Equality saves $66m

Equality saves $66m

Removing discrimination against same-sex couples will save the Rudd Government $66 million over four years.

But gay and lesbian activists warn those savings will translate to pain for some struggling same-sex families.

The 2008/09 Federal Budget papers revealed claims made by the previous Howard government of huge costs to the public purse were wrong.

The reforms will initially cost the Commonwealth $34.5 million to implement by 1 July 2009, but equality in social security payments will save money in the longer term.

Equality in superannuation and taxation of death benefit payments will be effective from 1 July 2008, Medicare and PBS Safety Nets by 1 January 2009, and Fringe Benefits Tax by 1 April 2009.

The majority of the expenditure in 2008‑09 will be to implement changes to Centrelink’s payment systems, the papers stated.

Many same-sex couples will no longer be eligible for the same level of unemployment, single parent and Family Assistance payments. By 2012 the budget estimates those savings will be as high as $62.6 million per year.

Those savings will be offset by benefits to same-sex couples in areas such as veterans’ pensions, Medicare and PBS safety nets, superannuation and tax, which will cost the Government just $15.9 million per year by 2012.

Gay activist Graham Douglas-Meyer said people with disabilities or HIV in stable same-sex relationships stood to have their entire pensions cut if they shared a combined income of $61,000.

It is one of the costs of equality, Douglas-Meyer said. Unfortunately the Family Tax Benefit and the Medicare rebate will be nowhere near this loss.

Another activist, Rod Swift, said the costs listed seemed too small and greater benefits to same-sex couples could be hidden in other areas of the budget.

Former Democrats senator Brian Greig wanted to know what percentage of the population the Rudd Government considered to be gay or same-sex related for these cost estimates, and how it arrived at that percentage.

Tasmanian activist Rodney Croome said the Government should return these savings to the LGBT community in health education campaigns.

As recently as last month an unnamed Labor cabinet minister said the reforms would cost in excess of $400 million over four years. The Government did not explain the $466 million difference when contacted by Sydney Star Observer yesterday.

The budget papers also confirmed the reforms will not affect areas of family law, which the Attorney-General’s Department is still investigating.

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