Superannuation (Entitlements of same sex couples) Bill 2000
Senator John Watson, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on
Superannuation and Financial Services, today tabled the Committee's
report on the provisions of the Superannuation (Entitlements of same
sex couples) Bill 2000.
Under our Terms of Reference, the Committee was required to examine the
provisions of the Bill. The purpose of the bill is to amend the Superannuation
Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 to remove discrimination against same
sex couples in respect of superannuation benefits.
While noting that the Committee was divided in its final conclusions
and recommendations, Senator Watson said, ' On the whole, we found that
there was considerable support for the objectives of the Bill, coupled
with significant concern about discrimination against same sex couples.
Nonetheless, the Committee received a small number of submissions in opposition
to the Bill. Certainly feelings run high about this Bill and the need
for reform to address discrimination in general.'
'The issues are extremely complex and involve significant ethical issues,'
'The whole of the Committee consider that there are a number of shortcomings
in the Bill which warrant further attention,' he went on to say.
'Without significant amendment to the proposed definitions, there could
be some serious unintended consequences. For example, the definitions
as proposed may cause problems in the areas of annuities and insurance
premiums where there currently exists positive discrimination in favour
of women. The removal of the word 'spouse' may also have ramifications
for other legislation recently passed,' he said.
However, Senator Watson noted that the majority of the Committee (Labor
and Democrat Senators) considered that the resolution of these issues
is possible through negotiations with the stakeholders and that these
issues should not unnecessarily hinder the passage of the bill.
The Bill, as drafted, exempts Commonwealth public sector
and defence force schemes. 'The Government members of the Committee noted
that amending the proposed legislation to remove the exemption of Commonwealth
public sector and defence force schemes from the provisions of the Bill
will only be achieved at a cost to the Commonwealth,' Senator Watson said.
The Committee, as a whole, noted that inequities in the
taxation treatment of the entitlements of same sex couples to superannuation
benefits are not addressed by the Bill, and that the Bill does not address
the inequitable treatment of persons of the same sex in relation to social
security payment eligibility. As such, amendments to both taxation and
social security legislation would be required to remove discrimination
in the treatment of same sex couples in respect to superannuation.
Senator Watson said that all members of the Committee
agreed that the legislation should not apply retrospectively, if the Bill
were to be passed'.
He went on to say, 'As a Committee, we accept that many
in the community acknowledge the existence of discrimination and are anxious
for change and that this Bill is seen as an incremental step in an overall
process of change.'
The majority of the Committee recommended that:
- a maximum period of one month be given for advice to be sought from
stakeholders, including the superannuation industry, on how best to
draft appropriate amendments to the Bill to avoid the possibility of
unintended consequences and that the Bill then be passed;
- the Bill should not apply retrospectively; and
- the Government establish a Commonwealth Inter-Departmental Committee,
coordinated by the Attorney-Generals Department, to examine the
full range of Commonwealth legislation with respect to discrimination
on the basis of same sex relationships.
Senator Watson said: The Government Senators are
not in agreement with all of these recommendations.
We agree that the Bill should not apply retrospectively
and that the Government should establish a Commonwealth Inter-Departmental
Committee, coordinated by the Attorney-Generals Department, to examine
the full range of Commonwealth legislation with respect to discrimination.
However, the Government Senators do not believe that
this review should be confined to examining discrimination associated
with the superannuation entitlements of same sex couples, but rather such
a study should take a more holistic view of removing discrimination in
other areas. We believe that such a review should take into account the
likely impact on traditional families and traditional values. We do not
consider that superannuation should be the 'lead vehicle' for the implementation
of the significant social change envisaged in this Bill.
Consequently, Senator Watson said: The Government
Senators do not agree that the Bill as currently drafted should be passed
because of its limitations and the need to consider this area of reform
in a holistic way.
||Senator John Watson
|02 6277 3685 (Canberra) or
03 6331 4544 (Launceston, TAS)
|02 6277 3458 or
6 April 2000
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