Bert Hoebee’s Blog
In a letter to Peter Thornton and me on 24 February 2016, the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), Professor Gillian Triggs, acknowledged that recent Government action raises for consideration a breach of International Covenants, in that certain human rights of ADF superannuants were compromised by Commonwealth legislation in July 2014.
Professor Triggs agreed with one of our main contentions, in stating: ‘It appears that this matter raises for consideration Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects the right to equality and non-discrimination in law in any field regulated and protected by public authorities, including the provision of pension entitlements.’ Whilst she offered no further comment on this, we believe that other International Covenants should also to be taken into consideration. [See Note 1.]
The AHRC agreed with us that a breach of human rights was precipitated by the passage of the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Legislation Amendment (Fair Indexation) Act 2014, which, whilst rightful in itself, resulted in a differential, unfair and discriminatory outcome for members covered under the MSBS, as opposed to those covered under DFRDB. [See Note 2.]
The long-standing purpose of indexation is to maintain purchasing power. Members of both schemes effectively rendered the same military service, which is accepted to be of a ’unique nature’; and it is discriminatory to treat them differently to the extent that MSBS superannuants are exposed to some collateral damage from well-intentioned Government action that did not take them into account, even though the Government was given prior warning of such a likely outcome.
We believe that the AHRC’s response to our submission is highly significant and of great value to Veterans in their rightful quest for a “Fair Go” in this, and potentially also in other priority areas, not least the proper indexation of MSBS preserved benefits. Large proportions of current serving ADF members, and a growing number of retired MSBS military superannuants, are being adversely affected by this matter [in all some 170,000 members under the MSBS, which is due to close to new entrants from 1 July 2016].
4 June 2016
1. Article 2(2), of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) concerning the right to equality and non-discrimination which includes the right to adequate food, clothing, housing and to the continuous improvement of living conditions and pension benefits to assist persons to meet an adequate standard of living; Article 7, the right to just and favourable conditions of work, which includes the right to equal remuneration that could extend to pension benefits; Article 9, the right to social security, which extends to social insurance, and it is likely pension benefits fall within the scope of the right to social security; and Article 11, the right to an adequate standard of living.
2. Pensions for DFRBD superannuants aged over 55 years are now indexed twice yearly by the greater of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost Index (PBLCI) measured against a floor percentage of Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE). MSBS pensions and preserved benefits remain indexed to the CPI only.