What about my entitlements?

Posted on July 15, 2015

It is good to have a government in power in Queensland that acknowledges the necessity of funding public services for our community.

While we welcome the government's commitments to no privatisation of assets, it is disappointing and deeply concerning that they are moving forward with a trial of so-called "social benefit bonds".

"Social benefit bonds" and services

This proposal will involve government money going to multinational corporations to provide services that are currently provided by the Queensland government in areas including recidivism, homelessness and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services. We don't have any detail beyond what is in the budget papers but the government should not be going forward with any such trial, which amounts to privatisation of government services by stealth.

It is an idea that has been trialled and has failed multiple times overseas. It is clearly a discredited, anti-public services idea that should be completely rejected by this government.

It is positive that the government has committed to increases in funding for health and education services – both vitally important. But there is a wide range of government services – child safety for example – that have suffered from devastating cuts under the Newman government and the damage done has still yet to be repaired.

This government recognises that it needs to deliver jobs, and it needs to deliver services. We applaud that commitment, but more repair work must be done in both these areas after three years of Campbell Newman's destruction.

Worker entitlements

There has been much media comment about the changes in funding arrangements to long service leave. These budgetary arrangements will have no impact on members' entitlements or their ability to access their leave.

In relation to superannuation the budget has made no changes to the accumulation scheme which most public sector workers are members of.

Longer term public servants may be members of the defined benefit scheme. In relation to this scheme the government has announced a five-year defined "contribution holiday" but any changes to the employer contributions cannot change members' superannuation benefits under this scheme as they are defined benefits. The only risk of the "contribution holiday" relates to the risk of the currently fully funded scheme having less funds invested than what is required to actuarially cover members' entitlements. If this happens members' entitlements will still be guaranteed as they are in every other defined benefit scheme in Australia, none of which are currently fully funded.

Irrespective of the fact that members' entitlements are guaranteed I believe that it is in members' best interests that the scheme remains fully funded and I believe that the proposed five-year "contribution holiday" may be too long. We need to see the full actuarial assessment of the scheme and monitor the impact of the "contribution holiday" on an annual basis to ensure that the scheme remains in surplus. We will be aggressively seeking a review of this proposal since five years is too long to be complacent about such an important matter as protecting entitlements.

I have spoken to the representatives of the Katter Australia Party, the key cross-bench parliamentarians, this morning about what options might be able to be developed to ensure an appropriate parliamentary oversight of the actuarial assessment of the scheme on an annual basis during the five year "contribution holiday".

Members may have also received an email from the Under Treasurer today which states "this scheme was closed to new members in November 2008 and is due to effectively cease in 2035 when the last of these members are expected to retire." I have spoken to the Under Treasurer this morning to confirm our understanding that the scheme will continue in operation for as long as there are members of the scheme who continue to work as public servants. It is the union's belief that the scheme cannot be closed for existing members and we have sought written confirmation from the government on this point. I believe that the reference to 2035 was in reference to the timeframe of the actuarial assessment.

PS. If you know someone in your workplace who is not yet a member of Together, ask them to join online here.

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