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Wednesday, 27 June 2001
Page: 28748


Mr ANDREN (6:29 PM) —In considering in detail the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Amendment Bill 2001, I move:

(1) Page 1 (after line 10), after clause 2, insert:

2A Commencement of independent committee of inquiry

On the day this provision commences, an independent committee of inquiry is to be established with a membership including lay persons and industry experts. The committee is to review the salaries of members, Ministers and office holders with a view to setting salary levels, out of which the superannuation guarantee will be paid by the Commonwealth, as employer, to complying superannuation funds chosen by members.

This amendment calls for the establishment of an independent committee of inquiry with a membership of lay persons and industry experts. The committee will be charged with reviewing the salaries of members, ministers and office holders with a view to setting salary levels out of which the superannuation guarantee will be paid by the Commonwealth, as employer, to complying superannuation funds or approved savings schemes chosen by members.

For too long parliaments around the country have avoided the issue of parliamentary salaries, allowing a raft of entitlements to grow up around a base salary that is so often criticised by members—and, indeed, at times by the media and commentators—as being inadequate for the job. Let us have that debate, but we must place all entitlements, fringe benefits and salary on the table and once and for all work out a salary package. A committee that has the confidence of the public must perform that task. Ways of suggesting committees with broad appeal were canvassed during the republican model debate. A government with the will can do it. Perhaps our retiring Governor-General is the man to head up such an inquiry, whose membership should also include such bodies as ASFA, the Australian Superannuation Funds Association, and a layperson. Looking through the series of submissions, I came across one from Ian Fisher of Edmonton in Queensland, who made one of 3,000 submissions to the Senate committee inquiry into the Parliamentary (Choice of Superannuation) Bill 2001 that I introduced to this parliament. Mr Fisher said that most politicians work hard and spend many nights and weekends away from their families. He says that politicians should be adequately financially compensated, but he believes that politicians' superannuation should be brought into line with rules governing superannuation for ordinary people. We need people like that who can bring an objective community view to such an inquiry. We need those other experts. We need transparency in this process, and acceptability to the wider public. The Remuneration Tribunal is not the body to conduct that inquiry, and I seek the support of the House with this amendment.

If I may, I would mention amendment No. 2 circulated in my name. I am advised that the requirements of standing order 292 mean that unless the parliament receives a letter of approval for the very small appropriation this amendment would require, it is out of order. This means that, unless the government supports the amendment and seeks the Governor-General's approval, there is no point proceeding with it. I wrote to the minister this afternoon asking for his agreement to this amendment along with the others. The clauses included in proposed amendment No. 2, circulated in my name, seek to give senators and members of the House of Representatives the freedom to opt out of the compulsory parliamentary superannuation scheme. They remove the compulsion for new members to belong to the parliamentary scheme, and allow existing members to have any accrued superannuation benefit rolled over into a complying fund or RSA of their choice.

Members opting out will have Commonwealth contributions paid to their complying fund or RSA in line with requirements of the Superannuation Guarantee (Administration) Act 1992. Under that legislation the majority of Australian workers currently have contributions made on their behalf by their employers. The government's choice of superannuation legislation currently before the Senate specifically exempts members and senators. As an individual, I demand that right to opt out and I cannot see how that right can be denied. It would mean, in essence, that I and any other member who wishes to make their own superannuation arrangements would, by the very fact of withdrawing from that scheme, reduce the public funding exposure to the parliamentary scheme. I ask the minister to tell me why that is not a fair and logical step that this government should take.