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Wednesday, 29 June 1994
Page: 2333

Senator HARRADINE (5.41 p.m.) —Let us get rid of all of that. That is a furphy. I cannot believe that the government is now suggesting that that is the reason it has put this in. It is a crass attempt to save a few bob; that is what it is all about.

  It is a nonsense to say that this is to ensure that women can work after they reach the age of 60. There are other measures that can be adopted to prevent any discrimination that takes place on that ground. There is nothing to prevent women now from working after they reach the age of 60.

  We really need to broaden the choices for people, and that is what we have been doing. I gave an example of a woman who is still working and she is 55 years of age. She has only five years to go. She wants to retire at 60; she has planned it. With this legislation, the government is telling her to work another two years before she is eligible for the pension. That is against all concepts of freedom of choice. It is certainly against all my instincts of trade unionism. As I said before, if somebody were to say that in order to get long service leave people had to work another two years when they thought they had to work only five years—in other words, they had to work seven years—that would create a riot. There would be a strike in some of the establishments that I know of, and quite rightly, too.

  The minister said that she could not answer the questions that I asked. She could give a ballpark figure of how many women in Australia are aged 55, but she said that she could not break that up into how many are working and how many will be eligible for a pension when they reach 60. She then went on to give the amount that the government will save because women are not going to take up the pension because of this legislation. If she can tell us what the government thinks it is going to save by this measure, surely the department must have taken an educated guess as to how many women would be eligible for payment of pension and would be entitled to it.

  On the one hand, the minister says she cannot tell me and, on the other hand, she is telling us how much the government has saved. On the basis of what? On the basis of what she calls certain data—assumptions that have been made by the department. Could the minister share with us what those assumptions are? I think the committee would be appreciative of that. What are the minister's assumptions in respect of the 55-year-olds and how many of them are going to be affected? That is what I want to know, and I think the committee is entitled to it.