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Wednesday, 31 October 2012
Page: 12742


Mr HOCKEY (North Sydney) (10:08): This is not the way to run the House of Representatives. We have three bills that we have hardly been given notice on. There is one speaker on each bill because most of the members of this House, including the Labor members, have not seen the legislation. In our case, we did not see it until yesterday. We received a briefing on this legislation last night. We have not had any time at all to consult with the banking sector, with the superannuation sector, with financial planners, with consumers—no-one. The government is trying to ram it through this House. We got it referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services last night, but they have not even had time to meet to consider a reporting date on this legislation.

This chamber cannot be a rubber stamp. It was the Independents who said: 'Let the sun shine in. Let's have proper scrutiny.' And something goes through after being introduced like this! This is standard legislation. It is not of any great urgency to border security. It is not of any great urgency in relation to the destiny of the nation. This is standard legislation dealing with billions of dollars of everyday Australians' money. It has a profound impact on them—and the parliament is meant to do it right now. I do not understand this.

Even when the government had a majority, it did not introduce and ram through legislation on this scale in this way. If there was legislation that had to go through, it was because there was a security issue associated with it—parliament would be recalled because of the security issue. This is about the unclaimed money of Australians. For example, until we had a briefing last night it was not clear that people can lose their first home saver accounts if there has not been action on those accounts for what appears to be three years. We have not got clarity from the superannuation industry about the impact of money going back into people's accounts if they go and claim it from the ATO, about what fees are charged or about what interest is charged. We do not know, because we did not hear about this until yesterday. We have not seen the details of the legislation. We do not know what the impact will be on people who travel for 12 months or for three years. We have no idea and yet we are being asked to change the law in this place. This is policy on the run. It is government on the run. Please do not make it parliament on the run. It is unacceptable.

Now we have these details, and this claiming is not the only thing it affects. Let me tell you some of the details that we are aware of in relation to this bill, the Treasury Legislation Amendment (Unclaimed Money and Other Measures) Bill 2012, which we have had less than 24 hours to consider. For example—

Mr Entsch: Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: last night there was a special meeting of the Selection Committee where it was agreed that the Treasury Legislation Amendment (Unclaimed Money and Other Measures) Bill 2012 be referred to the committee. I understand that the report of this meeting has been prepared and is on the table with the clerks. I have been advised this by the Table Office. I ask the Deputy Speaker—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Oakeshott ): Order! Can you clarify what point of order you are moving this under?

Mr Entsch: On indulgence. I have concerns.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: So you seek leave for indulgence. No, indulgence is not given. If we allow the member for North Sydney to finish speaking, we can clarify the issues raised.

Mr HOCKEY: I am sorry to correct my colleague but, as I understand it, the PJC has not actually even met yet. They have agreed to have it referred, that is right, and that is the point I was making. There has been agreement on both sides of the House to have this referred to the parliamentary joint committee. However, the parliamentary joint committee has not even met yet to consider this legislation. We do not know what its reporting date is and we do not know anything about what its considerations of this legislation are. We know nothing about it. The PJC, which is set up by this parliament to consult at an official level with all the stakeholders, has not even met to consider when they are going to meet stakeholders. For crying out loud! And we, as the House of Representatives, are now being told to vote on this legislation as it stands. Fair dinkum!

I have seen some things rushed through this place before, and we were guilty of it in government too. But I have not seen routine legislation rammed through in this way. And it is being followed up with the Appropriation (Implementation of the Report of the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers) Bill (No. 2), with one speaker, and the Fair Work Amendment Bill, with one speaker. It is the same with all of this legislation.

Twenty-four hours ago, we started working through the legal processes. We have our own internal processes, as the Labor Party does, and as I am sure the Independents do, to go through consultations with key stakeholders. And yet we get this—the impact on section 69 of the Banking Act to provide new arrangements for unclaimed moneys. This will reduce the period before an amount payable by an ADI—that is a bank account—is treated as unclaimed money from seven years to three years. We do not know the circumstances of individuals—if they are transferred overseas. What about soldiers who are sent overseas, who have their own bank accounts and cannot be traced? We do not know what their circumstances are.

But it is a big step to go from seven years to three years in relation to an unclaimed bank account. There are plenty of Australians who might leave the country for a certain period of time and their bank might not be able to find out where they are immediately, or their mail is sent to an address and gets returned to sender. For crying out loud, in my own home I am still getting mail addressed to two previous owners from at least 15 years ago. As much as I have fond regard for Australia's banks, they do send stuff to the wrong address sometimes. We have all seen that. Despite our best endeavours to get them to send it to the right address—

Mr Martin Ferguson: They send it to Parliament House!

