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Wednesday, 29 August 2001
Page: 30465

Mr WILLIAMS (Attorney-General) (9:34 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

The Abolition of Compulsory Age Retirement (Statutory Officeholders) Bill 2001 proposes to abolish legislative provisions in Commonwealth acts that set compulsory retirement age limits, commonly 65 years, for statutory office holders. If enacted, it will significantly enhance the ability of statutory appointees to continue to serve the community beyond the usual retirement age.

One of the most important challenges facing Australia in the coming years will be retaining the experience and expertise of older Australians in the work force. The coalition government places great importance upon the economic and social contribution that older Australians can play in our community in a wide range of activities. It is also committed to ensuring that the expertise of older Australians is not unnecessarily lost to the community. A large part of this contribution will depend upon ensuring that older Australians are able to participate or continue to participate in the work force should they choose to do so.

Statutory office holders are selected on the basis of their specialist expertise or knowledge. This bill will ensure that people above the age of 65 will be able to be considered for appointment to Commonwealth statutory positions or will be able to continue their important contribution to the Australian community past that age.

These amendments will provide greater flexibility and choice not only to the government in selecting potential appointees but also to the office holders themselves. It will assist in changing attitudes about the abilities of older workers and will remove artificial and archaic boundaries between work and retirement.

The repeal of retirement age limit provisions also brings statutory office holders into line with staff in the Australian Public Service, following the enactment of the Public Service Act 1999.

The bill does not propose to alter a range of age based restrictions relating to Australian Defence Force personnel. These restrictions are primarily based on considerations of operational effectiveness and the government considers that there are sound reasons for those restrictions to be retained.

Constitutional limitations prevent the abolition of retirement age provisions for High Court judges whose retirement age is currently 70 years. It is not proposed to amend the retirement age provision for judges of other federal courts.

The bill will also not affect other office holders appointed with tenure until a certain age. This is because removing age limits on these office holders would, inappropriately, create positions with life tenure.

The bill reflects this government's commitment to providing greater flexibility and choice to older Australians. It is an important recognition of the valuable role older Australians can play in serving the Australian community through a variety of statutory positions.

I commend the bill to the House and I present the explanatory memorandum to the bill.

Debate (on motion by Mr Horne) adjourned.