How does the Same - Sex Relationships Bill 2008 affect you?
The Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws Superannuation) Bill 2008 passed through parliament and received Royal Assent on 4 December 2008. The result of this law being passed is that it allows same-sex couples to leave entitlements to their partner or children upon death. The Act also amends the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993, making it easier for regulated superannuation funds to recognise same-sex relationships.
The Australian Institute of Superannuation recently carried out a survey involving the Trustees of its members. The results found that a considerable number of funds already recognised same-sex relationships as interdependent couples. Most, not-for-profit super funds were already able to pay death benefits to same-sex partners and about 50% of the funds had indeed done this.
“We encourage all superannuation funds across Australia to make provision for same-sex couples and their children so that this discrimination is completely removed from the superannuation industry,” Senator Nick Sherry said.
Of course, the final decision on whether to pay superannuation death benefits to a deceased member's same-sex spouse or dependent children still rests with the fund's trustee, subject to the fund's governing rules.
A number of Commonwealth civilian and military superannuation schemes, including the judicial pension schemes, will be amended, making death benefits available to same-sex de facto partners and any children of a same-sex relationship. It is expected that from 1 January 2009 same-sex de facto couples will be treated the same as hetrosexual de facto couples for the purposes of these super schemes. The Senate also agreed to a bill to extend the meaning of de-facto to include same-sex relationships.
The legislation brings long-awaited equality to same sex-couples in areas including tax, social security, health, aged care and employment. They are part of an election commitment to act on the recommendations of a 2007 landmark report by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
Labor senator Penny Wong said "They (bills) deliver on a very important election commitment on an important day for us". She told parliament "They will deliver the sort of equality before the law that same-sex couples have never previously experienced."
The full list of superannuation and pension laws that are amended by this legislation are as follows:
Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973
Magistrates Act 1999
Governor-General Act 1974
Income Tax (Transitional Provisions) Act 1997
Judges’ Pensions Act 1968
Law Officers Act 1964
Parliamentary Contributory Superannuation Act 1948
Retirement Savings Accounts Act 1997
Small Superannuation Accounts Act 1995
Superannuation (Government Co-contribution for Low Income Earners) Act 2003
Superannuation Act 1922
Superannuation Act 1976
Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993
These are far reaching reforms. The reforms also have a significant impact in the following areas:
Defined Benefits Superannuation
Social Security and Family Assistance
PBS Safety Net and the Medicare Safety Net
To find out how they may affect you, download the free overview of the Australian Government's Same - Sex Law Reforms.