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Tuesday, 16 November 1993
Page: 2948

Senator WATSON (10.41 p.m.) —I am sorry to hear this because it will create a line of unpaid commitments until after 1 July. It is not in the interest of beneficiaries to have their payments held up for a further seven months. The government, by its action, has signalled to every trustee around Australia that there is a double jeopardy and that they would be foolish, if there is any element of doubt about the payment, to make a payment to a beneficiary before this bill comes into effect. There will be an immediate implication of withholding every payment that is due where there may be any element of doubt. A trustee just could not afford to take the risk either on account of himself or in the interests of the fund. It creates a double jeopardy situation.

  When the tribunal comes into effect we will have a whole line of issues. I will give honourable senators a typical example. A bona fide payment may be made to a widow. The de facto comes along after 1 July, lodges a complaint with the tribunal and the tribunal says, `Yes, you have a case. You might be entitled to 50 per cent' or whatever the portion might be. The money was paid out in good faith and in full knowledge of the facts as they then existed. Then the tribunal comes along. The Liberal Party had problems about the tribunal because of the possibility that it could undermine the financial standing of the fund. With the government's move tonight, I believe that it has the capacity to undermine the financial standing of small funds. It has the capacity to delay the payments made to genuine beneficiaries in good faith and create a double jeopardy position. I think it is a retrograde action.