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Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Page: 9823


Senator CAMERON (New South Wales) (11:23): by leave—I move opposition amendments (1) to (6), (8), (10), (12), (14), (16), (18), (22) to (25), (27), (29), (31), (33) and (35) on sheet 8284:

(1) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 8), omit the table item.

(2) Schedule 1, item 1, page 5 (lines 33 and 34), omit the definition of superannuation complaint in section 761A, substitute:

superannuation complaint has the same meaning as complaint in the Superannuation (Resolution of Complaints) Act 1993.

(3) Schedule 1, item 2, page 9 (line 10), omit "scheme; and", substitute "scheme.".

(4) Schedule 1, item 2, page 9 (lines 11 to 18), omit paragraph 1051(4) (f) (including the note).

(5) Schedule 1, item 2, page 13 (lines 8 to 10), omit paragraph 1052E(1) (b).

(6) Schedule 1, item 2, page 13 (lines 18 to 29), omit subsection 1052E(2).

(8) Schedule 1, page 29 (line 9), omit the heading.

(10) Schedule 1, page 31 (line 11), omit the heading.

(12) Schedule 1, page 32 (line 6), omit the heading.

(14) Schedule 1, page 32 (line 19), omit the heading.

(16) Schedule 1, page 33 (lines 9 to 10), omit the heading.

(18) Schedule 1, page 33 (line 28), omit the heading.

(20) Schedule 1, page 34 (line 25), omit the heading.

(22) Schedule 1, item 31, page 36 (lines 18 and 19), omit "13, 14 and 29", substitute "13 and 14".

(23) Schedule 1, item 32, page 37 (line 6), at the end of paragraph 912A(2) (c), add "(unless all of the complaints against the licensee, made by retail clients in connection with the provision of the financial services covered by the licence, may be dealt with by the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal established by section 6 of the Superannuation (Resolution of Complaints) Act 1983".

(24) Schedule 1, item 33, page 37 (line 9), at the end of paragraph 1017G(2) (c), add "(unless all of the complaints against the person required to have the system, made by retail clients in relation to financial services provided in relation to any of those products, may be dealt with by the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal established by section 6 of the Superannuation (Resolution of Complaints) Act 1983".

(25) Schedule 1, page 38 (line 15), omit the heading.

(27) Schedule 1, page 38 (line 22), omit the heading.

(29) Schedule 1, page 40 (line 3), omit the heading.

(31) Schedule 1, page 40 (line 9), omit the heading.

(33) Schedule 1, page 41 (lines 9 to 10), omit the heading.

(35) Schedule 1, page 41 (line 21), omit the heading.

(37) Schedule 1, page 42 (line 1), omit the heading.

We also oppose schedule 1 in the following terms:

(7) Schedule 1, item 2, page 14 (line 9) to page 29 (line 2), Division 3 to be opposed.

(9) Schedule 1, items 5 to 10, page 29 (line 10) to page 30 (line 4), to be opposed.

(11) Schedule 1, item 12, page 31 (lines 12 to 21), to be opposed.

(13) Schedule 1, item 15, page 32 (lines 7 to 18), to be opposed.

(15) Schedule 1, items 16 to 18, page 32 (line 20) to page 33 (line 8), to be opposed.

(17) Schedule 1, item 19, page 33 (lines 11 to 27), to be opposed.

(19) Schedule 1, items 20 to 25, page 33 (line 29) to page 34 (line 24), to be opposed.

(21) Schedule 1, items 26 to 30, page 34 (line 26) to page 36 (line 12), to be opposed.

(26) Schedule 1, item 42, page 38 (lines 16 to 21), to be opposed.

(28) Schedule 1, item 43, page 38 (lines 23 to 27), to be opposed.

(30) Schedule 1, item 45, page 40 (lines 4 to 8), to be opposed.

(32) Schedule 1, item 46, page 40 (lines 10 to 16), to be opposed.

