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Tuesday, 28 September 1993
Page: 1278

Senator KERNOT (Leader of the Australian Democrats) (4.07 p.m.) —I think Senator Robert Ray is right to ask why we are doing this now; nevertheless, we are doing it. The Australian Democrats have also been grappling with this issue, not out of any consideration for the big credit unions, which are effectively quasi banks, but more out of a concern for the original intention of the smaller credit unions, the friendly societies. We need to have a look at the impact of this tax on the capacity of the friendly societies to deliver the level of service that their members expect to receive from them.

  I take Senator Ray's point on the matter of timing. I am conscious of the pressure that this reference will place on the committee. I am equally conscious of the start-up dates which are contained in other bills. To be as fair as we can, I think we ought to attempt to conclude our deliberations by the Friday, which is the 18th, instead of the Monday, which would then give us an opportunity to debate the bills, if necessary, on Monday, 21 October.

  One of the fundamental issues is that the government is saying that the tax concession gives credit unions some sort of an advantage over their competitors. In fact, we need to take the time to expose the raft of additional constraints that they have to operate under when compared with banks and building societies. We may be able to produce the evidence to show that the concession only evens things up for credit unions, particularly the smaller ones.

  Senator Woodley has an additional term of reference which he wants to move in a moment and which we have discussed with the opposition. I just want to signal the Democrats' support for the reference and our further support for Senator Ray's amendment with respect to the reporting back date.