28 May 2008

Superannuation Bill a great step toward ending discrimination against same-sex couples

Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Graeme Innes, today welcomed the introduction of legislation to remove discrimination against same-sex couples in Commonwealth superannuation schemes.

The Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws - Superannuation) Bill 2008 will finally provide equal access to superannuation benefits for all same-sex couples and their children.

“Superannuation is one of the main ways of saving for retirement,” said Commissioner Innes.

“Most people expect that their superannuation entitlements will be inherited by their partner, children or other dependants, but Commonwealth employees in same-sex relationships have never had this right,” said Commissioner Innes. “This Bill, if passed, will ensure that right from 1 July.”

Discrimination in access to superannuation benefits was one of the major issues discussed in the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s Same-Sex: Same Entitlements report which dealt with financial and work-related entitlements and benefits.

Many Commonwealth employees told the Inquiry they felt insulted by this discrimination and its impact on their retirement plans.

One couple told the Inquiry, “We have had a loving, committed supportive relationship … It’s simply unfair and discriminatory that we don’t have equality with my straight retired colleagues.”

Another said, “The law says I must pay into the [public sector] scheme and also says – ‘your same sex partner will not be getting any of it’ - how unfair is that?”

This Bill will mean that all Commonwealth employees will be treated equally in their access to superannuation benefits.

“It is an important step on the path to full equality for same-sex couples and their children,” said Graeme Innes.

“We look forward to seeing the rest of the law changes that will remove discrimination against same-sex couples in other areas.”

The Government expects these and other changes to be implemented by mid-2009.

Media contact: Brinsley Marlay (02) 9284 9656 or 0430 366 529