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Wednesday, 7 December 1983
Page: 3393

Senator COLSTON —I direct a question to the Minister for Veterans' Affairs. Is it correct that most World War II ex-service personnel are relatively better placed than other members of the community if they are forced into early retirement? Can the Minister advise whether some employers have reduced their staffing levels by retrenching ex-service personnel or inviting them to accept so-called voluntary retirement? What is the Government's attitude to this practice?

Senator GIETZELT —It is true that ex-service personnel who served in a theatre of war and who meet the income test are eligible to receive a service pension at the age of 60. The wives of such ex-servicemen are eligible to receive a pension at 55. It is true that some evidence has emerged in recent times to suggest that employers are taking advantage of this to bring about the early retirement or premature retirement of ex-servicemen. I have had brought to my attention two cases in which employers having to make a choice about retrenching workers have told ex-servicemen that as they are 60 years of age and therefore eligible for the service pension they should be first to go in the retrenchment plans of the company. I believe that is reprehensible conduct because it is placing the burden on the Commonwealth, which has to pay these people an age pension five years earlier than would otherwise be the case. I have suggested to the union that raised this matter with me that it is a clear matter of discrimination when people are singled out just because the Commonwealth can pick up a welfare responsibility and thereby allow a company to retrench workers. Certainly Senator Colston can be assured that the Government is appalled at this practice. In every case that has been brought to my attention I have suggested that the matter is one for determination by the Anti-Discrimination Board.