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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 1015

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Throsby) (17:04): It is a pleasure to follow my friend the member for Fraser in this important debate about tax. It is also a debate about the legislation that is necessary to manage our economy, to balance our budget and to ensure not only that we have the revenue stream to ensure that government activity is sustained now and into the future but that our tax system regulates economic and personal activity in a way that is in the national interest. With that in mind, and adding that the minister is in the chamber, which is always a certain sign that the debate is going to wrap up at any time soon, I will restrict my comments to something that is very close to my heart, which is the issue of superannuation. The first schedule to this bill goes to the issue of superannuation and assisting people who have money in superannuation accounts to consolidate those funds.

It is a part of a Labor project. It was Labor that brought occupational superannuation into this parliament through the Hawke-Keating government in the late 1980s. It was Labor that saw the establishment of industry funds as the mainstay of workers' superannuation savings in this country. It is Labor that has ensured that we have a direct employee say in the management of those superannuation funds because we believe quite simply in worker capital. We believe that, if workers are putting literally hundreds of thousands of dollars into a savings vehicle for their retirement, then they should have some say in the management of those savings.

It is Labor that saw the shift in the superannuation employer contribution to employee superannuation from three per cent to nine per cent. And it will be Labor, against the fierce opposition of the member for Wright, and those who he sits in the chamber with, who will see the move in occupational superannuation from nine per cent to 12 per cent. This is all a part of Labor's project to ensure that, when workers retire, they have the dignity of a nest egg, a retirement egg.

Schedule 1 to this piece of legislation goes to that long-term project. It will enable the Australian Taxation Office to operate a scheme that will make it easier and simpler for lost superannuation fund members and retirement savings account holders to consolidate their benefits. We are not talking about small beer here. There is approximately $12.9 billion in lost superannuation that is unclaimed or is in unallocated superannuation accounts in this country today. It is $12.9 billion that belongs to somebody but is not yet allocated.

These measures are yet another step in the Labor project of ensuring that when workers earn their superannuation it goes into a well-managed fund and, when it goes into a well-managed fund, it ends up in their retirement savings account. It does this by amending the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 and the Retirement Savings Accounts Act 1997 to enable certain superannuation fund members to simply electronically request the consolidation of their superannuation benefits through the Australian Taxation Office.

The scheme is going to be referred to as the Electronic Portability Form. The Electronic Portability Form will make it simpler and easier for lost superannuation fund members to consolidate their benefits. This, in turn, will reduce the fees paid on multiple accounts and will maximise members' retirement benefits. The Electronic Portability Form will allow lost superannuation fund members to electronically request the transfer of their benefits to their active accounts through a portal on the ATO website.

This means a lot to ordinary working families in my electorate of Throsby in the Illawarra and Southern Highlands. It means a lot to them because we have quite a high incidence of casual, part-time and seasonal workers. They are people who do not have the traditional pattern of employment where they will work from the beginning of their employment life until the day that they retire with one employer. It is quite likely that workers in my electorate may during the course of any one year have three or four employers, which is a series of employers throughout the course of a year or a series of employers at any one point in time. As they move from employer to employer and from job to job and, indeed, often from home to home, their superannuation accounts could get lost in that process.

I commend the minister for bringing this bill before the House, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak on the matter. As I said, it is a part of an important Labor project. At the heart of that important Labor project is this simple idea: if somebody works their entire life then they are entitled to a dignified retirement, not one that is reliant upon a pension and the vagaries of government decision making in relation to that pension. They are entitled to retire on the savings income that they have earned for their entire life. This bill is going to do its bit to ensure that $12.9 billion finds its rightful owners. I commend the bill to the House.