(34) Schedule 1, item 52, page 41 (lines 11 to 20), to be opposed.

(36) Schedule 1, item 53, page 41 (lines 22 to 30), to be opposed.

(38) Schedule 1, items 54 to 57, page 42 (lines 2 to 26), to be opposed.

(39) Schedule 3, page 52 (line 1) to page 57 (line 9), to be opposed.

Our position is clear: we think that the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal should be maintained in its current position. The complaints tribunal, as I've indicated, has operated for some time. The very fact that the government has tried to replicate the powers of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal in the AFCA bill demonstrates that the current powers, protections and structures for the SCT are appropriate. In May this year, the draft legislation tried to copy and paste a few of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal's statutory provisions into the new AFCA. In September this year, the final legislation introduced, copied and pasted, more of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal's statutory provisions in the new AFCA. Now, after the Senate inquiry and after Labor senators exposed serious flaws, the government has circulated amendments to copy even more of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal provisions into the new AFCA. The ad hoc process of grafting features of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal onto the AFCA has been a tacit admission by the government that the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal is a far superior model for resolving superannuation disputes than the private AFCA body.

The Superannuation Complaints Tribunal is designed as a statutory body, a statutory tribunal, imbued with statutory powers to resolve disputes. The significant public role that the SCT has in upholding the integrity of Australia's superannuation system is reflected in its structure—with a chairperson appointed by a government for a fixed term and part-time tribunal members with expertise in superannuation, insurance, government, legal and medical fields—in recognition of the complexity of the superannuation disputes that come before it. It also includes superannuation life insurance disputes. Submissions to the Senate inquiry also made clear that issues that arise with the other two existing bodies, the FOS and the CIO, do not arise with respect to the SCT. Unlike the other two existing bodies, there is far less overlap between the jurisdiction of the SCT and the other two schemes than there is between the other two existing bodies, the FOS and the CIO.

In relation to the prospects of increasing on the monetary limits to the disputes that can be heard, it should be noted that any changes would only benefit complainants with disputes currently heard before the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Credit and Investments Ombudsman. In relation to superannuation disputes, the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal already has an unlimited and uncapped jurisdiction to hear disputes relating to superannuation.

There have also been serious concerns raised about the transition arrangements to the AFCA as currently outlined in the bill. Mike Taylor, in Super Review, summarises these nicely:

… there is much to suggest that the creation of AFCA represents a bureaucratic slow-motion train crash with the Treasury officials confirming that the financial services industry will have to deal with four different external dispute resolution schemes for at least a year after the necessary legislation is passed and that the SCT will still be clearing its workload as late as 2022.

He goes on to say:

The transitionary arrangements as outlined by the Treasury officials involve more loose ends than a beggar’s blanket with no definitive numbers being available for how the SCT will be funded to complete its work, how a statutory Government authority will be appropriately transitioned into a not for profit company arrangement or precisely how much superannuation funds or other stakeholders will have to pay.

The Turnbull government has no plans to ensure that AFCA will have the professional expertise to resolve superannuation disputes. The expertise currently resides in the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal and it will have to stay there, because, under the government's plan, the SCT will stay in operation for a number of years to work through existing superannuation disputes.

The Turnbull government has announced no plans to adequately fund the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal to deal with those existing disputes. The government's plan is to keep the SCT in place to resolve disputes received before the commencement of AFCA on 1 July 2018. The government has said it wants the SCT to resolve all existing complaints by 30 June 2020; yet it cut the SCT's funding by $7.2 million in this year's budget. The SCT told the Senate inquiry that, on current funding, it won't be able to finalise old disputes until 2022. When asked by the Senate committee, Treasury could not provide any guarantee that the funding issues would be resolved. All it could offer on behalf of this government were weak assurances that discussions between Treasury and the SCT were ongoing. So, Minister, can you give us an update on those discussions and whether the funding issues have been resolved?