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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 10357


Senator CASH (Western Australia) (19:36): I rise to speak on the Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Further MySuper and Transparency Measures) Bill 2012. As Senator Macdonald has indicated, despite the fact that there is a list of coalition senators who would like to make a contribution on the record about this bill, they will not be able to because earlier the Labor Party in conjunction with their alliance partners, the Greens, voted to ensure that the bills we are debating today in the Senate will be subject to the guillotine. As such, at 8 pm tonight the guillotine will fall and no further debate will be had in the second reading stage on this bill.

This is, as the Senate would be aware, the second superannuation bill that we have dealt with today. The first was the Treasury Legislation Amendment (Unclaimed Money and Other Measures) Bill 2012 and again there were many senators on this side who wished to participate in the debate but were unable to because that bill was also guillotined. I listened to my colleague Senator Ian Macdonald's comments on that bill. It was an exceptionally eloquent speech. The one thing he said that really hit home in relation to that particular bill was this: by that legislation the Labor Party had sunk to a whole new depth. They were now legalising theft as a way of paying off their huge deficit in Australia. They have legalised the fact that they can steal Australian taxpayers' money, because they have no other way now of paying off the debt that they themselves have created.

Then we turn to this bill. This bill in its original form highlighted what is the fundamental ideological difference between the Australian Labor Party and their little alliance partners, the Greens, and those on this side of the chamber. As Liberals, our fundamental belief is that we believe in freedom of choice. We believe in the inalienable rights of freedom and of all peoples. Unlike those on the other side, we believe in a lean government that minimises interference in our daily lives and maximises individual and private-sector initiative. Unlike those on the other side, we believe in the individual. We believe on this side of the chamber in offering the individual an ability to make a choice that suits their own circumstances.

The Labor Party's little alliance partners, the Greens, getting littler by the moment—in the ACT they were all but wiped out—are still able to be bought. We cannot forget that the Greens can always be bought. As I said earlier today when I addressed the Senate in relation to the fact that the Greens had clearly been bought on the guillotine motion, we all know that the Greens can be bought because the Greens were the political party that accepted what is now recorded in Australian political history, and that is saying something, as the largest political donation a political party in Australia has ever taken. You can only imagine when they got the phone call from Graeme Wood of wotif and he said, 'Guess what: $1.7 million is coming your way.' You can just imagine all their morals ran out the door. They did not run back to Hansard to see when they had stood up in this place and condemned the Australian Labor Party for taking donations, condemned the coalition for taking donations, because that is bad, apparently—very bad. But when you are the Greens and Mr Graeme Wood offers to buy you for $1.7 million, apparently that is okay.

Senator Bushby: That is a lot of money.

Senator CASH: It is not just a lot of money, and that is the point. History now records it as being the largest political donation ever taken—

Senator Ludlam: Madam Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I seek your advice on whether that was a fairly clear impugning of improper motives to the entire Greens Parliamentary team. If it was not, I would like some kind of ruling on how that was not. Accusing the parliamentary team in this place of being bought by donation is a very serious allegation and I call for your ruling on that.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Boyce ): As far as I am aware, Senator Cash was referring to the Greens party organisation. I will take some advice on that. I have now spoken with the Clerk and, as far as I was understanding what Senator Cash were saying, she was referring to a broad organisation, not to the individuals actually elected into this place. But I would ask Senator Cash to ensure that she does not reflect on any of the individuals in this parliament.

Senator CASH: Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President. As I was saying in response to the interjection from Senator David Bushby, a good friend of mine, it was not just a large amount of money—history now records it as the largest political donation ever given to a political party in Australia. So the next time the Australian Greens stand up in this place and seek to condemn a member of the coalition or seek to condemn a member of the Australian Labor Party in relation to the taking of donations, perhaps they need to reflect on the fact that it is they themselves that received $1.7 million from Mr Graeme Wood, the founder of wotif.

As I stated, the first superannuation bill that was discussed by the Senate earlier today, as Senator Ian Macdonald said, was the legalisation of theft. The Labor Party are now just blindly robbing the people of Australia in order to pay off their debt. What they do with this bill here is almost as bad, almost as evil. The bill as originally drafted would have changed the investment strategy of many Australians not by choice but by forcing the transfer of potentially large amounts of money from funds where individuals have made a clear and active choice—so I as an individual have made a choice in relation to where my superannuation is going to go—to a MySuper default product. What is worse is that the way the bill was drafted the Australian government did not have to tell me prior to forcing my superannuation into their fund, an industry fund, that they were doing it. The Labor government wanted to force an Australian citizen who has exercised choice in relation to their superannuation fund to have that money transferred into the MySuper default product, and they did not even have the guts to tell the individual that that is what they were going to do.

