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Commonwealth Superannuation: Act of Grace Payments

03 Jul 2015

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  • Commonwealth Superannuation

Unfortunately, Snedden Hall & Gallop is consulted by many people who received negligent advice about joining Commonwealth superannuation, but who are now out of time to bring a court claim. However, a recent change in policy by the Department of Finance has opened up a new avenue to bring a measure of justice to people in these circumstances.

For almost twenty years Snedden Hall & Gallop has been acting for many Commonwealth and former Commonwealth workers who were given negligent and misleading advice about their eligibility to join the Commonwealth Superannuation scheme. This culminated in a victory in the High Court for our client Mr John Cornwell in Commonwealth v Cornwell in 2007. This case held, amongst other things, that a person who received negligent advice about their Commonwealth superannuation eligibility has six years to file a claim from the time they first access their Commonwealth superannuation benefits (rather than six years from when the negligent advice was given).

Since that time we have obtained compensation for many other clients who were wrongly advised, both through further court cases and through settlements with the Commonwealth and other agencies.

However, we are often consulted by former Commonwealth workers who received similar advice to Mr Cornwell, but who are unable to bring a claim through the courts because it is more than six years since they retired from Commonwealth employment and accessed their Commonwealth superannuation benefits (this is known as ‘the limitation period’ for a claim).

Up until recently, there has been little we could do for somebody in these circumstances. However, after several years of persistence, the Commonwealth has finally agreed to award some of our clients some ‘Act of Grace’ payments for lost superannuation benefits. An Act of Grace payment is a discretionary award payable by the Commonwealth where a claimant cannot bring a claim through the courts (for example, because their limitation period has expired), but has nevertheless been the victim of an injustice caused by the Commonwealth.

In the first half of 2015 we successfully assisted several clients to obtain Act of Grace payments from the Commonwealth. These are generally people who, having retired from Commonwealth employment more than six years earlier, would have had no other legal options to explore due to the application of limitation periods. These payments are relatively modest, and are not intended to be equivalent to the full value of the loss suffered. Nevertheless, we have found that the successful applicants, the majority of whom subsist on quite limited incomes, have been grateful to receive some money to make up for their lost super, as well as for the recognition by the Commonwealth that they have suffered an injustice leading to significant disadvantage after retirement.

If you believe that you or a member of your family may have been given the wrong advice about joining Commonwealth superannuation, or have previously been advised that your claim is out of time, please contact the Snedden Hall & Gallop Superannuation team to find out how we can assist you.