Mr HOCKEY: They send it to Parliament House. They know where to get us, don't they, Martin? There are two ways they get us. They know where to contact us. But even then they get it wrong, and there is no opportunity for correction in that regard. Someone might leave money sitting in a bank to accumulate interest in a high-interest-yielding account. What is the administrative cost to the bank if, after three years, they cannot find them, and the money is taken out of a high-yield account and sent to the Australian Taxation Office? What happens to the individuals? We do not know after that. It is not clear exactly what the impact is, what the procedures are for contacting the Australian Taxation Office.

What we do know is that the Australian Taxation Office is going to pay a lot less interest on the account than the bank might pay. Now we discover that the mining companies are going to get over 10 per cent compound interest on royalties. That was a good deal, Martin—10 per cent compound interest on royalty rebates to the mining companies if they do not pay the mining tax! If we get a rebate from the tax office, I think they give us CPI or something like that, but, if the mining companies do not pay the mining tax, the government not only has a one-year liability to refund their royalties—but there is no mining tax, so they cannot refund the royalties—but the royalty liability is carried over to the next year and the mining companies get over 10 per cent compound interest, payable by the Commonwealth taxpayer. That is fantastic—Commonwealth guaranteed, of course! But, for everyday Australians, if the government seizes your bank account after three years or seizes your superannuation after 12 months, you will be lucky if you get CPI. Fair dinkum!

We did not see this coming either: schedule 2 of this bill amends the First Home Saver Accounts Act to provide for new arrangements for unclaimed moneys held by First Home Saver Accounts providers. So people putting money into their First Home Saver Accounts, trying to save for their first home, if they get hit with a few bills and do not access the account for three years—bingo! The First Home Saver Accounts are meant to be new measures. Many parents have established these accounts for their children, but they may not be able to make a contribution for a number of years. It might be getting a bit tough out there, as we know it is for some families. What happens? We would have thought, again, that the parliamentary joint committee inquiry would have looked at the impact of that on the trends of saving by parents for their children in First Home Saver Accounts—gone. That is another one that came out of the blue that we found out about last night.

Schedule 3 to the bill amends the Life Insurance Act to provide new arrangements for unclaimed life insurance moneys. There are two limbs to the definition of unclaimed moneys in the Life Insurance Act. Unclaimed moneys include sums payable on the maturity of the policy which are not claimed within seven years from the maturity of the policy. The new arrangement will reduce the period before life insurance moneys are treated as unclaimed moneys from seven years to three years. How many people are going to be affected? We do not know. What are the circumstances? We do not know. We have not been able to speak to life insurance companies to find out the trend impact.

Maybe people want to leave their money in life insurance; they do not want to collect it at the age of 55 or 65 or whenever it might mature. Maybe some people who lost a partner did not know they had life insurance.

Mr Van Manen: Particularly super.

Mr HOCKEY: That is right. They did not know whether it was super or life insurance. We do not know; we have not had a chance to speak to the life insurance companies about this. Yet this government sees this as so damned urgent that it needs to ram the legislation through the House of Representatives today.

I came to this with goodwill. I understand this. If there is a consolidation process, I accept that. I am prepared to be reasonable on these things. Forget for a moment that this is $700 million they are desperately trying to find for their budget this year. I do despise this place being treated like a rubber stamp on any occasion—by the Liberal Party or the Labor Party. I actually do believe in this parliament. I despise the thought that we come down here and waste our breath; I really do. I love this chamber, I love this parliament, but it just riles me to the core when I see legislation being banged through without any justification for the urgency. Previously governments would say, 'We'll look at it in the Senate.' They are not even saying that. They are just saying, 'We need this through and we need it through now.'

Lost superannuation accounts of unidentifiable members with balances of less than $2,000 that have been inactive for 12 months will now have to go to the ATO. We do not know what the process is for someone claiming it back. We do not know if there is an obligation on superannuation companies to continue to chase people to say, 'We've got your money.' We do not know what the situation is.

Finally, schedule 5 to the bill amends the act to close the Companies and Unclaimed Moneys Special Account and establish new processes for the receipt and payment of unclaimed property. As I have stated before, this bill amends the Banking Act, the First Home Saver Accounts Act, the Life Insurance Act, the Superannuation (Unclaimed Money and Lost Members) Act, the ASIC Act and the Corporations Act, and we have less than 24 hours to deal with it. In fact, none of our colleagues have had the opportunity to consult with constituent members or to consult with stakeholders. We do not know what the implications are. This went to a committee that has not met and does not know when it is going to meet.

The coalition is going to oppose this process. It is going to oppose this bill. This is not the way to run the parliament. It is unacceptable, writ large, to treat us with this sort of contempt. Even if there is merit in this bill, we are going to oppose it simply because we do not know what the consequences of this legislation are, simply because the government has screwed up the budget and made a mess of the economy.