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Wednesday, 26 September 2001
Page: 31584

Mr PYNE (10:50 AM) —The Abolition of Compulsory Age Retirement (Statutory Officeholders) Bill 2001 amends various acts which specify the compulsory age retirement limits for statutory office holders. At the moment, the government is hamstrung in regard to who it can appoint to statutory office holder positions because of the age limit of 65 years under the provisions of the acts. This bill will allow the government flexibility to continue to appoint people past the age of 65, and there are a lot of good reasons for that. The amendments do not propose changes to federal judicial appointments because they are governed by the Australian Constitution and as such are untouchable except by a referendum. They do not propose changes to the provisions that cover Australian Defence Force personnel because there are operational reasons why there are limits imposed within the Australian Defence Force, and most members of the House would see the merit in those provisions. It also does not propose changes to tenured positions where a person is appointed until a specified age.

The coalition has focused during the past 5½ years on recognising the contribution that older people can make and their value to the community and to the workplace and, in this case, to the statutory office holder positions to which they may have been appointed. We believe very strongly that older people should be able to make their own decisions about when they wish to retire and when they wish to stop working.

This bill reflects our commitment to introduce choice into the workplace. This choice will now be extended to the government, who will be able to reappoint people after the age of 65 who are currently in positions that require them to retire at that age. In the future, new appointments of people over the age of 65 will be able to be made. It is very clear in our community and society that there are many people over the age of 65 who could continue to make a very useful contribution to boards and positions of responsibility but have been forced out of the work force because of archaic views and stereotyping which have no place in our society. The choice is also there now for people to choose the age at which they retire from statutory office holder positions, rather than being forced out at a time when they may be just starting to reach their peak. I support the bill and I am glad that the opposition is supporting it. I commend the bill to the Main Committee.