Federal Politics


Military pensions set for overhaul

The federal government will announce reforms on Tuesday morning to the retirement income of tens of thousands of retired Australian military personnel.

Defence and public service retirees are preparing to mobilise a grey army of voters for this year's federal election to pressure both major parties to end what they call pension discrimination.

The retirees' leaders say there are up to 320,000 voters being hurt by the government's continued refusal to link their pensions adequately to the cost of living and they believe they have the electoral numbers to swing more than 30 marginal seats when the nation goes to the polls this year.

Federal politicians in the Canberra area will be first to feel the heat. Meetings are scheduled for MPs and candidates to address hundreds of pensioners in the NSW seat of Eden-Monaro on Tuesday morning in Queanbeyan and north Canberra's Fraser electorate a week later.

Two groups, the Superannuated Commonwealth Officers' Association and the Defence Force Welfare Association, have been campaigning for more than 15 years to have their pensions index-linked to rises in real wages.

The retirees argue their standards of living have been eroded as six-monthly consumer price index-linked increases to their pensions were well outstripped by the rising cost of living.


Minister for Defence Materiel and Eden-Monaro MP Mike Kelly will make an announcement at Parliament House on Tuesday morning on reforms to defence pensions but no movement is expected on public-service retirement incomes.

DFWA national vice-president Les Bienkiewicz said the rate of indexing of pensions was hopelessly inadequate.

''The use of CPI to maintaining purchasing power is flawed,'' Mr Bienkiewicz said. ''ComSuper, which manages the schemes, still put on their literature that a dollar today will be worth a dollar tomorrow and that is patently a lie. Our last adjustment was at 0.06 per cent and I can tell you that cost of living went up by a lot more than 0.06 per cent.''

He said Liberal leader Tony Abbott had promised to make concessions to military pensioners in one of the military's pension funds, the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits scheme.

''The Coalition has acknowledged that we have a fair case and I have met with Tony Abbott, shook his hand and he has promised to fix the matter for those DFRDB pensioners over the age of 55, and we see that as a great step forward. But there's still a long way to go,'' Mr Bienkiewicz said on Monday.

''But as of 4pm this afternoon, the ALP, the current government, have not done anything.''

The former defence and public-service workers want an arrangement similar to the Centrelink age pension, which is pegged at 27.5 per cent of the male weekly average earnings. Superannuated Commonwealth Officers' Association federal president John Coleman says the change could cost as little as $35 million a year.

Mr Coleman said his association and the DFWA were preparing to flex the political muscle of the 200,000 Australians affected by the Commonwealth pension issue and their estimated 120,000 spouses.

''There are 31 marginal seats where the number of Commonwealth superannuants exceeds the margin by which those seats are held,'' he said.

The Eden-Monaro meeting will be at the Queanbeyan Kangaroo Club at 10.30am on Tuesday and will hear from Mr Kelly, Liberal candidate for Eden-Monaro Peter Hendy and the Greens' candidate for the seat, Catherine Moore.


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