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Tuesday, 8 October 1985
Page: 811

Senator WALSH (Minister for Finance)(4.56) —I shall respond very briefly. On the Australian Democrats' amendment to have an election, I would have thought that the Democrats' own recent experience would have brought home to them some of the pitfalls of having sloppy pseudo-elections designed by amateurs. I do not think I need say any more about that. Real elections involving political parties, which are held at a local level where the candidates are actually known to the electorate as individuals are one thing, as are-in a similar mould but on a different scale-national and State-wide elections in which the candidates personally may not be well known but the parties to which they belong and therefore the broad drift of the policies that they would support and vote for in parliament are known. Such elections are meaningful. However, the proposition that individuals who are not tied to any organisation with an identifiable political philosophy or body of expertise can be meaningfully elected by a national electorate, even if there were to be compulsory voting, is rather absurd.

As well as that, there are some technical defects in those amendments which have been brought to my attention. I do not intend to read them all out but I am advised that the first amendment relating to three part time elected members of the Trust needs to be considered more closely to ensure that it is not drafted in such a way as to impose a duty on the Australian Electoral Commission, with the results and costs of the election being borne by the Commission rather that the Trust. Amendment No. 2, relating to the provision by nominees of written statements of their knowledge and expertise in finance, industrial relations, superannuation and investment, as drafted does not specify what will happen to the statements. The amendment is silent on matters such as to whom the statements are to be provided, their purpose and their ultimate destiny.

Senator Mason —That is very obvious.

Senator WALSH —It might be pretty obvious but if it is not in the bloody legislation one cannot do anything with it. The provision in amendment No. 3 could mean that a person's appointment could not be terminated until the completion of five years, notwithstanding physical or mental incapacity, bankruptcy and so on. Similarly, the provision would mean that such persons may only serve one term of five years and not be eligible for reappointment under any circumstance. There are quite significant technical shortcomings in the amendments, but that is not the real reason that the Government is rejecting them.

I must say again that I find the Opposition's attitude astounding and extraordinary. I suppose this is more excusable in the case of the Demcrats because the Democrat senator who sat on the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations is no longer in the Senate. In moving these amendments the other Democrats are effectively moving a motion of no confidence in former Senator Jack Evans, and the Liberals, who plan to move their amendments, are effectively moving motions of no confidence in Senator Short and Senator Vanstone. All these people were parties to the unanimously agreed recommendations that came from the Finance and Government Operations Committee. I have been able to identify the real reason why the Opposition is bringing forward these phoney amendments. It has nothing to do with this Bill or any concern about contributors to the Trust or whatever; it is that it believes that it can further its phoney war-

Senator Mason —I raise a point of order, Mr Chairman. I take strong exception to the Minister's comments about there being any lack of confidence in former Senator Jack Evans. My point of order is that the Minister is criticising in anticipation a vote of the Senate. We vote on these matters in this chamber; it is not up to what any committee does or says. It is up to the Senate to resolve these matters. I think the Minister should withdraw his comments on that basis.

The CHAIRMAN —There is no point of order. If you wish to make a debating point, you are entitled to speak further in this debate.

Senator WALSH —The point I am making is that if this Bill is as fundamentally, profoundly and massively flawed as members of the Liberal Party now assert, why did Senator Vanstone and Senator Short not detect that in their extended, leisurely examination of it. Given that it has been kicking around for at least six months, why did not Senator Messner or some of the other people in the Opposition who purport to take some interest in these matters realise earlier than about three weeks ago that it had that sort of profound or fatal flaw? The truth, of course, is that it has nothing to do with the Bill and nothing to do with the interests of contributors to the Fund. The Opposition cynically sees this as an opportunity to further its propaganda war, to further its scare campaigns and conspiracy theories about unions and to advance one step further down the road to the five-year industrial war, which its leader gleefully anticipates and predicts, and if in that process it has to pass a motion of no confidence in Senator Vanstone and Senator Short, I suppose it reckons that in every political struggle some pawns are sacrificed.

Question put:

That the amendments (Senator Siddons's) be agreed to.