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Wednesday, 4 November 1992
Page: 2515

Mr ROCHER (10.00 a.m.) —The Commonwealth Superannuation Schemes Amendment Bill seeks to remove from the provisions of the various Commonwealth superannuation schemes discrimination on the basis of sex or marital status. The legislation will come into effect from 25 June 1993 and will apply to benefits payable as a result of the death of a person on or after that date. The existing provisions of the various Commonwealth superannuation schemes will continue to apply to benefits which became payable as the result of the death of a person before that date.

  The Bill brings the Commonwealth superannuation schemes into line with amendments the Government made to the Sex Discrimination Act only last year. The date for the commencement of these amendments is the same as that for the private sector schemes under the relevant changes to the Sex Discrimination Act. The basic thrust of the amendments is to broaden the eligibility for qualification as a spouse to better reflect present day realities. We are assured that no current eligibility will be denied by the operation of the Bill. The definition of spouse is not being expanded to include partners of the same sex.

  The amendments will also remove the different treatment between a nuptial and an ex-nuptial child for the purposes of reversionary benefits. The coalition has no difficulties with these amendments and will be supporting the Bill. The fact that the Bill will lead to an increase in the level of future entitlements payable by the Commonwealth does, however, highlight the growing concern about the extent of unfunded public sector superannuation liabilities. The Senate Select Committee on Superannuation, in report No. 3, has estimated that the extent of the Commonwealth's unfunded superannuation liabilities amounts to around $38 billion. Similarly, large sums are outstanding in respect of non-Commonwealth public sector superannuation schemes and represent a major fiscal burden on the public sector in years to come.

  There is only one solution to this growing problem; that is, for public sector superannuation schemes to move onto a fully funded basis as soon as practicable. Otherwise, the public sector in Australia, and the Commonwealth Government in particular, will be staring down the barrel of a massive blow-out in outlays that will undermine the fiscal policies of future governments. The coalition believes that all employer sponsored superannuation funds should be operated on a fully funded basis. The coalition will be moving in that direction when in office.