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Tuesday, 7 December 2004
Page: 32

Senator ALLISON (2:30 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and Regional Services. In September 2001 the government said it would underwrite Ansett worker entitlements and it set up the $10 ticket levy to do that. Can the minister now confirm that the government has made a $158 million profit so far on the levy plus the $289 million from Ansett asset sales? Minister, isn't this double dipping? Does the minister recall Mr Anderson saying back in 2001 that there would be no double dipping by this government?

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —I thank Senator Allison for the question. I cannot confirm that that is the case, because it is not the case. No funds were retained by the government other than for the levy administration and the announced security funding package. The government has paid out $336 million to guarantee worker entitlements. The special employees entitlement scheme covered all unpaid wages and leave, pay in lieu of notice and eight weeks redundancy pay. The levy was not to pay for entitlements owed to workers above the community standard. The terms of the scheme were agreed by the administrators and the Australian Council of Trade Unions in the Federal Court hearing of September 2001. The government always intended that any surplus funds would be used to assist the aviation and tourist industries. The levy ceased in July 2003 with approximately $286 million collected. Once reimbursements were made to the government from the administrators, there was a surplus of $93 million collected. The government deferred payment of a further $67 million owed to it by the administrators providing additional funds to the workers.

The government has fully met its commitment to employees as well as its commitment to reinvest any surplus money from the air passenger ticket levy to the benefit of the aviation and tourism sectors. To this end, the minister announced on 4 December last year that the Australian government would spend the $93 million surplus on a further major expansion of the nation's aviation security regime. Issues on the remaining outstanding entitlements owed to former Ansett workers are matters for the administrators.

Senator ALLISON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I believe the minister may have misled the Senate in his statement that no other funds had been taken from Ansett. I ask him to again check that so far this government has collected the levy plus $289 million from Ansett asset sales. Isn't it the case, Minister, that your government has actually hoodwinked Ansett workers and the travelling public? Why doesn't the minister use the asset sales money to pay the 9,500 Ansett workers who are still owed $212 million, and will he pay those entitlements by Christmas?

Senator IAN CAMPBELL (Minister for the Environment and Heritage) —As I said, these are matters for the administrators.