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Same Sex: Submissions

I would like to make a comment with regard to Section 7.5.1 of your Discussion paper – Superannuation for Commonwealth employees.

Below is the definition of ‘spouse’ taken from page 2 of Comsuper Form SSMI – CSS; SPOUSE (OR SPOUSE AND CHILDREN OF A DECEASED MEMBER) Benefit Application Form.  See:


Where a member dies, a spouse is a person of the

opposite sex who is considered to have had a

‘marital relationship’ with the member at the time

of death.

A ‘marital relationship’ is usually taken to exist

when two people of the opposite sex have lived

together as husband and wife in a permanent and

bona fide domestic relationship for a continuous

period of at least three years.’

This clearly states that couples in same sex relationships are excluded – a same sex partner of a deceased CSS member is not entitled to a lump sum or pension benefit.  This is clearly discriminatory and made all the more untenable when you take into account the fact that the CSS is a defined benefit scheme and the pension is the only employer contribution to the member’s superannuation.  The member has no means of ensuring that his/her total remaining superannuation (own contributions + employer contributions) can be made available to a partner in the case of death.  What is the justification for treating Commonwealth employees so differently from private sector employees?

In 2005 I retired at age 55 from the Commonwealth Public Service.  On the form I completed to claim my benefit (SAR 1–CSS), I was asked on page 9:

“Marital Status Details

Marital Status:   Married   Single   Defacto”

I did not fit any of these categories so I added another box and ticked “Same Sex Relationship” since I have been in a committed and loving relationship for many years.  A relationship that our families, friends and fellow workers all recognise and accept and a relationship that we would formalise if we could. 

I worked for the Commonwealth Government from 1967 -1975 and again from 1977 - 2005. In all those years I have always been open at work about my sexuality and my partner has always been accepted by my fellow employees.  I have not experienced any discrimination from fellow employees while working in Brisbane, country Queensland, an isolated Aboriginal settlement in the Northern Territory and lastly in Canberra.  The only discrimination I have experienced has been from my employer with regards to recognising my partner for various conditions of employment.  Most such institutionalised forms of discrimination have now (thankfully) disappeared from the Commonwealth Public Service but discrimination in superannuation benefits remains.  I hope this remaining avenue of discrimination can be overcome.

Sharyn Madigan

1 May 2006