Senate debates

Monday, 15 June 2015


Governance of Australian Government Superannuation Schemes Legislation Amendment Bill 2015; In Committee

11:38 am

Photo of Carol BrownCarol Brown (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Families and Payments) Share this | | Hansard source

I move opposition amendment (1) circulated in the name of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Wong, on sheet 7713:

(1) Schedule 2, item 11, page 29 (after line 30), after subitem (3), insert:

  (3A) Sections 26 and 27 of the Public Service Act 1999 apply in relation to the person as if:

  (a) the person were an APS employee in an Agency (within the meanings of that Act); and

  (b) CSC were the Agency referred to in paragraph (a); and

  (c) the chief executive officer (however described) of CSC were the Agency Head of the Agency referred to in paragraph (a).

  (3B) For the purpose of filling a vacancy that exists in an Agency (within the meaning of the Public Service Act 1999):

  (a) the person is taken to be an APS employee in an Agency (within the meanings of that Act); and

  (b) CSC is taken to be the Agency referred to in paragraph (a).

  (3C) Subitems (3A) and (3B) have effect in relation to the person:

  (a) for the relevant period; and

  (b) while the person remains employed by CSC (whether or not the person has been identified by CSC as excess or potentially excess); and

  (c) as if the person continued to have the classification and category of APS employment that the person had immediately before commencement.

  (3D) If a person moves to an Agency under section 26 or 27 of the Public Service Act 1999 (as those sections apply under subitem (3A)), the person is taken to be engaged under section 22 of that Act by the Agency Head of that Agency, on behalf of the Commonwealth, as an APS employee in that Agency (within the meanings of the Public Service Act 1999).

  (3E) In this item:

  relevant period, means:

  (a) in relation to the application of subitem (3A)—the period of 3 years from commencement; and

  (b) in relation to the application of subitem (3B)—whichever of the following periods ends earlier:

     (i) the period of 3 years from commencement;

     (ii) the period beginning on commencement and ending on the day on which clause 2.9A of the Australian Public Service Commissioner's Directions2013 (as in force at commencement) is modified or revoked so as to remove the restriction on notification of vacancies as being open only to persons who are APS employees.

As I mentioned in my speech on the second reading of this bill, concerns have been raised that, because the merger means that ComSuper will cease to exist and its staff will be compulsorily transferred out of the Australian Public Service, APS, to the CSC, this forced change could affect their careers and make it more difficult to move to an APS agency. In the event that the new CSC downsizes, staff are also concerned about losing their redundancy rights that would allow them to be redeployed in the APS if their positions are cut. Labor's amendment will address these concerns by providing transferred ComSuper employees with broadly equivalent mobility rights to those they would have had if they had remained employed in the APS. Labor's amendment enables transferred ComSuper employees to move from the CSC to APS agencies as if they were still an APS employee. These measures in Labor's amendment will ensure that ComSuper employees who transfer to CSC will be able to transfer at any level or win promotion to APS roles at other agencies. Labor's amendment ensures ComSuper employees who transfer to CSC are not disadvantaged in terms of seeking and applying for a future role within the APS. Labor's amendment will apply for a period of three years. Our amendment is a simple and sensible change that addresses the concerns of ComSuper staff. I would like to thank the Minister for Finance, Senator Cormann, for working constructively with the opposition on addressing our concerns.

11:40 am

Photo of Mathias CormannMathias Cormann (WA, Liberal Party, Minister for Finance) Share this | | Hansard source

As I have indicated, the government appreciates that the opposition have taken a constructive approach in relation to this bill, recognising that it makes sense to put the administration staff into the same structure as the trustee rather than have an artificial single client service arrangement. The main substantive issue that the opposition have raised is the question of APS mobility. The opposition amendment to this bill will provide transferring ComSuper staff with mobility rights broadly equivalent to those they would have had if they remain in the APS for a three-year period. I might just pause here to advise the chamber that this is a very unusual circumstance, and, arguably, it is quite a unique circumstance as result of a merger between government entities with APS staff moving to a non-APS agency. As such, the government has been quite comfortable in working with the opposition in relation to this particular matter. It does not, in our view, set a precedent for what may or may not happen down the track in relation to other mergers between APS agencies in particular.

It should also be noted that the current arrangements restricting non-APS employees from applying for most APS jobs were also only temporary. As of 1 July 2015, new arrangements, as indicated in the budget, will afford agency heads the flexibility to manage recruitment, including by considering candidates not already employed within the Australian Public Service, without the need for external approval. As a result, ComSuper staff that are transferred to CSC employment at the commencement of the merger will, regardless of the opposition amendment, have opportunities to seek to return to APS employment if they wish to do so. If mobility arrangements are agreed by the Senate, as proposed in this amendment initiated and moved by the opposition, it is proper that they should be subject to a specified time frame. This amendment proposes a period of three years from commencement. While the government would ideally have preferred a shorter defined period as more appropriate, we do appreciate that these amendments still have temporary effect only and cease to apply after three years.

The CHAIRMAN: The question is that opposition amendment (1) on sheet 7713 be agreed to.

Question agreed to.

I might just advise the chamber that, given that this amendment has just passed the Senate, it is the government's intention to support the passage of this bill as amended in the House of Representatives.

The CHAIRMAN: The question is that the bill, as amended, be agreed to.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.