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Monday, 29 August 1994
Page: 510


Senator MARGETTS (5.42 p.m.) —The Greens support Senator Woodley's Superannuation Complaints Tribunal disallowance motion. I listened carefully to the speech by Senator West, but I feel that it is not beyond the realms of possibility that a tribunal can organise to call on specialised medical advice as required. It would not be terribly complicated. If there are problems with the way the tribunal is operating or has operated, it is a matter of dealing with those problems. I do think that not disallowing a motion where there is an accepted—even from the government's point of view—difficulty and inequity involved and continuing for another six months will solve any problems. A disallowance would effectively permit the complaints tribunal to hear cases where people requesting disability allowance were turned down. We believe that such cases may be a significant part of the number of people having problems with superannuation.

  The law as it stands forbids anyone unable to work from seeking a resolution through the tribunal and puts them in a position where they must either give up or proceed through the courts. People seeking disability allowance are likely to be unemployed or, at best, only partially employed and so are economically disadvantaged. We see no reason why they should be forced into the difficult and expensive option of the courts, where they must compete directly against the economic and legal power of superannuation and insurance companies.

  The tribunal was set up to allow quicker and less expensive means of resolution, and these people should not be excluded from this facility. The only excuse the government can present is that the tribunal does not have the expertise to determine between conflicting medical experts. It appears to us that the tribunal would have exactly as much expertise as the courts. For this reason, there is no reason disabled people should be denied the process of complaint available to others dissatisfied with their treatment by superannuation companies. It is absolutely necessary to have good, accessible complaint resolution where the government is trying to make superannuation the basic form of retirement income security. If, by the way, that tribunal is not working as well as it should at the moment, there is always the ability to improve it.