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Friday, 20 February 1987
Page: 385


Senator MICHAEL BAUME —by leave-Today at Question Time the Minister for Finance, Senator Walsh, falsely described my statistics as shonky and yesterday at Question Time he falsely alleged that I had fiddled the figures in what was, in reality, my totally factual and correct statement as Chairman of the Opposition's Waste Watch Committee that this week's official figures show an increasing trend towards more Commonwealth public servants retiring through invalidity than from reaching retirement age. When asked at Question Time yesterday whether my claims were true Senator Walsh said: `The answer is no' and then falsely alleged that I had claimed:

That the number of invalidity retirements from the Commonwealth Public Service exceeded the number of other retirees.

I made no such claim and seek leave to incorporate in Hansard my press release which shows what I said, not what Senator Walsh's fictional version was.

Leave granted.

The Press release read as follows-

WASTE WATCH

COALITION WASTE WATCH COMMITTEE

Senator Michael Baume

(Chairman)

Senator Jim Short

Mr Alexander Downer, MP

Mr Michael Cobb, MP

Parliament House, Canberra 2600

GOVERNMENT INVALIDITY RIPOFF WORSENS

A multi-million dollar fraudulent ripoff accounted for a large part of last year's $320 million payout in invalidity pensions to former Commonwealth Public Servants, the Senate was told today.

Opposition Waste Watch Chairman, Senator Michael Baume, told the Senate that today's Annual Report of the Commonwealth Commissioner for Superannuation revealed an extraordinary and unsupportable level of invalidity retirement from the Commonwealth Public Service, in all States except New South Wales and the ACT.

The Report reveals that 428 more Commonwealth Public Servants retired from alleged invalidity last year than the 2,599 who retired through reaching retirement age of 60 or over.

As invalidity retirement provides a higher rate of pension than early retirement, a sizeable proportion of the 29,373 invalidity pensions (averaging close to $11,000 a year) appear to have been improperly obtained.

Last year's 3,027 invalidity retirements from the Commonwealth Public Service represents an increase of 26 on 1984-85 while age retirements decreased by 10.

This worsening trend is despite the Government's assurance that action would be taken to correct this ripoff after the Waste Watch Committee exposed it early last year.

While the Victorian experience of 887 invalidity retirements to only 513 age retirements involves some improvement in which is still an unacceptable ratio, in Western Australia it has blown out to almost double, with 244 invalidity retirements and only 124 age retirements, while in South Australia it is 301 to 236, and in Queensland 404 to 303.

There is no explanation in the Commissioner's Report for the far more ``healthy'' result in New South Wales where almost twice as many people (991) retired from reaching retirement age as the 580 who retired from invalidity.

There is a clear inference from these figures, which reveal an invalidity retirement rate per 100 contributors of 0.66 in New South Wales and 0.72 in the ACT but roughly double that in Tasmania with 1.37, Western Australia with 1.42, South Australia with 1.18, Victoria with 1.17 and Queensland 1.05.

The major reason for the incredible difference in invalidity between the States is in the numbers of Commonwealth Public Servants retiring through alleged mental disorders and bad backs-both of which are difficult to diagnose.

In Victoria 229 Public Servants retired through neuroses compared with only 83 in NSW where there are about 10,000 more Commonwealth Public Servants.

In total 599 Commonwealth Public Servants retired last year through alleged neuroses and 412 from ``disorders of the spine'' (with Victoria once again with 121 being about double of NSW total of 65).

In total, the Report reveals that 52% of invalidity retirees last year were through mental disorders or ``diseases of the musculo-skeletal system and connective tissue''.

Government Departments and Instrumentalities with invalidity retirement rates way above the average for the total Public Service of 0.93 per 100 include the ABC with 1.52, Australia Post with 1.28, the Department of Housing and Construction with 1.22, Special Minister of State with 1.2 and the Department of Transport with 1.2.

The Government will have to do far better this year in halting this ripoff, which is unfair to those many hundreds of Public Servants who genuinely are forced to retire through invalidity, as well as loading an unwarranted burden on Australian taxpayers.

Canberra ...17 February 1987

Further Information: Senator Michael Baume (062) 72 7708


Senator MICHAEL BAUME —There are no errors in my statement. The facts show Senator Walsh to be either mistaken or misleading the chamber as the report of the Commissioner for Superannuation for 1985-86 clearly shows that the number of retirements through invalidity from the Public Service last year increased by 26 to 3,027, continuing a four year trend, while the number retiring through reaching retirement age dropped by 10 to 2,599. These figures totally support my statement that this worsening trend means that 428 more Commonwealth public servants retired last year through alleged invalidity than from reaching retirement age, compared with 392 in the previous year.

In falsely alleging that my figures were incorrect Senator Walsh sought to mislead the Senate by including the increasing number of people who voluntarily retired before reaching retirement age and by comparing that totally different figure with the number of invalidity retirements. To demonstrate the accuracy of my claim about the worsening trend to invalidity as against age retirements under Senator Walsh's maladministration that the official statistics clearly show, I will seek leave to incorporate in Hansard table 6 from the 1985-86 annual report of the Commissioner for Superannuation so that honourable senators can see for themselves the worsening trend referred to in my statement. Senator Walsh's false claim that I fiddled the figures can properly be applied to his own mischievous attempt once again to mislead the Senate. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard table 6.

Leave granted.

The table read as follows-

Table 6

REASONS FOR EXITS FROM CONTRIBUTOR MEMBERSHIP

Reason for Exit

1982-83

1983-84

1984-85

1985-86

Age retirement 60 and over...

2,513

2,520

2,609

2,599

Early retirement under 60

voluntary...

672

732

994

1,052

involuntary...

475

287

520

597

Invalidity retirement...

2,652

2,767

3,001

3,027

Death...

530

570

561

556

Resignation and other...

14,353

14,852

18,258

20,939

Total...

21,195

21,728

25,943

28,770


Senator MICHAEL BAUME —I thank the Senate.