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Friday, 5 December 1986
Page: 3479

Senator PETER BAUME(10.45) —There have been circulated in the name of the Opposition four amendments-four amendments other than that proposed by Senator Walters which has now been determined. I seek leave of the Committee to move the four amendments together.

Leave granted.

Senator PETER BAUME —I move:

Pages 2 and 3, Schedule-

(a) leave out the amendment of the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act 1954

(b) leave out the amendments of the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 1971

(c) leave out the amendment of the Delivered Meals Subsidy Act 1970

(d) leave out the amendment of sub-section 3 (1) of the Seamen's Compensation Act 1911.

I thank the Committee. The amendments propose to leave out certain of the proposed amendments which make up this Bill. The reason is not that we are concerned at all about the effort to overcome certain discriminatory practices. In fact, we support those efforts. But in choosing to do this in a particular way other questions arise which we think have some force and substance and which we would like to explore with the Government. Our first amendment relates to the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act and another to the Delivered Meals Subsidy Act. Each amendment would have the same effect. The amendments seek to reduce to 60 years the age at which a man becomes an aged person. I know that certain honourable senators think that that is not a fair definition. We are all approaching 60, sooner or later.

Senator Gareth Evans —Some faster than others.

Senator PETER BAUME —Yes, some faster than others. The effect of such amendments to create a new definition of when a male becomes an aged person would create some new situations. For example, it would involve significant budgetary implications, because it would mean that a number of males would become eligible for certain benefits at a time earlier than they do now. The amendments are precedential. If the approach is that the age at which people qualify for certain benefits should be reduced to the lower age of 60-in this case women qualify at 60 and men at 65-that precedent is likely to be followed in a large number of other cases. These ones are small in quantum but may be important in precedent.

A most interesting situation may arise. We may have men still in the work force and still in employment able to claim the benefits of the Delivered Meals Subsidy Act because they are aged. It may involve men still in the work force at the age of 60, who are not required to retire until they are 65, and who are unable to draw a pension, being able to take advantage of the Aged or Disabled Persons Homes Act. Obviously a policy matter is involved as to whether one reduces the common age to 60, whether one remains with the two different age qualifications, whether one moves to a middle common age, maybe 63 years, and does it over time, or whether one takes the reverse route and seeks to have 65 as the single common age or some other age. Because it is not as simple as it looks and because it has effects, we ask the Government to explain why it has been decided to go to 60 and what answer it has to the problems I have raised. I indicate to the Minister that I shall be seeking only one division on these amendments in toto, but at this stage I seek the Minister's response to these points.