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Monday, 4 December 2017
Page: 9500


Senator O'NEILL (New South Wales) (15:26): The great concern that we have with this government is the ongoing chaos, disunity and dysfunction that characterises it. I said it the other day: it's the hallmark of the government. What we're seeing here today is an extraordinary turn of events. I appeal to the crossbench to actually pay attention to this government. It's like watching The Karate Kid in action, you know that old trope, 'Wax on, wax off; wax on, wax off'? What we have with the government here is 'ledge on, ledge off; ledge on, ledge off'. It can't make up its mind, because it's not a government of principle. It's just a government eating itself alive; a government in chaos.

We have the chance today to do something powerfully correct for Australian working people. We have 20 years of a superannuation industry that has only been established because Labor made sure it happened. Those opposite here say now they want to stand up for good superannuation practices; now they want to stand up for an industry they said could never, ever be established. It's rank hypocrisy. They don't care about the workers. They don't care about the fact that, over 20 years now—it's not a short-term experiment; this is a longitudinal study—we can see the evidence of a partnership of investment of workers' superannuation funds—50 per cent employers, 50 per cent union representatives standing up for their own working community. They've worked together and—better than the banks—they have delivered a two to three per cent margin of improvement over 20 years. We know that what's going on works. So why do these guys want to break that model? It is for no reason other than an ideological attack on the superannuation sector that is managed as industry super.

We've got Senator Williams over here, and we've got the Nats, who have been described today—what was the description of Mr Barilaro? 'The dribblings of some obscure politician.' This government is supposed to be in a coalition with the Nationals, and it's describing the current Premier—he's not the Deputy Premier right now; Gladys has gone on a trip, so Barilaro is actually the Premier of New South Wales—as a 'dribbling, obscure politician'. The only reason we're at the point that we are at with this government is because they are pushing now for the banks. They're pushing for the banks at every turn. They have only come to a royal commission because the banks have told them to do it. Their attack on superannuation that's managed very, very effectively by our industry super is because they want to get the business from industry super over into the banks—to copy the model of the banks, which is not delivering.

There are people in this chamber who don't pay that much attention to their super. That's one of the sad things we know: Australians don't really pay a lot of attention. But most Australians who are in an industry super fund have benefited from 20 long years of getting a better return on their money than those Australians who invested through the retail sector, which is controlled by the banks. What we're seeing here today is a government that wanted this on the legislation last week and decided that they would change their mind. They've pulled the pin on it. They thought that they had it all sewn up and that they could deliver this win for the banks. What they found out is that, instead of a win for the banks, it's a loss for the government. Legislation on last week; legislation off this week. It's a game to them. They're playing a game. They're playing a game and trying to advantage their friends at the top end of town.

Well, the Labor Party is standing here for ordinary Australian workers. We're standing here saying that you should be able to continue to have your money invested in an industry super scheme where 50 per cent of the people who make the decisions are people who have worked just like you and 50 per cent of the decision-making should be done by the employers who employ the people in that industry—a fair fifty-fifty partnership. There's nothing fair about this government. There's nothing equitable about what they do. They've got a chance to hold this up over the whole of summer and continue to dog those on the crossbench to try to do some sort of dirty deal in the background that they might get some advantage from. What we need right now is for our crossbench not to support this motion, not to support the intent of it, to stand up for working Australians and to make sure we keep industry super safe. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: The question is that the amendment moved by Senator Wong to delete words from the suspension motion of Senator Brandis be agreed to.