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Tuesday, 8 October 1985
Page: 817


Senator MASON(5.35) —I support the final comments of Senator Short. He is perfectly right. It is a preposterous suggestion from the Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh) that a whole party or a whole area of the Senate should be influenced, controlled or dominated by a view expressed in a committee on a prior occasion by one member of that party. Quite apart from the fact that circumstances change over time, one has to have a situation where matters can be viewed, reviewed or even reconsidered by the same people. All of us must reserve our rights in that regard. That point aside, I have listened carefully to this debate. A meeting deprived me of the pleasure and privilege of hearing Senator Messner speak during the second reading debate, but now that he has explained what his amendments are, I agree that they are of shattering clarity.

It is a bad day for democracy. On one side we have a Minister who says that democracy does not work and therefore we should abolish it. On the Opposition side we have a proposition that people do not know what they should do best with their own money. We are not talking about a few people; we are talking about over 300,000 people. By extension, I suppose that a Liberal government, of which Senator Messner would be a part, would say to all Australians that they are not competent to look after their affairs and that all their investments should be placed in some piggy bank organised for them by the Government. I think that is not a reasonable point of view or a reasonable suggestion.

We oppose the Opposition's amendments on the basis that, as Senator Coates has said, the people who are concerned here are the contributors to the Superannuation Fund Investment Trust and not the Australian Council of Trade Unions or some group of investment consultants appointed by a government for all sorts of reasons which might emerge. After all, the opportunities for corruption are too great to be neglected or overlooked in this debate. I commend to Senator Messner that he give some thought to that point. I think that it would be very hard to find five people whom we would guarantee would stay honest over a long period, with such enormous sums of money-$1m a day-coming through the fund. That is one of the most significant arguments against such a proposition. As Senator Siddons said earlier, the basic point is that this ought to be a matter which the contributors decide. They should be responsible for seeing that people are elected to the Board of the Trust who will do the job best. Who are we to say that that right should be taken from them?