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Tuesday, 15 May 1973
Page: 2125

Mr GILES (Angas) - Some 5 or 6 weeks ago on behalf of some Commonwealth civil servants in South Australia, the State from which I come, I placed on the notice paper a series of questions to the Government in relation to superannuation. The point I should like to make tonight is that this Bill deals partially with some of the principles that I put forward on behalf of those people. On the other hand, of course, there is a great deal in the submissions of those who represent the civil servants of Australia which this Bill does >not attempt to cover. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) made this quite plain when he spoke in his second reading speech of the purpose of this Bill, which is to increase benefits. He highlighted certain other projected ideas which may come before the House at a future time.

I should like to go through some of the propositions I put before the Treasurer some 6 weeks ago. I asked:

(1)   In view of the Ninth Quinquennial Investigation as at 30th June 1967 of the Superannuation Fund, what progress has been made with the revision of superannuation arrangements for Commonwealth employees.

(2)   what is the nature and form of the proposed revised arrangements.

(3)   When will the new arrangements be announced.

(4)   To what extent win the revised arrangements in clude the following features of a new scheme as indicated in the report:

(a)   an increase in pension benefits to widows and resumption of the payment of widows' pensions under certain conditions-

I should like to stop there momentarily to point out that, of course, this Bill conforms generally with those principles. If this is the correct occasion I should like to refer to an anomaly which occurs. Maybe the Government is glad about this, but as a back bencher I am not pleased. I refer to the treatment of widows' payments under the superannuation scheme for civil servants. The Treasurer, in his second reading speech, said:

As on previous occasions, a widow will receive the appropriate proportion, five-eighths or one-half as the case may be, of the increase that her husband would have received had he been alive and in receipt of a pension on 30th June 1973. Certain orphans will also receive increased pensions.

If I am correct, it means this: If I am struggling home from a meeting 140 miles away in the electorate of Angas and I collide with a blue gum with fatal results I think it is correct to say that my widow would not receive a seven-eighths pension and under the new Act on a rising scale but would be, in fact, on a proportion of five-sixths of the payment I would be entitled to.

Mr Martin - You said seven-eighths, I think you meant five-eighths.

Mr GILES - Yes, that is correct. Whether the point I am making is right or wrong, the one thing that is correct is that my wife or the Treasurer's wife or the wife of any honourable member does not at present receive a superannuation benefit, once her husband becomes deceased, at a rate that increases with the inflationary rate of the currency.

There have been rumours that the whole matter of parliamentary superannuation payments might well be examined during the course of this week. I should just like to draw the attention of the Treasurer to the anomaly I mention. Unless I am much mistaken I do not think there would be a great many Commonwealth employees who would have to drive with the degree of frequency that parliamentarians do, through the night from midnight onwards, perhaps over distances up to 200 miles on the way home. These are potentially fatal circumstances which the Minister could well examine in relation to quite a high proportion of members of Parliament who represent large areas - in my case perhaps the size of the State of Tasmania. It is not easy for them to effect a reasonable coverage of their electorate when they are very tired and trying to struggle home late at night.

I now carry on quoting some of the suggestions I put forward to the Treasurer some weeks ago. I asked: . . (b) an increase in children's and orphans' benefits, (c) automatic adjustment of pensions based on a cost of living or similar index, -

The previous speaker dealt with this point. In some ways he feels that this scheme does not compare with the previous superannuation scheme, but it is at least commendable that some attempt has been made in this case to equate pensions and superannuation benefits with the decreasing value of the currency. I should like to have a word or two more to say on that in a few minutes time. I went on to ask the Treasurer:

(d)   variation In the calculation of retrenchment benefits, (e) in the case of single pensioners, a payment could be made to the next-of-kin of any excess of contributions over pension received, (f) interest to be paid on refunds of contributions to those members leaving the fund -

I add that I was a State member of Parliament before I was elected to this House some years ago and, I received no such return on my contributions to the State superannuation fund. In fact, I received a bare return of my own contributions without any interest ingredient whatsoever. I still hope that one day some Federal government will be charitable enough to try to introduce some benefits to cover time served in State parliaments - I hope State governments will forgive me for saying so - for those members of Parliament who consider it part of their normal progress to start in a State House and finish in a Federal one. I do not think they should necessarily be penalised for having such a progressive attitude on political matters. These remarks apply to a dozen or so ex-State members currently in this House. But perhaps the Government of today agrees with rae about as much as the government of the past did in relation to my plea along these lines. For instance. I know of one member of this House who served for 10 or 12 years in a State House and who has served for probably no longer than that in this House. His superannuation rights start only from the day on which he became a member of this House of Representatives. I hope that one day a government in its wisdom will have some mercy on those who appear, in their own minds anyway, to progress rather than to regress along their path of competence or interest. The remainder of that part of the question reads:

(g)   rates of contributions to be limited to a maximum percentage of salary in accordance with age at entry to the scheme, (h) provision for limited benefits for those contributors not meeting the full medical standards of the present scheme, (i) voluntary retirement and payment of an adjusted pension at 55 years of age and (j) a provision to be made for commutation of the pension to a lump sum on age retirement.

Many other matters are referred to in that question which I put on notice to the Treasurer some 6 weeks ago but I will not canvass them now because, quite patently, this Bill is what might be termed a half-way house in that it only aims, as 1 think I said already, to increase benefits in relation to the changing value of money at this point of time.

The honourable member for Phillip has, among other things, pointed out the interest shown by Professor Pollard in the need for the fund itself to look for growth investment possibilities in relation to the returns that could - I think that is the right word - be made to those who contribute to the fund. I leave aside the fact that in the previous decade a fair surplus has been left in this fund. So far we have not heard much about this so we do not really know how it is to be distributed. What Professor Pollard has in mind is something that concerns many people other than those who run the Commonwealth superannuation fund, it concerns also people who are worried today about whether they can invest in something that will hold its value if inflation does proceed to gallop. This is a matter that concerns not only the honourable member for Phillip - and one would hope that it would concern the Government vitally - but also those of us who are looking after other people's funds in a wide variety of different fields and in different interests.

I do not think anyone on this side of the House could have any objection to the matters brought forward in this Bill. In the short time remaining to me in this debate I would suggest very firmly that the Government look very carefully at the interests of so many people in the community today who see themselves as future superannuitants with a view to helping and possible educating them, other than through the adult education scheme, so that they may define the sort of area and type of retirement that they, and many of us who have spent a lifetime in servie to the nation, would wish properly to have.

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