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Wednesday, 15 September 1971
Page: 1325


Mr COHEN (Robertson) - Mr Deputy Speaker,I should like to make a few short comments on these Bills. I have received a considerable number of representations from retired Commonwealth officers living in the electorate of Robertson and I have met with them on many occasions. At least 45 - perhaps more - of them have written to me expressing their concern at the way their pensions have devalued over a period of time. I compliment them on the efforts that they have made on their own behalf in bringing this matter to my attention. I have made considerable representations to the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) and I am delighted to see that he has listened to those representations as well as to those of other honourable members. No doubt other honourable members have been approached similarly by retired Commonwealth officers in their electorates. The shame of it is that people who are in retirement, most of them in their late sixties or early seventies, are forced to do this sort of lobbying. As they drow old and perhaps are less capable of fighting battles than are some of the younger members of the community, they find themselves in a position where, because of cost of living increases, they consistently have to lobby and to write letters to their members of Parliament. This is something that should be obvious to all honourable members. It must be very worrying for them in their old age and in their retirement to have to be concerned about security and the cost of living. 1 agree with the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Jess) that we should start immediately on debates and discussions about a national superannuation scheme not only in this House but also in the community at large. The Government could overcome many of the objections that may arise by taking the time to bring all members of the community into these discussions. Not only politicians but also academics, various people from different economic groups, pensioner organisations and all the sorts of groups about which we are talking should be consulted as to what they consider a national superannuation scheme should provide. No doubt there will be many differences of opinion between members on this side of the House and Government supporters as to what this scheme should incorporate. However, many of these objections could be removed in debate before the Government presented legislation for a national superannuation scheme. If I were in government, I would welcome as much cooperation as possible in formulating such a scheme. The grave mistake that governments are making these days is that they think they have all the wisdom and knowledge on these matters and that they must present as a fait accompli legislation that will affect the lives of every Australian over the next 20 years, 30 years, 40 years or' more. The Government could circumvent much of this criticism if it were prepared to take not only the Parliament but also the people of Australia into its discussions and debates. Even if it takes 12 months or 18 months to come up with a scheme that is acceptable to 90 per cent of the people, this would be better than having a scheme which, like so many of the Government's schemes, is acceptable to only 20 per cent of the people.

I was very concerned at what I learnt from discussions with some retired Commonwealth officers. Most of the retired people who live in the electorate of Robertson had been in the lower income brackets, particularly those who had worked in the postal service. In many instances the cash incomes of a couple on superannuation were only marginally better than those of a pensioner couple and they were missing out on the health benefits, concessional travel facilities and so on available to pensioners. This was gravely concerning them and I am delighted to see that the Government has made this notional adjustment. I hope that this adjustment will be made more frequently. These people should know that every year or every 2 years their superannuation will increase automatically. Then they would not have to worry about lobbying members of Parliament, writing to newspapers and getting themselves het up at a time when they should be able to live in relaxation and security, certain that they will be able to continue to enjoy the standard of living they had in the past.







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