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Tuesday, 30 September 1997
Page: 7269

(Question No. 837)

Senator Chris Evans asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, upon notice, on 4 September 1997:

(1) Has the department negotiated or indicated a willingness to negotiate salary packaging for its employees.

(2) Has the department informed any staff of its intention to offer salary packaging schemes to its employees.

(3) Can a copy be provided of the communication in (2), as well as information regarding: (a) when it took place; and (b) what developments have occurred regarding implementation of salary packaging.

(4) Can details be provided of any salary packaging arrangements which have been entered into by employees of the department.

(5) Can details be provided of the number of salary packaging arrangements which have been entered into by employees.

(6) Are salary packaging arrangements being offered to all employees or only selected employees; (b) if selected employees, what class of employee is being offered salary packaging; (c) what are the salary ranges applicable to these employees.

(7) What percentage of an employee's total salary is allowed to be taken as non-salary benefits.

(8) Please list the options or items that are allowed to be salary packaged under any department arrangement.

(9) Do any of the arrangements offered benefit from an employer exemption from Fringe Benefits Tax.

Senator Parer —The Minister for Primary Industries and Energy has provided the following answers to the honourable senator's questions:

(1) The department has indicated an intention to include salary packaging in any workplace agreement which it is able to negotiate with its employees.

(2) Yes, in the context of discussing workplace agreements with staff, at a seminar held on 18 June 1997, the Secretary advised an open meeting of staff of his intention to include access to salary packaging as a feature of any future workplace agreement.

(3)The Secretary's presentation to staff on 18 June included a reference to the department's position on salary packaging. Attached is a copy of the overhead slide used in the presentation.

(3) (a) As already mentioned, the information was presented to an open meeting of departmental staff at the seminar held on 18 June, 1997. (b) Having tested the market and consulted with staff and other Commonwealth agencies, the department's Executive has engaged a private sector remuneration consultant to provide remuneration packaging services for this department.

The remuneration consultant has been asked to develop a detailed remuneration packaging policy for the Department of Primary Industries and Energy, conduct information sessions for staff and, once the department has negotiated workplace agreements, provide a completely outsourced remuneration packaging administration service. The administration service would then be used by any staff who wish to access salary packaging, in return

for an administration fee charged by the remuneration consultant; there will be no cost to the department for this service.

(4) At this stage, no salary packaging arrangements have been offered to employees of the department. The department is still developing its policy on salary packaging, recognising that this policy will need to conform with the Department of Workplace Relations and Small Business' Policy Parameters on Agreement-making in the Australian Public Service.

(5) No salary packaging arrangements have yet been entered into by employees of this department.

(6) (a), (b) and (c) These questions will need to be considered by the department in developing its policy framework on remuneration packaging. As indicated above, the department has not yet decided on its final policy.

(7) This issue will be considered by the department in developing its policy framework on remuneration packaging

(8) The items have not yet been decided upon, and will need to be addressed as part of salary packaging policy development process.

(9) No. The department is required to pay Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) on noncash benefits it provides to its employees, in accordance with the Fringe Benefits Tax Assessment Act 1986. Consistent with the requirement under the Policy Parameters on Agreement-making in the Australian Public Service that salary packaging involve no extra cost to the agency, the department will require its employees who access salary packaging to include any FBT liability in their remuneration packaging arrangements.