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Wednesday, 15 September 1971
Page: 1322


Mr BERINSON (Perth) - I shall take only a few moments in this debate because all I really want to do is to put 3 questions to the Minister assisting the Treasurer (Mr Peacock). The first question is: Has the Government considered making automatic adjustments to superannuation payments and, if so what are its views? It seems inconceivable, given the number of representations which I and, I am sure, other honourable members receive, that this proposal should not have come to the attention of the Government. It is a pity then that, when dealing with this matter the Government gave no indication of its views. It is important to know whether the Government has so far neglected to act, whether it has deferred action on automatic adjustments for some reason, or whether it has rejected automatic adjustments as a matter of principle.

As has already been indicated in this debate, many thousands of people are affected by the superannuation scheme. I think it would be reasonable to ask the Government to make a statement setting out its views on the proposal for automaticity. In particular this question is raised by the developments in the economy over recent years. The last adjustments to the superannuation scheme were made in

October 1963 and November 1967, and another adjustment is proposed now. What happened over that period is that we have had an increasing rate of inflation. Between October 1963 and November 1967, the 4-year period before the last review, the rate of inflation as measured by increases in the cost of living index was 9.8 per cent whereas in the last 4-year period, measured by the same index, the increase was of the order of 12.1 per cent. So what has happened over the last 4-year period is that the real value of superannuation pensions has declined at an increasing rate.

I think it is important, given these circumstances which are unlikely to be peculiar to the past period, that the Government should give consideration to automatic adjustments. This might be done in a number of ways. The period between adjustments could be shortened from 4 years to perhaps 2 years or one year; or alternatively, the rate of inflation which had occurred since the previous adjustment could be used as a measure of the next adjustment. It would not be unreasonable, for example, to institute an automatic adjustment scheme which applied whenever the real value of the pension declined, say by 5 per cent. These are just suggestions. I am sure that, as I have already said, the Government must have had them under consideration. It would be of interest and importance to hear what the Government's real views are.

The second question that I put to the Minister representing the Treasurer is this: Will he clarify the position of employees of Government instrumentalities, for example, those covered by the Commonwealth Bank superannuation scheme? These require the Treasurer's approval, I understand, before they can provide an adjustment of former rates. I also understand that such approval was given in 1967 following the last adjustment of Commonwealth superannuation rates. But so far as I am aware, at least until about 10 days ago the Treasurer had not given his approval this year to a request that he allow Commonwealth Bank superannuation payments to be adjusted. I notice that in the second reading speech there is an obscure reference to this matter but it is not really helpful in terms of the question that I am raising. In his second reading speech the Treasurer simply said:

In the case of pensions paid to former employees of Commonwealth authorities outside the Budget each authority meets the employer's share from its own resources.

In other words he was indicating how government instrumentalities meet the adjustment without saying whether they would adjust this year. I therefore ask the Treasurer whether he will give his approval to these subsidiary schemes and indicate that any future adjustment of schemes, such as that of the Commonwealth Bank, will be approved whenever the main Commonwealth superannuation scheme is varied.

My next question relates to the comments of the honourable member for Ryan (Mr Drury). Non-contributory . pensions were introduced in 1968 and they have applied since 1969. The reason' for the introduction of this scheme is succinctly set out in the 47th report of the Superannuation Board, which reads:

The Government's intention was to provide some relief for contributors who were faced with difficulties in meeting the cost of additional units occurring in later stages of their career.

There is no doubt that the difficulties referred to in that report were quite real and without doubt those same difficulties were met by Commonwealth employees who retired prior to 1969 just as they applied to those employees who retired after that date. I ask the Government: Has it given any consideration to the possibility of providing retrospective non-contributory provisions for former employees who retired before the current scheme was instituted? I suppose this is a matter which affects a lesser number of former Government employees but it is still a matter of importance to them. In financial terms I would not imagine that it would be expensive. It would also be self-limiting in the sense that the people concerned would already be at an advanced age. But at the same time it appears to be a matter which warrants some further attention on which the conclusions of the Government should be publicly stated.







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