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Thursday, 19 September 1985
Page: 750

Senator BOLKUS —I direct my question to the Minister for Finance. It relates to the expenditure of government moneys by non-government authorities. Is it a fact that the Managing Director of the Australian Opera company, Mr Patrick Veitch, has negotiated a superannuation and salary package which gives him an excessive superannuation pay-out after a short period as well as excessive non-salary benefits? In view of the fact that the Federal Government allocated $4m to the company this financial year, does the Minister think that this sort of arrangement is an unacceptable use of government moneys? Accordingly, will the Minister investigate the matter with a view to ascertaining whether the company has made an acceptable level of provision for such contingent liabilities as this one and any other that may apply? Further, will the Minister inquire into the matter to ascertain whether, in view of such arrangements and the company's financial difficulties, as well as in the interests of efficiency, the company should be allowed to trade?

Senator WALSH —The Government has received some information regarding Mr Veitch's superannuation package, but it has been supplied on a confidential basis, and the opera company is an incorporated company. So, subject to further consideration by Mr Cohen, the Minister who is primarily relevant, I do not feel inclined to disclose the details of that-or at least not without consulting Mr Cohen. However, as Finance Minister, I see and approve of a number of superannuation arrangements for temporary employees of the Commonwealth in the Special Executive Service, among others, some of which entail a lump sum payment, and I know that none of those arrangements, expressed as a percentage of the salary, is nearly as generous as the package which is being provided for Mr Veitch, although Mr Veitch's package is not as widely extravagant as suggested in some rumours which have circulated and which I have heard in the last 12 months. Whether the company should be allowed to trade in view of its contingent liabilities in this and other areas is a question that I do not think I can even attempt to answer. I will refer that to Mr Cohen for consideration.