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Thursday, 15 June 1989
Page: 4077

Senator HARRADINE(11.22) -I would like to give the Committee an example of how dilatory the Government is in answering direct questions about superannuation.

Senator Patterson —And other questions too.

Senator HARRADINE —I acknowledge that. I must say that it varies from Minister to Minister and from department to department. Some departments and Ministers are very courteous and prompt in their replies. Such is not the case in respect of queries relating to superannuation. I have a case in point from an individual constituent who, on 5 February 1988, wrote to me about the problems of superannuation and the rules that have been changed of which he was not aware. The circumstances of his case are disconcerting indeed. This constituent wrote to me on 5 February. I wrote to the Treasurer (Mr Keating) on 8 February 1988. Ultimately, I received a reply from the Minister for Industrial Relations and Minister Assisting the Treasurer (Mr Peter Morris) on 11 August 1988, some six months later. That letter misinterpreted the matter that was raised by the constituent. It said that the constituent had stated that the Government had amended the law to prevent lump sum superannuation retirement payments from being rolled over into deferred annuities. That is not what the constituent said at all.

I do not want to go into this too much but I raise it so that a reply may come forward. I sent that response to the constituent who replied in detail to me, indicating that what the Minister had stated in his 11 August letter was not correct. He asked for certain detailed information about his superannuation entitlements which he, as a constituent, was entitled to receive. He has spent many years in public service for the people of Tasmania. On 31 October I wrote to the Minister Assisting the Treasurer asking him to respond in detail to the quite specific questions that were raised by the constituent in respect of superannuation. There has been no substantial response to that letter to the Minister Assisting the Treasurer which I wrote on 31 October 1988. It is now June, mid-1989. There has been a series of acknowledgments to my repeated requests for an answer. But that is just not good enough. I feel like it but I am not going to delay the Committee on this matter. I think it is important. I ask the Minister for Finance (Senator Walsh) whether the Department could answer the letters that I have written on behalf of that constituent who asked questions about superannuation which that constituent is entitled to do.

I raise this matter because Senator Watson said that members of the public should write to their members of parliament. I certainly hope that they do that. In so doing we want some guarantees from the Government that it will treat these requests for information promptly and provide that information. This is not a secret society. Some of these questions are very difficult. I find that it is now virtually impossible to get an amendment which will place into this legislation an objective which would probably be desired by most members of this chamber. I repeat that that is in relation to enabling superannuants to offset losses incurred where funds are running at a loss and which are open to the vagaries of the share market and against that particular fund which may be making a profit and from which that superannuant is receiving some income which will be taxed. I think everybody in this chamber would see the justice of that, particularly concerning workers. The case I mentioned is that of a worker in a major industry in Tasmania. He was a representative of the union. He was closely associated with getting people to advise on superannuation. He received certain advice and the proposed legislation was so complex that he had to take the advice he was given. He did so and now he finds that three or four of the investments are losing while one is not. He will have to pay taxation on the full sum that he is receiving from the one that is not making a loss while not being able to offset the losses from the ones that are making a loss. I appeal to the Government, to the Minister and to my colleagues in this chamber to ensure that prompt answers are given by the Government to reasonable questions which are addressed to it through elected representatives in the parliament.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Teague) —Order! I note that honourable senators are addressing themselves generally to clause 9, but I remind the Committee that the question before us is the amendment moved by Senator Bishop.