Late on Friday, when the papers had gone to bed, Finance Minister Nick Minchin finally slipped out an announcement on Commonwealth same s-x superannuation.

Eligibility for death benefits under Commonwealth defined benefit superannuation schemes will be now extended to interdependency relationships if a Coalition Government is re-elected, Minchin said.

“These changes will bring the Government’s defined benefit schemes in line with reforms initiated by the Government to other superannuation schemes in 2004,” he said. “Interdependency relationship is defined as a relationship between two people, whether or not related by family, where they have a close personal relationship; live together and where financial and domestic support is provided.”

Minchin claimed that the government “has been disposed to make this change for some time, but until recently, the cost of expanding the range of relationships eligible for death benefits was prohibitive.”

Democrat Andrew Murray showed this was a furphy back in May. “The estimated annual budget or cash cost is only around $10 million,” he told media after dragging figures out of bureaucrats in Estimates.

Indeed, it seems that the Government has been afraid to come out – so to speak – and make an announcement on the issue.

Crikey asked what had happened to the policy on Friday, after Malcolm Turnbull made an announcement at a gay community function in Sydney on Wednesday night. Veteran activist Rodney Croome took the issue further on his blog that day:

Rumours are rife that Liberal Party strategists are livid about Turnbull’s announcement.

The fact he made it isn’t the problem. It seems the offices of both the Attorney-General and the Finance Minister were briefed and ready. It was all planned.

The problem is the media coverage the announcement unexpectedly received.

John Howard is terrified of his Government’s concessions to same-s-x couples making the headlines.

Now it’s out, Croome has looked at the details. The policy has positives and negatives, but Croome describes it as an assurance that change will occur this time around.

“Despite being promised in 2004, this reform has been blocked by concerns about cost,” Croome says. “Whether this concern was ever real, it has now evaporated.

“This spells peace-of-mind for public-sector employees in same-s-x relationships. Whoever wins government in two weeks, their loved ones will be provided for.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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