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 20 MESSAGE FROM THE SENATE—SUPERANNUATION (GOVERNMENT CO-CONTRIBUTION FOR LOW INCOME EARNERS) (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL 2003

Message No. 339, 7 October 2003, from the Senate was reported returning the Superannuation (Government Co-contribution for Low Income Earners) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2003 with amendments.

Ordered—That the amendments be considered forthwith.

On the motion of Mr Cameron (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer), amendments Nos 1 to 6 and 8 to 11 were disagreed to.

Mr Cameron presented reasons, which were circulated, and are as follows:

Reasons of the House of Representatives for disagreeing to the amendments of the Senate

Amendments 1 to 6 and 8 to 11

These amendments would amend the Superannuation (Government Co-contribution for Low Income Earners) (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2003to insert, and in some cases replace, definitions within various superannuation and taxation legislation for `dependant', `interdependency relationship', `partner', `spouse', and include covenants in the governing rules of superannuation funds to specifically deal with same-sex relationships.

The superannuation Co-contribution for low-income earners is aimed at boosting the superannuation savings of low-income earners. Therefore the House considers that the measure being dealt with by this Bill only applies to an individual. The measure does not distinguish between eligible individuals in same-sex relationships or any other relationships. The Co-contribution will be available to an eligible gay or lesbian person, as it will be to an eligible married person or eligible single heterosexual person. Therefore the House considers that these amendments are not necessary because there is no possible discrimination in respect of the operation of this Bill.

On the broader issue of payment of death benefits, superannuation fund trustees can already take into account same-sex partners when distributing death benefits, as they do with other dependent relationships. The Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993already provides that superannuation funds may cash the benefits of a deceased member in favour of either or both the member's legal personal representative or one or more of the member's dependants. A dependant is ordinarily interpreted to include those partly financially dependent or financially inter-dependent with the member. Therefore, same-sex partners can usually access the death benefits of their partner where the dependency test is met and the House considers that these amendments are not necessary.

Additionally, where cohabiting persons have joint financial commitments, and financial dependency is shown, the death benefits paid to the partner of the deceased member are concessionally taxed. This is the same concessional tax treatment that is afforded to any dependant, whether they are husband or wife, same-sex partner, parent or child of the deceased. Also then for this reason the House considers that these amendments are not necessary.

On the motion of Mr Cameron, the reasons were adopted.

On the motion of Mr Cameron, amendments Nos 7 and 12 were agreed to.