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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13221


Ms MARINO (ForrestOpposition Whip) (19:52): In my years in this House I have never seen a more duplicitous document than the explanatory memorandum for this bill, the Treasury Legislation Amendment (Unclaimed Money and Other Measures) Bill 2012. In fact, it is an underhanded bill. It is a bill that will enable this government to get its hands on Australians' money. It is that simple. The money that the government is going to get its hands on is long-term unclaimed money found in bank accounts, perhaps including first home owner accounts and retirement savings accounts, insurance policies and superannuation accounts—your money.

For some time the government has been able to claim money to the credit of an account that has not been operated on by either deposit or withdrawal for a period of not less than seven years. But the bill before the House reduces the period for such money to be claimed by this government to just three years. Obviously this is a windfall for a very desperate government, a government that we know cannot balance its budget or rein in its spending. It is one more way that the Labor government has its hands in Australians' pockets.

In addition, superannuation accounts holding less than $200 are currently able to be raided by the government. The bill will raise this to $2,000—another government windfall. In addition, it will shorten the time frame for activity that labels a superannuation account inactive from five years to just one year. Do we really need any further proof that the government has both of its hands deep into the pockets of the Australian people? There could be many, many reasons why an account is inactive for those periods. During that time the government is going to take that money.

The audacity of the wording in the explanatory memorandum, however, really should outrage all Australians. In an attempt to sugar-coat a very bitter pill, the bill purports and pretends to save account holders by claiming that they are more likely to get their money back under the new regime. Specifically, the memorandum states:

The Bill will bring forward the time at which money is recognised under the relevant law as lost or unclaimed, helping to reunite people with their money earlier, and will protect superannuation account balances transferred to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) from erosion by fees and charges.

From this statement, perhaps the reader could reasonably infer that more money will be returned to account holders, reuniting people with their money earlier. The reality in fact is absolutely the reverse, and this is amply demonstrated if you just go a bit further down in the memorandum. Under the heading 'Financial impact', we read:

Measures in Schedules 1, 2 and 3 are estimated to provide savings to the Budget—

and a saving to the budget is a cost to an Australian—

of $92.3 million over the forward estimates period …

So there we see that money will be taken from Australians. The government will reap an additional $92.3 million by taking it from Australian citizens whose accounts have been inactive.

It may be a small bank account they have. It might be a holiday savings account. We are heading into Christmas. Maybe it was set up originally as a Christmas treat, to save for that overseas trip. You may not have contributed to or moved funds in and out of that account. Or perhaps it could be a forgotten life insurance policy that has matured but not been converted. This happens in the community. It may be a savings account started by grandparents or parents for their children. These can sit inactive for some time. It might well be the account of someone on an overseas posting who may well take more than three years to return. Or it might be that people are not using their accounts because they are suffering from an extended period of illness.

The figure of $92 million also includes first home owner accounts and retirement savings accounts. Many of these can be left untouched for years, especially when a family or an individual is facing hardship. They may not be able to contribute further for a time, but they are often resistant to taking money out until it is really needed. It is an absolute last resort, or it is their nest egg for when things get better and they can make good decisions in their lives. People need to be careful that the Treasurer's own last resort is going to come before their own—that $1.1 billion surplus that he is chasing, based on the fact that he has wasted so much of taxpayers' funds. The money will be taken by the government before the owner of that money finally hits that last desperate state and goes looking for it to find it is not there. Perhaps at a time when you need it most and count on it most, thinking that it is in that account, no, it will not be. This Treasurer will have it.

However, the first three schedules represent a relatively small saving. It is sort of stealthy and sleight of hand, if you will. By comparison, the memorandum states:

… measures in Schedule 4 are estimated to provide savings to the Budget of $675.2 million over the forward estimates period …

Therefore, claiming superannuation at one year instead of five and for amounts of up to $2,000 instead of $200 will rake in two-thirds of a billion dollars of your money for this government. So, while there has been some support for an increase in the threshold, the impacts really do need to be assessed.

Schedule 5 sees an additional impost on business which is estimated to provide savings to the budget of $118.5 million over the forward estimates period. That is a total impost, an extra tax grab—call it what it is—on Australian citizens of nearly $900 million.

Debate interrupted.