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Thursday, 28 November 1974
Page: 2914

Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) - in reply- I thank Senator Maunsell and the Senate for the contributions which have been made on this matter. Senator Maunsell was a member of the Joint Select Committee on Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation, as was Senator Devitt, which, I think it is fair to say, under the guidance of the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard) quickly adopted the Jess report and introduced the improvements in this area as quickly as possible. There are, of course, some anomalies which the Minister has stated previously will be considered but at the present time that cannot be done. Senator Maunsell referred to the need to set up a joint select committee. This was raised by the honourable member for Herbert, Mr Bonnett, in the other place. The Minister for Defence has already invited Mr Bonnett and the Opposition parties to make suggestions in relation to this proposal. As far as I am aware, it is under consideration by the people concerned but it has not yet been submitted to the Government. In reply to a question from Mr Bonnett the Minister for Defence said:

As 1 have already explained in this House, in reply to the honourable member's earlier question on this matter, there are a number of matters raised by and on behalf of retired members of the forces that are already under examination by the Department of Defence in consultation with the Services and with the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority. I cannot see any real need for the appointment of a parliamentary committee, as he suggests, to inquire into these matters. However, if the honourable member wishes to submit terms of reference to me, which I presume would incorporate the anomalies that he is referring to, then I would be happy to examine the matter on its merits.

We also know that during the debate in this place in May or June last year a suggestion was made by Senator Byrne to provide for reversionary benefits to flow to specified relatives on the death of an unmarried contributing member. That is at present being considered by the Government but it is not yet in a position to decide what to do. In my second reading speech on this Bill 1 pointed out that it had been decided to defer the question of a permanent method for adjusting servicemen's pensions under both schemes until all relevant aspects had been thoroughly examined. On behalf of the Minister I said: 1 would have hoped by this time that it would have been possible for details of the adjustment methods to apply in the future to be incorporated in the principal Acts.

Because of the need to make adjustments and in response to current superannuation movements it was necessary to carry out these improvements at the present time. It is also fair to say, I think, that the legislation on the new superannuation scheme to come before the Parliament will raise new considerations in relation to these schemes. I can only say- most of us would agree- that what has been done is a vast improvement and that the matters raised by Senator Maunsell and by his colleagues in the other place are under active consideration. As the Minister has said, he hopes to bring in some remedies in the near future. In addition, if the Opposition wants a select committee as has been proposed, the Minister is prepared, I think, to give the suggestion full consideration. I thank the Senate for its consideration of this Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.

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