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Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Page: 4461

Senator THISTLETHWAITE (New South Wales) (13:14): The foundations for the present strength of the Australian economy were built in the 1980s. Former Prime Minister Paul Keating, then Treasurer in the Hawke government, led the process of the modernisation of the Australian economy. Under his leadership, our nation floated our dollar, making our exchange rate responsive to the strength of our economy and movements in international exchange of currency. We reduced tariffs—a massive reduction in the inefficient protection that had been provided to particular industries in the economy, making them more responsive to market pressures and ultimately more competitive, with a greater ability to survive into the future.

We introduced competition into our banking sector, and that led to a wave of new products with banks establishing in Australia and offering services to Australians and businesses. We made our economy more responsive to market based pressures internationally, which ultimately made the economy more efficient and stronger. Thankfully, that provided the foundations for our economy to withstand the pressures of the global financial crisis and come out the other end in such a strong position with Australians maintaining their jobs whilst in other economies jobs were lost. It maintained growth in our economy whilst in other areas of the world recessions occurred.

A large part of the reform agenda of former Treasurer Paul Keating was the introduction of compulsory superannua¬≠tion—a wonderful initiative that now provides for the Australian economy the fourth-largest pool of investment funds in the world. It is a pool of investment funds that provides growth, jobs and ultimately higher incomes for the Australian people: $1.3 trillion worth of investment funds in the superannuation accounts of Australians. I am happy to say that, through these reforms, the Gillard government is building on those foundations that were built by the Hawke and Keating governments in the 1980s.

When we came to government in 2007, one of the first actions of the Labor government was to initiate a review of superannuation—the Cooper review. We looked at the fairness, the effectiveness and the efficiency of Australia's superannuation system. Many of the review's recom¬≠mendations have been picked up by this government and are being implemented as we speak. This suite of reforms to super¬≠annuation, the Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Stronger Super) Bill 2012 and the Superannuation Supervisory Levy Imposition Amendment Bill 2012, are part of that overall suite of reforms to strengthen occupational superannuation in this country.

They build upon the strong regulatory framework that administers and manages our superannuation sector. The government's Stronger Super reform package will make our superannuation system more efficient and it will also ensure that we are maximising the retirement incomes of members of superannuation funds. Specifically, the government is creating a simple, low-cost default superannuation product called MySuper, which all APRA-regulated fund providers will have to provide to the market and for members. It will ensure that trustees of superannuation funds are legislated and must act in the best interests of the members of that fund. It will ensure that account balances of superannuation fund members, in particular inactive account balances, cannot be whittled away by unreasonable fees and commissions being paid by members for services that many of them never take up or, indeed, many of them never know that they are paying for.

Through the SuperStream measures, we will be making the processing of everyday transactions—the millions of transactions that occur on a daily basis in superannuation accounts throughout the country—cheaper and faster. We are strengthening the governance, the integrity and regulatory settings of the superannuation system.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Cameron ): Order! The time allocated for consideration of these bills has expired. The question is that these bills be now read a second time.

Question agreed to.

Bills read a second time.