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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13213

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (19:14): Since starting my contribution in the Federation Chamber, I am glad to say that I have updated myself on what the government's current position is. In the time it took me to get from the Federation Chamber to the House of Representatives, there has been substantive change to this woeful legislation. I am sorry to say that that change is not necessarily for the better. An announcement from the government has come out saying:

Following consultations, the Government will amend the Bill to provide authorised deposit-taking institutions, First Home Savers Account providers, life insurers and superannuation funds more time for implementation. They will now have until 31 May 2013 to report on and transfer lost accounts and other lost moneys to Australian Securities and Investments Commission or the ATO as appropriate.

That change, which has been brought in during the time it has taken for me to get here from the Federation Chamber, is a change in the deadline—for the entire finance and banking industry—of one month. It is one more month than in the original legislation.

One of two things is going on here. Either the government is so cheap that it thinks that one month is going to be enough to make a substantive difference to the problem we have been highlighting in this legislation, or this is a typo and it should say 'one year'. The opposition's amendments called for a minimum of an extra year to give the banks and other organisations in the sector a reasonable chance to get a handle on it. One month simply does not cut it. Assuming this is not a typo or an error—and that is a big assumption with this government—what is going on? Why are they rushing through changes just to move this deadline by one month? In fact, this is even more revealing of the government's real agenda—that is, that they are still trying to grab, simply for inactivity, the money of ordinary Australians.

The press release goes on to say:

To improve certainty for industry, the Government will also clarify a number of technical issues through regulation—

I will leave aside, for a moment, the misnomer 'improve certainty for industry—

To avoid capturing accounts unintentionally, the Government will introduce regulations so that children's accounts will still need to be inactive for seven years before being treated as lost.

That is incredibly generous. They have finally realised they were taking money off the kids—so now they are going to give the money back to the kids. I am not sure that amounts to a whole lot of money, but they have finally realised they were taking money off children. No wonder the members for Lyne, New England and Melbourne are getting very nervous about the provisions of this bill. They are right to be nervous. They are right to listen to the opposition's concerns. It is not only these children's accounts which were at risk of being raided by this money hungry government but also there are other types of accounts which should not be caught by this legislation. There are other accounts which may be inactive for valid reasons.

The government's press release also says:

In addition, regulations will specify that First Home Saver Accounts will be excluded until the requirement to make a deposit in four years has been met.

Hallelujah! Without knowing it, I was being prophetic when I spoke in the Federation Chamber about the problems with first home saver accounts. But this is supposed to improve certainty in the industry. This is supposed to provide confidence to the economy and the sector that the government knows what it is doing.

They are rushing to get their hands on any available cash out there in the financial sector, even legitimate accounts. They are rushing around making last minute changes on the pretext of improving certainty. It does not stack up. The reason it does not stack up is that we have not seen an update from the government, in the explanatory memorandum or anywhere else, about how this will affect the bottom line. That is what we really need to know. How will this change the financial impact of the bill over the forward estimates? That is the question of the day, the question we ought to be discussing here right now. Again, there is no government member in this chamber to stand up and say: 'Here is the glorious vision of the Gillard government. We are going after unclaimed super for consolidated revenue. But we have protected the kids. We will not take those Commonwealth Bank piggy banks away from them. We are going to give them back.' How generous of the government.

It is revealing that there is no update to the forward estimates. What is the government's real intention with these changes? These changes are designed to trick the members for Lyne, New England and Melbourne into thinking that this government has done something. They are trying to look as if they have responded to the issues we have been highlighting. But actually there is no change. Moving the deadline one month is purely a symbolic change. Giving the children their inactive accounts back—that is not all that generous. That is not really a big change. Does anyone think that there are hundreds of millions of dollars in children's accounts?

We come back to the point that we all know what is going on with this bill. We all know what is going on with the government's changes. They are trying to look as if they are doing something for the Independents and crossbenches in order to secure their support. I say to the members for Lyne, New England and Melbourne: 'Please do not be fooled by these superficial changes. This bill is still bad legislation.' It is bad because it makes unreasonable, rash and unnecessary changes to so many Commonwealth acts in order to claim moneys of ordinary citizens that ought not to be claimed by government in this way. The rush has produced so many detail problems that it is impossible for me to outline them all in the time remaining.

The press release put out late this afternoon by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer is silent on critical issues, including the identification of, and the deeming deadline for, unclaimed accounts and money. That deadline is currently 31 December 2012. It appears this has not been changed. This is very problematic for banks and superannuation account providers. That is the point we have been making from the beginning. The government is simply trying to look as if it has done something—in order to secure the political support of the crossbenches—without actually doing anything substantive to improve the quality of this bill to avoid serious consequences for the sector and to govern this country effectively.