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Tuesday, 15 May 1973
Page: 2121

Mr WENTWORTH (Mackellar) - I will not detain the House for long, but I feel that we should emphasise again a couple of points. I support the Bill. 1 am sure that it follows from the policy of the previous Government. Honourable members on the other side have made a critisicm with which I agree. They have said that previous governments were perhaps slow in implementing their policy. I agree with that. But this Bill follows the initiative which was taken by the Government led by the right honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) and it follows from an inquiry which he set up. It has been said, I think rather unfairly, that this was done as an election gimmick. That is not so. If it had been done as an election gimmick a committee of inquiry would not have been set up. A decision would have been made. The previous Government acted very responsibly.

I agree with honourable members on the other side that this and other measures were taken to some extent tardily. I also agree that this forms part of a coherent pattern. It is a good thing that we have at last an automatic adjustment for pensions and other payments. This is something which I have advocated in this House for many years from the time before I had the good fortune to be a Minister of the Government, and I believe that this is a good principle. I do not believe that the Bill is over-generous but I point out something that was said on the other side, I think by the honourable member for Banks (Mr Martin), earlier in the debate.

Superannuated people will receive extra benefits because soon they will be freed from the rather unfair discrimination that has applied against them through the means test on age pensions. Again this is something initiated and determined by the previous Government. Perhaps I would agree with honourable members opposite who say that we were too tardy in carrying out our intentions, but I am quite certain that had we remained the Government we would have carried out our intentions more speedily than the present Government will carry out its intentions. We will wait to see what is included in that regard in the coming Budget. I am quite certain that had we remained the Government there would have been no means test on pensions for people over the age of 65 years after we had introduced our next Budget. I do not know whether the present Government will take '.hit action. At all events, what is being done now is good and I support it. It is in line with what we were doing and is developed from what we were doing.

I believe that the Bill is more complicated than necessary. I would like to see it expressed, and I think it could have been expressed, in a simpler form. That is true not only of this Bill. It is applicable to other Bills, not only measures introduced by this Government but also to those introduced by the preceding Government. Many financial adjustments in the field of pensions and social services and similar fields are expressed in far too complicated a form. They could be put in much simpler forms. What is being done in this Bill is justice. It is no more than justice and I support it.

I wish now to refer to a more fundamental point related to accounting. Looking not at the Bill but at the report of Professor Pollard, which is the basis of the proposal in the Bill, one sees all sorts of complicated financial adjustments being made as between Consolidated Revenue funds and other funds. I do not believe that these adjustments are at all necessary or serve any useful purpose. Far from serving a useful purpose, they tend to cloud the main financial issues. If the funds are divided up and all sorts of complicated adjustments are made between funds which are all in the same Federal hands, nothing is achieved other than making the provisions more complicated and less comprehensible. As for the adjustments which will put S40m into the Consolidated Revenue Fund this year and will take out $100m in a subsequent year, they do not mean a thing. The result is a net inflow and a net outflow of money. I do not regard notional adjustments between the Treasury and the Postal Department as being of ay significance at all. I do not think they should be brought into the exercise or even taken into consideration. It is pure accounting piffle which just confuses the main issue. It does not affect the overall financial position.

The overall financial position is important and it is at this point that the Government is faced with its most difficult economic problem; that is the containment of inflation. I do not believe that the Budget is anything like the sole determinant of the demand situation or the economic climate. I believe that in past years we have blown up the importance of the Budget beyond its true importance. But it does have some importance. As my colleague the honourable member for Berowra (Mr Edwards) said earlier in this debate, it has to be fitted into the overall financial policy of the Government and has to take its part in that financial framework.

The Government is different in that respect from an individual who is setting up for his employees a superannuation fund or something of that character. Each individual has to look at his forward commitments, but the Government has to look at its forward commitments in relation to the totality of its forward revenue. It may be that with escalating prices the pension to be paid will rise. Of course pensions will rise, but it should also be remembered that with escalating prices the money receipts of the Treasury will also rise so that the comparative burden of pensions upon the Treasury will not increase. The Treasury, which has the totality of Australia's resources behind it, does not have the same kind of regard for accounting as individual superannuation funds must have. Therefore I say that in this field as in so many other fields we can achieve the result we want in a much simpler way. I hope to illustrate my point shortly by introducing into the House a measure designed to help young couples achieve the finance they require for their own homes. I think that this can be done by a fairly simple device.

I think that we are bedevilling the whole question of national superannuation and making it far too complex. I have seen the draft schemes circulated from time to time by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). They are not always particularly comprehensible, coherent or self -consistent. Certainly from time to time they differ substantially, but each of them has a factor in common. Each is a very complicated scheme and difficult to follow. I do not think that is necessary. It is possible to bring in a national superannuation scheme on a simple basis. I am quite certain that had we remained the Government for this year we would have been able to bring in and implement a simple, equtable and workable scheme of national superannuation for Australia. Complexity in this measure and other measures is very much overdone and overvalued.

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