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Tuesday, 26 June 2001
Page: 28556

Mr HORNE (3:13 PM) —My question without notice is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, are you aware that over $98,000 in superannuation belonging to my constituent Mrs Margaret Lawrence and the superannuation belonging to other former employees of the failed National Textiles was frozen by APRA, following the collapse of Commercial Nominees earlier this year? Are you further aware that the National Textiles employees have been advised by the administrator that their money has not been lost but that they will not be able to access it until at least 30 November this year? Prime Minister, what action will you take to allow these workers to get access to their money?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I am not specifically aware of the details of that. If the honourable member wants to send all the details to me I will have a look at it straightaway and, if there is anything that reasonably and properly lies within the capacity of the federal government in the circumstances to accelerate the payment of the money to which those men and women may be entitled, I will be very happy to look at it. I frankly do not know all the details of it and I will not try to pretend, without checking, that I do. I take the opportunity of pointing out to the honourable member that the workers of that company and of a number of other companies have had support from the government under its entitlements scheme. In that particular case, the payments made by the Commonwealth government were matched by payments from the state government. To my knowledge, it is the only case in Australia where that has occurred. It would be a very good idea as well—

Mr HOWARD —If the member for Brisbane and the member for Paterson are interested in the welfare of the workers, they will—

Mr Horne —Oh—

Mr HOWARD —I would remind the member for Paterson—

Mr Horne —Mr Acting Speaker, I ask that that be withdrawn. I asked this question out of the interest—

Mr ACTING SPEAKER —Nothing unparliamentary has been said. The Prime Minister has the call.

Mr HOWARD —I have indicated to the member for Paterson that I will investigate it, but I was making the wholly legitimate point that one of the problems that workers have in Australia when companies get into difficulties and there is not enough money available to meet their entitlements is that the federal government has a scheme which funds up to 50 per cent of those entitlements but that that scheme is not matched by state governments. I invite the member for Paterson, if he is genuinely interested in this issue, and I would invite the member for Brisbane, if he is genuinely interested in this issue, to actually get on to Peter Beattie and Bob Carr, as I continue to get on to John Olsen and others, to encourage them to match our scheme. We are the only government in Australia that has ever introduced a scheme. That scheme would be of double benefit to the workers of Australia if it were matched by state governments, both Liberal and Labor.

As to the particulars of that employee, I will make some inquiries and, if there is anything that reasonably can be done, I will do it. I will have to check all the details before I can say anything further.