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Wednesday, 25 November 1959

Mr BURY (Wentworth) .- Any hurry that there may be with this legislation is, of course, due to the fact that the Government wishes the beneficiaries under these arrangements to enjoy the benefit at the earliest possible moment. But because the bill has been brought down in rather a hurry it does not mean that it will not be effective. The principles on which the bill is based are not new. They go on from year to year. They are revised constantly. No doubt, if any particular anomalies arise from this measure, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) as he has indicated, will listen sympathetically to representations. It ill behoves the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) to preclude rush legislation in circumstances which may be inevitable when the alternative would be to withhold well merited benefits from those who are affected.

The main objection of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition seems to be that, on this occasion, people on higher salaries are looked after relatively more than others. The clear reason for this is that, in adjustments subsequent to 1954, the multitude of public servants has benefited relatively more than those in the higher brackets. It is a perverted idea that we should never do justice to those on higher incomes in the Public Service. If one thing is certain in the long term it is that we should attract the hardest working people in the country to the top ranks of the Public Service. If we do not provide proper salaries, pay and retirement benefits those people will not be forthcoming.

The conditions which public servants enjoy to-day are certainly not as good, in most cases, as those enjoyed by people in comparable positions of responsibility who are most successful in the business world. The one way in which public servants are most effectively recompensed is in the payment of superannuation to themselves, and, in the event of their death, to their widows and families. Thus the uncertainty which clings to the lives of even the most successful people in many branches of private industry is for them removed. This remains a very powerful inducement to public servants. I suggest that the longterm interest of the country in recruiting the very best people to the Public Service and keeping them there demands that we do all that we can to make the service attractive.

There are, however, still some unfortunate anomalies in the overall superannuation scheme. One feature which badly needs to be brought up to date concerns people who leave the Public Service in order to do other work before their retirement age. They receive only the bare sum that they paid in. Although they may have paid into the fund for many years, they receive no interest whatsoever, nor do they receive any subvention from the Government. Probably, they have been receiving rather lower salaries than they might have otherwise earned. One of the inducements to be in the Public Service is superannuation rights, yet these are virtually wiped out if people leave the service before their retirement age.

I suggest sincerely to the Treasurer that he go into the question of making it possible for people to move in and out - certainly out - of the Public Service and take with them a proper actuarially assessed benefit to which they are entitled for the service that they have given. This is a very common practice in the United States of America. It would be to the benefit of Australian industry, apart from governmental services, if there were a freer flow of top-grade people between the different industries and occupations. It could be hastened too much but, undoubtedly, Australia would benefit from the practice. A lead from the Government in this respect might induce some of our private companies and organizations to adopt the same feature in their own superannuation schemes.

An incidental effect of the current superannuation scheme is a great injustice to a large number of permanent public servants who are women. Although a woman may have contributed for many years to the superannuation fund, if she marries and leaves the Public Service she loses the rights that she accumulated over a lifetime. Such anomalies, I hope, will gradually be removed. Anomalies are almost inevitable in legislation that covers so very many employees. For some years past, the value of superannuation benefits to public servants has been steadily improved. The relative contributions made by the Government have been increased. This measure very properly brings up to date the kind of improvements that we like to see for that very important sector of our Public Service, the higher income group.

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