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Monday, 13 December 1993
Page: 4403

Senator IAN MACDONALD (3.38 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Senate take note of the document.

In the couple of minutes that I have had to look at this official report of the department, I have noticed two fairly glaring errors. On page 80 a photograph clearly shows Mr David Simmons MP, a federal member of this parliament and the former minister for local government in the federal parliament, and refers to him as the New South Wales minister for local government. It seems quite incredible that in its annual report the department cannot even remember a couple of months ago to a time when Mr Simmons was one of the ministers of that super department. There is no doubt about it; in the ALP when you are finished you are really finished.

Senator Kemp —No-one knew he was there. He made no impact.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I take Senator Kemp's interjection. But perhaps I should say, by way of acknowledgment—it seems that no one in the Labor Party will acknowledge it—that Mr Simmons did in fact have an understanding of local government, being a local government representative himself before coming into the federal parliament, and he was certainly sincere in his desire to assist in local government and had a real understanding of it. I suspect that I would not be on record as saying the same about the current minister.

  The other curious thing about this report that came to my attention is that at around page 200 the department very dutifully lists the press releases by the various ministers with responsibility for this department. It has a list of all the media releases by Mr Howe; Senator Richardson; Senator Crowley; Mr Johns, the parliamentary secretary; and even the former minister, Mr Simmons. It goes through and lists all Mr Simmons's press releases, but, curiously, it left out the one which was issued by Mr Simmons on 2 July 1992—so it should have been right at the top of the list—entitled `Local government elected members exempt from super levy'. One might remember why it forgot to put that one in. That press release was Mr Simmons's promise on behalf of the Labor Party that local government members would be looked after when it came to exempting them from superannuation contributions on allowances—

Senator Kemp —What a broken promise.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —It is another broken promise. Mr Simmons promised it. I think he promised it in good faith. The government, of course, has done nothing about it, in spite of the fact that I have introduced and the Senate has passed a bill that will do exactly what Mr Simmons promised to do in his press release. The Labor Party still has not picked that up in the lower house. It seems intent on ignoring it and ignoring Mr Simmons's commitment to local government before the election. To ensure that this record is complete, I seek leave to incorporate Mr Simmons's press release of 2 July 1992 in Hansard.

  Leave granted.

  The press release read as follows

Media Release



2 July 1992


The Minister for Local Government, David Simmons, said today Opposition claims that councils would be required to make superannuation contributions on allowances paid to all elected members were incorrect.

"As far as Local Government is concerned, the new superannuation contributions will apply only to Brisbane City councillors who are in receipt of salaries," he said.

"As a response to the views expressed by Local Government, the Superannuation Guarantee Act excludes the vast majority of Local Government's elected members.

"The approach taken by the Government is consistent with that taken in respect of Fringe Benefits Tax, which does not apply to elected members because they are not employees of councils."

Mr Simmons said the Government appreciated the important voluntary work done by thousands of elected members throughout the country and believed it was inappropriate to include their allowances in the new superannuation arrangements.

Senator IAN MACDONALD —I notice that since the election the Office of Local Government, which previously had a staff of 50 and its own first assistant secretary, has been downgraded quite substantially. It no longer has a first assistant secretary and the staff of 50 has been reduced to 19. In spite of the rhetoric, I think this shows fairly conclusively what this government thinks of local government in the way it has downgraded its importance, in the way it has reduced its impact on policy in the department.

  Local capital works does feature significantly in the report by the Office of Local Government in this portfolio. It is a program that I agree did show very clearly that local government and Commonwealth government could get together and very quickly deliver a program. My concern about that program always has been that only 400-odd councils out of Australia's 917 local authorities received any support from that project. There have been suggestions that it was distributed on a formula which did favour the Labor Party in the run-up to the federal election.

  It is interesting to note that that program, while it was widely applauded by those who got money out of it, has not been repeated subsequent to the election. Also, the fact that 66 per cent of the money went to Labor marginal seats—they are Mr Simmons's own figures—must lead some people to be a bit suspicious about it. I have referred that matter to the Auditor-General who has indicated to me that, should funds permit—that is, if the ANAO has not spent all of its funds paying the Labor Party rent on its office downtown—and its other program fits, it will have a look at that in the next year. (Time expired)

  Question resolved in the affirmative.