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Thursday, 6 May 1993
Page: 234

Senator PATTERSON (11.57 a.m.) —in reply—I regret in some ways that we have had to debate the Social Security Amendment (Listed Securities) Bill in this way, on the second reading speech. It has occurred as a result of, maybe, some misunderstanding between the Democrats and me about the order in which the formal motions were put this morning. We did not actually run in the order on the paper and I think Senator Bell thought that I had jumped to my feet a little earlier than he had. He missed the fact that Senator Tierney had actually moved his formal motion, the President was looking around to see whether there was another formal motion and I stood. That was not meant to gazump Senator Bell, but that was the way it may have been interpreted.

  I find it interesting that Senator Bell has entered this debate at this stage. Obviously he got some pressure from some pensioners during the election campaign, but he did not speak on this Bill when it was going through before. We had been having negotiations with Senator Lees's office about the passage of our two Bills and we had hoped that we would have a smooth passage of them, being able to debate this Bill in a manner which gave the Independents time to see it. But that was not what happened and we are now in the second reading stage.

  I reject the comments that the Democrats made about our having had some sort of vision on the road to Damascus and changed our view about this. When I spoke on this Bill, taking the Bill through on behalf of the then shadow Minister, Mr Connolly, I expressed our concern and said that after the election we would be looking at reviewing that Bill. We were not in the position to review it from government but we decided that, since we had made that commitment, we would review it from opposition. That is the reason we have taken this action.

  The Democrats have said that we should have done so at the time, but it was in an omnibus Bill and there was a gun being held at our heads that, if we did not agree with this, the other benefits flowing from the measures in the rest of the Bill would not go ahead. So we were in a cleft stick, or between a rock and a hard place. Because that provision was not coming in until September 1993, we agreed with that part of the Bill in order that the other benefits would flow, and gave a commitment to review it. So I reject the assertion that Senator Bell makes, that we had not actually taken an interest in this and were not concerned about it. We expressed concern and I expressed concern in that speech.

  I listened to what the Minister for Health, Senator Richardson, had to say. I believe that there ought to be a total review, so that equity is established; but patching it up or trying to do things in the way he has done does not make it equitable. I do not agree with all his assertions that people will not change. Also, there are other pensioners coming on stream, many of them with superannuation payouts that are not sufficient to live on but are sufficient to invest. They will be discouraged from doing it.

  We also have to look at the future. I do not believe, nor do many other people in the community believe, that the Government will make the savings that the Minister claims. Let me say that the social security department has had a very poor record on estimating what gains it will have, and Senator Richardson knows that. I will not reiterate them all here in the chamber, though I could; but the department has been a long way off the mark in its predictions of savings, and so has the Health Insurance Commission. For predictions of savings, I would give the Department of Social Security about two out of 10 at the moment—not a pass—so I do not believe the savings in this. I believe the Minister needs to put a much better argument. He needs to put up a review of the whole area, because there are anomalies. We know about the Auditor-General's report on land. Is the Government going to look at unrealised gains on land? Is it going to look at unrealised gains on art works? The Government needs to get its house in order and make sure that we have some standard and that we have some equity in the system.

  I would also like to take Senator Richardson up on the fact that he said this will come on next Wednesday. There are a lot of older people who are affected. Despite the fact that the Minister says the figure is only five per cent, there are a number of them. He makes out that they seem to be the rich, but they may be the more frugal: those who have saved and saved and saved to have that $100,000 to invest. He should not make out they are running around with huge amounts of money. Some of those people have been very frugal and put that aside through their savings, and that is what we are trying to encourage Australians to do. We need every bit of saving we can get in this country. I hope that the Minister will bring it on as he has promised on Wednesday so that we can deal with this issue and so that there can be some predictability for those pensioners who have been concerned about this issue.

  Question put:

  That the Bill be now read a second time.