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Thursday, 2 December 2004
Page: 29


Senator GREIG (11:09 AM) —In answer to Senator Evans's observations, he is quite correct. The definition of an interdependent relationship which has been circulated would probably be too broad for what we are trying to achieve here. The reason it appears the way it does is partly due to some clumsy communications between myself and the clerks. What has happened here is that the definition that has been brought forward is the one which we have been working with within superannuation legislation. There is a difference of process in terms of death benefits and what we are dealing with here, which is effectively a pension or a reversionary pension in terms of the payment of pensions to surviving partners, in this case veterans. The interdependence definition, whilst effective and adequate for superannuation, would—and I think Senator Evans is right—perhaps not be the best one to be used here. It might mean, for example, that a pension of this nature could be extended to a father and son, two maiden aunts, a neighbour or so on. This is, in fact, what does happen under the definitional processes of superannuation through the use of interdependence.

What we really need is a tighter, more specific definition. Perhaps a better one I could have circulated would have read something like `partner in relation to a person means a person who is living with, or ordinarily lived with, another person on a bona fide domestic basis whether or not legally married and includes opposite and same-sex couples'. I think that would be a better definition. I will not take the opportunity now to move an amendment as such on the floor because it is clear that, while the principle has some loose support from Labor although they are not voting in favour of the motion specifically, the principle I am advancing by way of amendment does not attract majority support in the Senate. So I will not take up any more time by moving an amendment to exchange my verbal definition for the written one. I think senators understand where I am coming from. Senator Evans's point is correct.

I guess, more broadly, I would be interested to hear from Labor—they have commented on this once before—what formal process and what policy position they will take to the next election perhaps, if they did not to the last, in terms of how they might address the issue of pensions paid to veterans, specifically same-sex couples and particularly in the wake of the Edward Young decision and the criticism from the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. While it is clear that I will not have success here today in the Senate with this request for amendment, I would be keen to hear from both the government and the opposition about where they really do stand on this and what kind of policy framework they would either adhere to or advance.