing of the position of the opposition in relation to this mirrors their attitude to the superannuation surcharge.

Mr Deputy Speaker, you have been around for a while in the parliament and you would be aware that in 1996, following the budget, Labor said that it was going to support the surcharge. But it is interesting to note—and I want to place it on record again—that Labor opposed the superannuation surcharge in the Senate and voted against the third reading of the bill. I would like to quote what Senator Sherry had to say on 15 May 1997:

I want to say again for the record that, in terms of what was originally described as a package of legislation relating to the surcharge, Labor would not support the third reading of these matters—

So had Labor succeeded in blocking the surcharge, the surcharge would not have been collected.

The Labor Party huffs and puffs about equity. As the honourable member for Curtin mentioned in her contribution, the Labor Party has not told us what it plans to do with respect to the surcharge. The surcharge was an extraordinarily difficult and, in some areas, unpopular decision that the government brought in as a result of the government's wish to bring equity to the system. So what the Labor Party has done is simply to promise a further review. In other words, it is going to put it off until such time as it acquires the Treasury benches—and we all hope, of course, that that is not going to be anywhere in the immediate future.

So Labor's record in respect of the surcharge is one of twisting and turning, one of hypocrisy, one of constantly changing it position. What it is prepared to do—

Mr Kelvin Thomson —Have you phoned the Prime Minister's office recently?

Mr SLIPPER —The honourable member who is interjecting ought to listen. The Labor Party is prepared to do anything and say anything with a view to attacking the government, with a view to gathering up those votes which Labor needs to attain office at the next election. Labor's policy on this matter is very bad, it is inconsistent, it is hypocritical and it is constantly changing. Quite frankly the people of Australia simply do not accept that politicians should be able to take the flip-flop approach that we have seen today from the honourable member for Wills.

The honourable member for Calare, in his contribution, referred to privacy issues. I want to thank the member for Calare for his comments on the transparency of the parliamentary scheme costs. I was pleased to be able to provide a briefing to him with respect to the amendment that he had proposed to move. I was pleased that, upon consideration, he accepted that that was not an appropriate way in which to proceed.

Mr Deputy Speaker, when you look at the second reading amendment that is before the chamber, you will see that the opposition seeks to attack us for our alleged neglect of the retirement income needs of Australians. I want to agree publicly with the member for Curtin that the government's record on superannuation has strengthened the retirement income future for Australians and that the Labor Party is once again completely wrong in relation to this matter.

In closing the debate, I want to point out as well that the bill that is under consideration by the House today will give retired public servants and parliamentarians the same options for payment of post-retirement surcharge assessments as they have for pre-retirement surcharge assessments. These options will enable the surcharge to be paid and the pension benefits to be reduced accordingly. All superannuation schemes that provide for the payment of pensions are able to amend their rules to provide similar options for their retired members. This bill will put retired public servants and parliamentarians in the same position as members of most state schemes. I thank all honourable members who contributed to the debate on this bill. I reiterate that the government does not accept the amendment moved by the honourable member for Wills. I commend the bill, in its original form, to the chamber.

Amendment negatived.

Original question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.

Ordered that the bill be reported to the House without amendment.