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Wednesday, 27 June 2001
Page: 28749


Mr FAHEY (Minister for Finance and Administration) (6:33 PM) — The honourable member for Calare has moved a couple of amendments and spoken to them. I would indicate, on the last issue that the member has raised, the question of choice, that the question of choice can be given further consideration for members of parliament when the Senate committee has completed its consideration of the honourable member's private member's bill. What the government is doing here in this fairly simple bill, the Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Amendment Bill 2001, is to indicate that the pension will not vest in new members of the parliament after the next general election until they reach the age of 55. Other issues can be considered. As to any suggestion of haste, I do not know an issue that has been around longer. I can say that since the time I got down to this parliament 5½ years ago it has been a constant subject of debate. It is raised from time to time by the media, by the small parties and by Independents. It is raised generally in the community for reasons, I suggest, such that whatever the level of benefit available it would not be generally accepted in the community. That is a simple fact, and most members of parliament do not seek to argue or justify, for that very reason.

We have to be realistic and have balance, and the government believes in that. As to the choice to opt in or opt out, I note that the honourable member for Calare said that he will not allow his rights under the superannuation to vest into a pension scheme. I presume it is his intention to leave the parliament. Well, that is his choice. Others have done that previously, and that is a decision that he will have to make, perhaps after another term. In the meantime, the government has not ruled out the question of choice. It is quite happy to consider that again at a later point in time.

The first amendment related to the question of an independent group of people. There is an independent group of people— the Remuneration Tribunal. When it comes to the salaries of members of parliament, all members of parliament—and, I suspect, a great number of people in the community— would be aware that there was a fairly extensive study undertaken by the Remuneration Tribunal the year before last. It concluded in December 1999 and, as a result of that, there was a system put in place that would allow for annual increments in the salary component. That Remuneration Tribunal independently—and it operates very much independently of government, I can assure the honourable member for Calare and all honourable members—will be asked to consider for new members whether the question of redundancy is relevant. That is something that was considered and suggested in a minority report in a Senate inquiry on this issue, one of those other inquiries that got a great deal of public attention and public debate a few years ago.

Whether there is an outcome—and the honourable member in his remarks at the second reading stage suggested that there is a wish to provide redundancy—that is a matter for the Remuneration Tribunal. It is not a matter that the government wants to adjudicate on, and that is the reason it has been referred to an independent body. The government does not see a need to have a once-and-for-all independent lay group to consider this issue, when there is in fact that independent group there now that looks after such matters. So the government does not support this amendment.

Amendment negatived, Mr Andren dissenting.