Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 18 September 1996
Page: 3545

Senator SHERRY —My question is directed to the Assistant Treasurer in respect of the administrative complexities of the government's new 15 per cent superannuation tax. Are you aware of the trenchant criticisms of: Professor David Knox, former Liberal superannuation adviser and currently member of the government's actuarial advisory committee; Mr Bruce Cook, chairman of William M. Mercer; Mr Brian Bissacker of Bankers Trust; Mr Emery Feyzeny of KPMG and your own Liberal Senate colleague Senator John Watson on the superannuation tax? When will you acknowledge the broad community concerns on this issue? Will you support referral to the Senate committee on superannuation with a report back date by 30 November?

Senator SHORT —The one thing that this question shows, quite clearly, is that the opposition is not prepared to join the government in seeking a fairer superannuation system for all Australians. That is the nub of what this question is all about. Is the Australian Labor Party really fair dinkum about supporting the surcharge that we have imposed in the budget? Mr Beazley says one thing and Senator Sherry says another thing. Someone says, `We will refer it to a committee.' Others say, `We do not need to do so—

Senator Sherry —Madam President, on a point of order—

Senator SHORT —He can't take it. He has absolutely bogged himself down.

Senator Sherry —For the first time we would like an answer from Senator Short to a specific question. When will he answer this question?

Senator Faulkner —Chance your arm, you hopeless individual.

Senator Alston —Madam President, on a point of order: I simply draw attention to the fact that a fair degree of latitude is involved in points of order. But we have just had a naked example of a total disregard of the rules that had absolutely nothing to do with what preceded it. It was simply a cheap debating point. It can be made at any other time and it should not be made now—and you should not allow that sort of abuse of question time to continue.

The PRESIDENT —Senator Short has spoken for less than one minute to this point and has the opportunity to develop an answer.

Senator SHORT —I preface my answer to Senator Sherry by asking the Labor Party, through you, whether it really does want greater fairness in the superannuation system in this country. If it does, then it would support the thrust of the policy decision.

Senator Faulkner —You are obligated to answer the question. Answer the question.

Senator SHORT —You don't like hearing the truth, Senator Faulkner, because truth is a word that is pretty out of your vocabulary and always has been.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT —Senator Short, just wait, please. It is impossible to hear with so much noise in the chamber.

Senator SHORT —If Labor took the same starting point as us in wanting greater fairness and, therefore, really supporting the surcharge that we have proposed in the budget—which Senator Sherry, I think, and Mr Beazley have said they do support—then it would be logical to wait until the legislation is introduced into the parliament after the extensive consultations that are going on at the moment.

Senator Sherry well knows that an actuarial advisory committee is looking at these issues in relation to defined benefit funds and unfunded schemes. He knows that the government has established a task force which comprises representatives of the ISC, the ATO, Treasury and industry to look at these issues. He knows that extensive consultations are going on, including the involvement of Professor David Knox, and we are very pleased that he is doing that; he is approach ing it in a very constructive way. Consultations are going on.

The logical, systematic, due process way to proceed with this would be to let those consultations proceed and, as a result, have the legislation drafted and presented to parliament. Then the parliament, through its committee systems, can have every opportunity to look at the legislation.

But, quite frankly, it is absolutely ridiculous to say before that legislation is drafted, before the consultations have concluded—we are only halfway through the consultations—`Let's go and look at all the fine detail of this issue' before you have the detail to consider. It casts very grave doubts on the real motives of the Labor Party on this issue.

Senator SHERRY —A supplementary. Senator, you still refuse to acknowledge the broad community concerns.

Senator Alston —Put your question through the chair.

Senator SHERRY —I take it from your answer that you do not want this matter referred to the Senate committee. Therefore, do you agree with Senator John Watson—

The PRESIDENT —Senator Sherry, your question should be addressed through the chair.

Senator SHERRY —Do you agree with Senator John Watson's support on 11 September at a meeting of the Senate select committee in referring this matter to that committee?

Senator Alston —Could I take a point of order, Madam President? It is very sad that Senator Sherry, who has now been here for some years—he is apparently the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate—still does not understand the requirement that questions should be addressed through the chair. Now what that—

Senator Sherry —I am doing that.

Senator Alston —But you don't! You were told three times that you ought to ask the question in the third person.

Senator Sherry —You aren't addressing the chair!

Senator Alston —I am making my remarks through the chair. I am making the point that Senator Sherry does not comprehend the difference between asking a question in the second person or the third person. That is what it is all about. He ought to know the distinction. Madam President, you should not allow him to continue in ignorance. If he is going to address questions through the chair, there is a proper form to be followed, and it is very unfortunate that after all these years he still has not got the vaguest idea.

The PRESIDENT —Order! Whenever the word `you' is used, it is apparent that the question or answer is not being directed through the chair. They should be. Have you completed your question, Senator Sherry?

Senator Sherry —Yes, Madam President.

Senator SHORT —Madam President, the government is not saying that the details of the implementation complexities should not be considered at all by a committee. What we are saying—and we are really prejudging the debate that is to come up a little later—is that until the consultations have taken place, until legislation has been drafted and brought into this parliament so one can see the details, then it is premature to refer such a matter of administration to a committee.

What are you going to do when the legislation comes in—by the end of the year, hopefully? Are you going to do it again and again and again? It is quite deliberate time wasting on the part of the Labor Party in an attempt, I think, to thwart the introduction of a major change to the superannuation system that will make superannuation fairer and more equitable for all Australians.