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Economics Legislation Committee
Productivity Commission

Productivity Commission

CHAIR: I now reconvene our Treasury estimates. We welcome to the floor the Productivity Commission, represented by Ms Davidson and Mr Scammell. Do you have any opening statement?

Ms Davidson : We have no opening statement, other than to note that, as he has written to you, the chairman is unable to attend today.

CHAIR: Thank you for that. I should have brought that up when I introduced you. We are all aware of the circumstance in which the chair is not here.

Senator KETTER: Good afternoon, Ms Davidson and Mr Scammell. Firstly, I take you to the Financial System Inquiry and the fact that the government's response to that has referred a number of inquiries to you. We are not picking up yet on your website as to whether any of these have made it onto your list of active inquiries. I was just going to ask you, firstly, in relation to the inquiry into the criteria to assess the efficiency and competitiveness of the superannuation system. What is happening with that one?

Ms Davidson : As you point out, that inquiry is not showing on our active list of inquiries. We have not yet formally received the terms of reference for that inquiry. We are anticipating receipt of that shortly, based on the government's response to the Financial System Inquiry that you referred to.

Senator KETTER: What about the inquiry into alternative models for a formal competitive process for allocating default fund members to products?

Ms Davidson : The same applies there.

Senator KETTER: What about the inquiry to broaden access to and the use of data in the financial system, as suggested in the FSI?

Ms Davidson : Again, we have not yet received those terms of reference, so it is not something we are actively working on.

Senator KETTER: There is also one in relation to the state of competition in the financial sector, as foreshadowed in the FSI.

Ms Davidson : Again, we are expecting terms of reference shortly. In these sorts of situations, we may do some preparatory work but we do not commence the inquiry until receipt of terms of reference.

Senator KETTER: Is there any indication as to when you might be receiving the terms of reference?

Ms Davidson : It is really a matter for government, as you know. We stay in touch with Treasury to get a sense of timing. As I said, we are expecting terms of reference shortly but we cannot anticipate the decisions of government.

Senator KETTER: I might direct that to the cabinet secretary. Are you able to advise us as to when the terms of references for these inquiries I have mentioned will be issued?

Senator Sinodinos: I will take it on notice. I do not have a briefing on that.

Senator KETTER: Going back to the recommendation about investigating alternative models for a formal competitive process for allocating default funds: given that you have completed an inquiry into default superannuation funds in modern awards in October 2012 and those recommendations have not yet had time to be implemented, what do you say about the latest recommendation from the FSI?

Ms Davidson : The work that we will do coming out of the FSI will be governed by the terms of reference that the government gives to us. When we receive those terms of reference, we will obviously look, where relevant, back to the findings of our previous work, but that is all work that is still to come for the commission.

Senator KETTER: There is a significant overlap between the two. I understand you do not have the terms of reference, but the top subject matter seems to be fairly similar.

Ms Davidson : We would look back to the work that we have done previously. I was not involved in that previous work, so I cannot speak to the detail of that.

Senator KETTER: Do you think it is appropriate to conduct a further investigation?

Ms Davidson : We will conduct the investigation that the government requests us to conduct.

Senator KETTER: I want to turn to your inquiry into the workplace relations system, and in particular your recommendation to reduce the level of Sunday penalty rates in certain industries. I want to understand the impact on low-paid workers of that particular recommendation if it is implemented—I think you recommended it happen through the Fair Work Commission system.

Ms Davidson : The views of the commission are set out in our final report. I do not mean to sound unhelpful here, but beyond what has been provided in our final report, which, as you know, is now being considered by government, I am not well placed to go into some of the underlying analysis and evidence there, again because I was not involved in that particular piece of work. I am not in a position to take you through in the way that some of my colleagues might be if they were able to be here today.

Senator KETTER: How about you, Mr Scammell?

Mr Scammell : It is the same response from me. We are going to be relying on the final report as it is published, at this stage.

Senator KETTER: I am interested in your assessment of what happens to low-paid workers if your recommendations are implemented. I understand that you have modelled a range of other consequences. I have a particular interest in the people that would be impacted by that recommendation. Could you take that one on notice for us?

Ms Davidson : Yes.

CHAIR: With that, we thank you very much for your attendance here today and your good work. Obviously, you have quite a lot coming at you. Senator Ketter, quite rightly, is very interested in that, and we will be interested to talk to you about that as we move along.