The federal government says it is still investigating the costing implications of extending public sector superannuation benefits to same-sex couples, following complaints from Labor the coalition was dragging its feet on the issue.

ALP senator Nick Sherry, shadow minister for finance, said a Freedom of Information request he made to the Department of Finance and Administration seeking information on the costing implications of the superannuation changes was refused on the grounds it was not in the general public interest.

The government has not moved on its two-year-old commitment and they will not reveal costing information about this policy, Sherry said.

It demonstrates just how weak their commitment to address same-sex discrimination is.

A spokesperson for the minister of Finance and Administration, Senator Nick Minchin, rejected the criticism.

We are still examining options to extend interdependency to members of Australian government superannuation schemes, Minchin’s spokesperson told Sydney Star Observer.

Same-sex couples are classified as interdependents under some federal laws.

He said most Australian superannuation schemes were accumulation schemes, which can be easily adapted to extend benefits to people in an interdependency relationship with no additional cost to the scheme.

The new Public Sector Superannuation Accumulation Plan (PSSAP) was also an accumulation scheme and did enable interdependents to receive death benefits.

However, the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme (CSS) and Public Sector Superannuation (PSS) schemes were closed benefits schemes and have very prescriptive rules to determine eligibility of benefits.

Benefits in CSS and PSS are paid from the government’s budget for the life of the remaining spouse, rather than from the accumulated contributions and earnings of the individual, he said. Extending these benefits to interdependent couples would increase the schemes’ costs.

Because of the design of these schemes, a range of technical matters and budgetary considerations are being fully examined. Early options considered by the government have not proved feasible, the spokesperson said.

Simon Levett, NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby spokesperson, said the government was stalling.

Despite promises to get rid of discrimination for same-sex couples, the government is still just dragging its feet, Levett said.

Employees covered under a defined benefits scheme in a same-sex relationship are just as entitled to superannuation benefits as those in an opposite-sex relationship.

We would like to ask why is the government still making excuses about denying benefits to employees simply because of the gender of their partner.

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