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Thursday, 12 May 2011
Page: 2543


(Question No. 434)

Senator Cormann asked the Minister representing the Special Minister of State, upon notice, on 11 March 2011:

With reference to a letter dated 26 October from Ms Fiona Codd, Director of Governance, Systems and Organisational Reporting, Australian Electoral Commission, to Mr Frederick Humphrey of Freemans Beach, New South Wales, claiming that a 'system issue' meant that extra employees hired for the 2010 federal election had their superannuation monies paid into Australian Government Employees Superannuation Trust (AGEST) rather than the fund they had nominated:

(1) How many employees were in this situation.

(2) What proportion of electoral staff hired for the 2010 federal election does this amount to.

(3) In plain English, what was the 'system issue' that caused the misdirections.

(4) Have the misdirected amounts now been transferred to the superannuation funds the employees had specified.

(5) Has the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) enquired of AGEST whether any fees were charged by any parties involved in the transfer that would have rendered employees worse off; if so, has the ATO acted to compensate such employees.

(6) Ms Codd's letter also states employees are paid a 'total package' that 'is constructed to represent all work undertaken and recognise the length of polling day hours, that is, it includes hours expected to be worked in excess of what would be classed an ordinary working day. It also encompasses some allowances rather than paying these separately,' therefore in relation to temporary electoral staff employed for the 2010 federal election, what components of pay attract a superannuation guarantee payment.

(7) What comprises a typical 'total package' in the context of the temporary staff employed in the 2010 federal election.

(8) Is it clear from material presented to prospective and current Australian Electoral Commission employees what components of their pay attract superannuation and those that do not.

Senator Wong: The Special Minister of State has provided the following answer to the honourable senator's question:

(1) Approximately 400 employees were in this situation.

(2) This amounts to 0.60% of electoral staff (66,874) hired for the 2010 federal election.

(3) The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) introduced a new on-line recruitment system in 2010. That system allows applicants to select a superannuation fund of their choice. This choice is passed to the AEC payment system for action when superannuation is due. There is a default set in the new on-line recruitment system to direct funds to the Australian Government Employees Superannuation Trust (AGEST) when no superannuation fund is chosen by an employee. Unfortunately, in some cases, the new system did not work as intended and the employees' choices were overwritten and the funds sent to the default fund (AGEST) instead. The AEC has addressed this issue in system improvements to be released shortly.

(4) The AEC has substantially completed the repayments to the correct funds following provision of the corrected information by employees.

(5) The AEC is unable to comment.

(6) It has been the AEC's practice for many years to advertise polling official remuneration as a package, as an attraction mechanism and for ease of administration. Superannuation is paid on the components classed as 'ordinary time earnings' and not on overtime or other allowances.

(7) A typical 'total package' includes remuneration for ordinary time, a casual loading and overtime payments. Most polling officials are in the polling assistant classification and their package of $339.82 comprises $163.66 for standard hours, $152.16 for additional hours and $24 for meal allowance. Superannuation is payable on $163.66.

(8)   Every letter of offer of employment to a polling official includes a booklet outlining important terms and conditions. The booklet specifies that the package paid comprises both ordinary time and overtime hours and notes that superannuation contributions are paid on ordinary time earnings only. The AEC has received some feedback on the terms and conditions booklet and acknowledges that its communications could be clearer. The AEC will ensure the necessary revisions are made to the booklet and other relevant publications so that all components of the packaged remuneration are listed.