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Wednesday, 11 September 1996
Page: 3279

Senator CONROY(3.26 p.m.) —It is a sad day when you are reduced to having Senator Abetz defend you. I thought Senator Kemp could have got at least a few brownie points on the board and stood up and covered for him and moved himself up the list a bit. But you have wasted your chance today, senator. It is a very sad day, indeed. Senator Short, you should be even more shamefaced after your performance in the chamber today.

You have stood up in this chamber and been unable to answer straightforward questions on policy that you announced in this chamber on budget night. You say that the costs of administration are going to vary from one fund to the other. What does that mean? What is the impact going to be? You are going to discover whole funds with no members with incomes above $75,000. Then you are going to slug them with a charge to find that out. What sort of way is that to be trying to promote superannuation?

You are going to have workers in the Transport Workers Union fund and the liquor and hospitality fund—people with incomes well below $75,000 a year—paying to help you tax the rich. That is what this is about. That is where you are going with this one. You have set up a scheme, you have announced a program and then afterwards—

Senator Kemp —You are supporting the surcharge.

Senator CONROY —We are supporting the surcharge. You don't have to worry about that, Senator Kemp. We'll be in here supporting it, but we are not going to stand back and let you use money from people on modest incomes to help you tax the rich, because that is what you are doing. You are taking money from people who are earning only $20,000 and $25,000 a year and you are going to use their money to help tax the rich. What sort of position is that to advocate?

Senator Kemp —But you are supporting the policy.

Senator Robert Ray —We support the tax, not your administration of it.

Senator CONROY —This administration is a debacle, but you cannot even say that it is a debacle because you do not know what you are going to do yet. It is extraordinary. You have set up an actuaries committee to examine what you are going to do. You have announced a policy and you have no details. I remember when I was outside parliament listening to the constant criticism of `government by press release'. That is what we have today from the very people who used to criticise that.

You announced a policy and then you stood up barefaced and said, `We don't know how we are going to implement it, but we have sent a group away to have a look and come back and give us some suggestions.' People are due to pay tax already. How are you going to administer this?

The fact that Senator Short cannot give any answers in question time is a disgrace. There is going to be a reduction in the balances of ordinary people from your policies. That is what it is about. You are going to introduce your RSAs to pay off the banks for funding you during the last campaign. That is what it is really about. You are introducing RSAs which are guaranteed, on your own admission, to give lower returns. You are increasing admin costs. What you are doing is hitting workers' superannuation and you are taking away security.

You are trying to pretend that because of the changes you have made you are not going to have people going to see financial advisers. Sometimes you have to ask the question: when was the last time you talked to any ordinary workers? I know that you don't. You have people out there saying, `What is the impact of what they are doing? What are we supposed to do? What are we doing?'

Senator Short —Didn't you realise that the ordinary workers didn't vote for you?

Senator CONROY —Don't worry: they are not going to vote for you next time because you are slugging them every time they look. They have to go and spend $300 and $400 just to work out what you cannot tell them, just to work out what you do not know. What sort of position is that to be in as a government?

You are walking around with no ideas and the financial advisers are cleaning up. Even if you went and told them this week they could not tell workers what to do about it. You have a situation where people are probably going to have to go back three or four times while they are waiting for you to sort out exactly how you are going to implement your position. (Time expired)