Senator Cormann: It's theft.

Senator CASH: I will take that interjection: it is basically theft; that is exactly right. This was also canvassed in the joint committee inquiry that looked into the bill, albeit on a very, very limited basis. The FFC's submission to the corporations and financial services committee inquiry made a strong argument that the government had clearly got it wrong—and not only that. The government initiated the Cooper review and even the Cooper review said, 'Good grief, you can't actually do this; you've gone way too far.' This is what the FFC submission said: 'Through the Cooper review and the Stronger Super Paul Costello consultation in 2011, it was not contemplated at anytime that choice superannuation funds would be subject to default MySuper transitional arrangements'—not 'was contemplated' but 'not contemplated'. But that does not stop the Australian Labor Party. The mere fact that a review has given certain recommendations does not stop the Australian Labor Party from doing the exact opposite of what the review has stated.

I stood up in this place only yesterday in relation to amendments to the Fair Work Act, where again the Australian Labor Party spent $1 million of taxpayers' money putting together a review—they handpicked their own panel and cherry pick their mates to sit on the panel to provide recommendations to them as to how they might improve the Fair Work Act. And yet, when push came to shove, where were the recommendations when the legislation came before the Senate yesterday? Oh, conveniently they just were not there because the Labor Party did not like what the review panel had come back with. It is the same with this. The Labor Party did not like what a review came back with, so they decided to do something entirely different.

One of the other interesting parts of this bill, had Senator Cormann not actually negotiated amendments with Minister Shorten, was this: the bill had potential implications for insurance within superannuation. Many Australians take out all types of insurance, but they do so on the basis of their own personal circumstances. This is what this legislation, had it not been amended by Senator Cormann, would have done: the MySuper death and total and permanent disability cover is likely to be less. This is coming from the party that talks about the better off overall test, remember. 'No Australian can ever be worse off.' But this is exactly what this legislation was going to do in relation to insurance. The cover is likely to be less than that currently enjoyed by a member of a choice default fund. Some people who have been covered within their chosen fund for a long time may not be able to qualify for life insurance—and, remember, the government is doing this to you without actually asking if they can do it to you—or they will only be able to qualify on inferior terms given the changes in their personal circumstances since the original cover was taken out in their existing fund.

Again, the Labor Party was trying to force upon on individual what they wanted the individual to have, regardless of the fact that the individual had exercised a personal choice. But, worse than that, they were doing it by pushing a piece of legislation through the parliament which stated that they would then be able to do that without seeking the individual's prior consent. It was rushed through a committee. Despite the fact that the bill was rushed through a committee, Senator Cormann has been talking to the industry now for over two years. If you can say one thing about Senator Cormann it is that he knows more about superannuation now than do most people in Australia and he certainly knows more about superannuation than does Minister Shorten. Senator Cormann was the one who identified the very serious faults in this bill. Do you know why we know they are serious? It is exactly as Senator MacDonald said. You have got a report that comes out that says the bill is fantastic. The Labor senators, given their instructions by Minister Shorten, say, 'No worries, the bill is fantastic.' The Greens obviously just fall into line; there is no two ways about that; they probably did not read the bill. But that is fine; they also say the bill looks good. But Senator Cormann and the coalition members of the committee put in a dissenting report highlighting certain issues.

It may have ended there, but yesterday you could almost be assured that the Labor Party were told there were serious problems with its bill and they had better go to Senator Cormann and work out a way they can accept this amendment and change this bill. One of the serious flaws of the bill was that it was potentially going to break existing contractual arrangements and face potential legal challenges for breaching section 51(xxxi) of the Constitution. Well done to the Australian Labor Party! They were introducing a bill that may well have seen a legal challenge because it breached the Constitution. But the good news for the Australian people is that Minister Shorten has accepted Senator Cormann's amendments—

Senator Cormann: At the last minute!

Senator CASH: He only accepted them yesterday. That is why you know there was a problem with the bill: because the Australian Labor Party could not let the bill go through the other place in its existing form. They also could not tell us that they were going to accept the amendments a few days ago because that would have looked bad. But, at the very last minute, they clearly realised that this was a piece of unworkable legislation and, as such, what was a very, very bad bill was made slightly better. But that was not as a result of anything Minister Shorten, the Australian Labor Party or the Greens did; t was only through the due diligence of those of us on this side of the chamber.

As I commenced my remarks I said the guillotine will fall at 8 pm tonight. On that basis, whilst I have a lot more that I could say about this legislation and the fact that if it had not been amended by the coalition there would have been some extremely detrimental consequences for the people of Australia, I will end my remarks here so that another colleague of mine has a brief time to put some comments on the record.