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Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Page: 3235


Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongMinister for Financial Services and Superannuation and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) (12:09): I always listen very carefully to the member for Dunkley because he puts his arguments in at least a pleasant fashion. Unfortunately, he has failed to persuade the government on this occasion, though not for want of trying.

The opposition has proposed an amendment to the bill which would require a minimum of one-third directors on public offer funds. The government considers the current arrangements requiring equal representation remain appropriate in ensuring members are able to participate in the management and protection of their retirement savings. One of the reasons we support this is that I do not believe there would be another sector of the Australian economy which is worth $450 billion where the ideologues of the far Right would say, 'Let us change the way they are working.' What is the case for change? The case was never made out other than that it was a recommendation in a particular review, but we never unpack it beyond that. Since that review was written we have given APRA the powers to look through the governance of individual funds, and they are able to do that. APRA have advised me that they are well satisfied with the powers they now enjoy courtesy of this government—which, incidentally, were voted against by those opposite.

So we have the regulator saying that the current system is working well. We have a sector of industry $450 billion large; but, because there is employee content, because sometimes there are union reps on it, the ideologues hear the dog whistle, start frothing and say, 'We must intervene in this sector of the economy because we don't like the fact that the workers sometimes have a voice in their superannuation.' This argument does not reflect well. Why tinker with a system that is not broken? There has never been any evidence that industry funds deserve any more bias, prejudice, bile and bigotry from the anti-union baiters opposite than any other set of funds.

If that does not convince you, let me now also advise you of the latest APRA data from June 2012: the annual statistics bulletin. We hear that dreadful word that must send the opposition bean counters into a state of panic: statistics. The super funds managed—and this is what the statistical record shows as opposed to the ideological polemic, bias and bigotry of some of those opposite; the rancid, turgid ongoing contributions we hear bagging unions; turgid and rancid, although admittedly pleasantly put by the member for Dunkley—

Mr Billson interjecting

Mr SHORTEN: I exempt the member for Dunkley from the references of 'turgid' and 'rancid'. But, having done that, no more leave passes for some of the others who have spoken. These statistics show—and I can see the opposition putting their hands over their ears like children before bedtime not wanting to hear the news—that super funds managed under the equal representation trustee system have on average outperformed the retail fund sector over the medium to long term. How can this be so if the governance structure which the opposition legislative helicopters want to invade and overturn, trashing in pursuit of their far-right ideology—if this structure is so bad and APRA says they have enough powers to look through the governance of funds—is outperforming the retail sector? This cannot be right. Black must be white! Rain must be sun! We do not know, but don't let a fact or statistic get in the way of the right-wing extremists!

The government has already made legislative changes which will apply from 1 July 2013. We have raised the obligations of directors to manage superannuation fund assets prudently in the best interests of members. We have made sure that directors have to give priority to beneficiaries. We have required the disclosure of directors' remuneration. From 1 July, APRA prudential standards will require funds to maintain registers of relevant duties and interests. Regulations will require mandatory disclosure of conflicts of interest. To get a lecture from those opposite saying, 'The Cooper review said recommendation X.Y; we must follow this and, if we don't follow this, it makes what we're doing wrong'—if they are such advocates of the Cooper review, why did they fight harder than anything we have seen since their attack on the carbon price? The Cooper report recommended that the opt-in requirement apply to the provision. The Cooper review recommended intrafund advice be provided. The opposition opposes Cooper review recommendations when it does not suit their ideology, but otherwise they would run amuck with $450 billion of workers' money. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: The question is that the amendments moved by the member for Dunkley be agreed to.