The Australian Democrats have accused the federal government of stalling on its promise to reform superannuation death benefits for same-sex couples -“ a claim the coalition denies.

Gay and lesbian employees in the public sector are still waiting for equal access to super benefits, granted to people working in the private sector in June last year.

The Coalition pledged to remove discrimination toward same-sex couples from all super legislation as a concession for its much-publicised ban on gay marriage, Senator Amanda Vanstone said in August.

A coalition spokesperson said the government was still committed to the reforms, but had been delayed for other reasons.

That delay was unacceptable, gay Democrats senator Brian Greig said.

Currently we have a two-tiered system where equality exists in the private sector and not in the public sector, he said.

Efforts by the Democrats to attach amendments to super legislation last week were thwarted when the government withdrew its super reform bill.

The government bill was returned this week only to be withdrawn again, causing speculation the Coalition did so in an effort to delay granting equal rights to gay and lesbian workers.

Greig feared the government could stall until 1 July, the date the Coalition would take over absolute power in the Senate.

Then, Greig said, the government could ram through whatever they like, including watered-down super reforms.

Gay rights activist Rodney Croome agreed the government was stalling until it figured out a way to avoid mentioning same-sex couples in its legislation.

They got around this in the private super amendments by labelling them interdependent relationships.

Perhaps it’s waiting until it takes control of the Senate on July 1st so that it can enact reform on its terms and take all the credit? he said.

Or perhaps it’s waiting for July 1st so it can renege on its commitment and not suffer pressure in the Senate as a result.

A spokesperson for finance minister Nick Minchin told Sydney Star Observer the Coalition was committed to equalising super, and the removal of its bill this week did not relate to that issue.

The government is preparing the legislative changes in relation to the interdependent relations, such as same-sex couples, elderly sisters, etc, the spokesperson said.

It is a complex area, so getting the changes through does provide some extra legislative drafting issues.

We are reviewing what needs to be done and the legislative changes will be put to the Senate as soon as possible.

Julie McConnell, co-convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said while she had hoped the issue would have been finalised by now, she was satisfied with the government’s explanation.

I do know they have been working on it and I have been told it is a priority, she said.

I’ve been told they had to do some consultation with superannuation companies. We should have a date soon as to when the drafting will be completed. I’m hopeful it will happen sooner rather than later.

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