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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 10360

Senator EDWARDS (South Australia) (19:52): I rise tonight to talk about the Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Further MySuper and Transparency Measures) Bill 2012 as my colleagues have done. I thank Senator Cash for drawing my attention to a number of other things to which I should refer, but in leaving some time for Senator Bushby tonight I will not revisit them. They are points which I did not know about and, if we were able to go into a committee session before this bill is ruthlessly guillotined tonight—as Senator Macdonald expressed his frustration about earlier—we would be able to flesh out these points so that all the 76 senators in this place were fully aware of what was going on in this important area for all Australians.

I referred to Senator Macdonald: I wish him all the best for his birthday today, and get that on the record. I congratulate him for his win in the Queensland Senate preselection, which will take him to another term here in this place. He will serve the Queensland people well, as he has done dutifully and faithfully for the last two decades.

It is no surprise that we yet again see another example of Labor bringing defective legislation to the debate on superannuation. It was only earlier today that we saw a number of bills go through; namely, the Wheat Export Marketing Amendment Bill. Without the amendments of many of those in the chamber the government would not have been able to get that one right. In an effort to ensure that we did get that legislation right, everybody except the government banded together, got some reasonable outcomes for the wheat industry and were able to push forward in what would otherwise have been—to use a topical expression for this time of year—a very big mince pie.

This government continues to blunder in its inability to provide for the economic wellbeing of each Australian, which each Australian works so hard to achieve. How much does this government expect this country to face with continued financial decline? We are very lucky in this chamber, and they say that every government is only as good as its opposite number: Minister Shorten is blessed to have Senator Cormann on the other side keeping good governance in place—keeping good policy coming forward. It has been pointed out on numerous occasions during this debate that Senator Cormann has been able to remind Minister Shorten of what good policy is, and save him from what would be very embarrassing legislation.

Most significantly detrimental in this bill is the intention to take away an individual's choice in deciding how to handle their hard-earned savings. The effect of this bill, in introducing a new, low-cost superannuation process known as MySuper, is that without approval from an individual large amounts of money from an individual's choice of fund will be automatically transferred to a MySuper default product.

Earlier today we saw another Treasury bill that went through which takes the automatic transfer of inactive accounts from seven years down to one. Why is that? Why would the government want to transfer or co-opt the money on inactive accounts? It is because it cannot balance its budget. It is because it cannot deliver a surplus. It is a cruel hoax. It says it will deliver a surplus in 2013, and that is unlikely. As our colleague in the other place, the member for Longman, Wyatt Roy, said recently, Labor has never delivered a surplus in his lifetime. That is so true. It is a disgrace for the Labor Party.

My colleagues on this side today made clear how flawed this piece of legislation is, and I cannot stress enough the damaging consequences guaranteed to flow on to individuals and businesses. Without choice an individual is exposed to risks of transaction costs, lower returns, higher fees and, potentially, higher risk investment profiles. Again, we are seeing the negative impacts of poor Labor decision making. Labor continues to handle poorly the issue that is most important to Australians—their future security.

This government continues to focus on the concerns of everyday Australians, most notably their costs of living. This is people's own money. This is the nine per cent, soon to go to 12 per cent, that is their money, and it is going into accounts. Why is it that it gets transferred? 'We arbitrarily say that. We're from the government; we know what's good for you.' Labor has a list of failed management policies in the Australian economy, and it is by no means brief. One of the government's clear current economic embarrassments is its failure to produce that budget surplus. Now that the Labor has run up the four biggest deficits in Australia's history—following on from the Howard government's four biggest surpluses—it has spent $173 billion more than it has raised in revenue.

Prime Minister Gillard's recent announcement of her government reopening another 700 onshore detention beds, plus opening thousands more places for community release, is a clear admission that this government cannot stop the boats and has no viable solution to follow. What is the government's solution? Its solutions of Nauru and Manus Island are full. I raise this because it is another example of not being able to get it right. We on this side have had to go to those opposite and counsel them about how they need to amend this bill so that they can get a good policy—an early Christmas present that Senator Cormann has delivered to Minister Shorten!

And we are getting a little sick and tired of doing it. In the 30 seconds I have left remaining—and I am sorry, Senator Bushby, I have not been able to honour you with some time on this. There is obviously so much going on, that we have to get out of here. We will move on to the gambling bill shortly—it is only a national gambling bill. What are we allowed for that one? An hour to debate the bill, and we will not even get to the committee session. So, Mr Deputy President, I will sit down—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! The time allocated for consideration of this bill has expired. The question now is that this bill be read a second time.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.

The PRESIDENT: The question now is that amendments (1) to (3) on sheet 7323, circulated by the opposition, be agreed to:

(1) Schedule 4, item 5, page 54 (line 22), omit "for defined benefit members".

(2) Schedule 4, item 5, page 54 (before line 23), before subsection 149A(1), insert:

(1A) A modern award must include a term that permits an employer covered by the award to make contributions, for the benefit of an employee covered by the award who is a default fund employee, to any superannuation fund that offers a MySuper product.

   Note: An employer may make contributions under this term even if the superannuation fund to which the contributions are made is not specified in the modern award.

(3) Schedule 4, item 6, page 55 (line 20), omit "section 149A", substitute "subsection 149A(1)".