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Tuesday, 7 December 2004
Page: 94

Senator STEPHENS (6:10 PM) —The Labor Party certainly agree that there are some practical problems associated with the current reporting requirement that all employers notify all employees of the superannuation guarantee contributions that have been made on their behalf. I made reference to that in my speech in the second reading debate. Difficulties undoubtedly occur in some industries with a high turnover of employees, and we noted the examples of the hospitality and the agriculture industries. Labor suggest that a more appropriate approach to these problems is a carve-out, using regulation of those industry sectors where there is a real and substantial problem, instead of the blanket approach of removing the reporting requirement from all employers. This is a reasonable and sensible approach which I note that the minister has said will not be supported by the government.

It is hypocritical of the government and some industry associations who have made submissions to complain about additional paperwork and costs for business, when the introduction of so-called fund choice on 1 July 2005 will lead to a far greater increase in paperwork and costs than the measure under consideration in this amendment. Quarterly payments were introduced for a number of reasons, one of which was safety—a consumer protection measure in anticipation of the proposed introduction of a fund choice regime. There are significant nonpayment problems in relation to superannuation guarantees, and often the problem is not identified until the business concerned is bankrupt or in the hands of a liquidator. Whilst it is difficult to obtain an accurate number of the superannuation guarantee payment defaults on business failure, it certainly is, as I said before, in the tens of thousands each year. Many workers have lost years of superannuation in those circumstances, and they are the workers who can least afford to do so.

At the very least, a regular reporting mechanism should be provided to facilitate the identification of defaulting employers and to track the size of the default problem. A requirement that the ATO in its annual report clearly indicate the number of noncomplying employers, the number of employees affected by noncompliance at the level of enforcement and the actual recovery of unpaid superannuation guarantee would have achieved this. I am very disappointed that the government will not accept the amendment.

Question put:

That the amendment (Senator Stephens's) be agreed to.