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Thursday, 28 June 2018
Page: 6778

Mr TIM WILSON (Goldstein) (12:08): I rise to proudly support this bill, the Treasury Laws Amendment (Protecting Your Superannuation Package) Bill 2018, because it is part of a package of economic bills introduced by this government that seeks to honour the savings, the hard work, of Australians. Deputy Speaker, you may be aware, if you read through my speeches in this place—and maybe one day, like the former member for Fairfax, I might even publish a tome which will end up in the future member for Fairfax's office or perhaps corridor—that there is a consistent theme in every speech I give: the importance of people's freedom and a greater sense of intergenerational justice, where young Australians seeking opportunity are able to secure the chances they wish for in life but, equally, where security is provided for older Australians who are in a position where they can't change their circumstances.

We know, on this side of the House, that superannuation is part of that rich matrix of providing both opportunity and security at different stages of life. But there are thousands of young Australians at the moment who, under the legislative regime, have money taken out of the balance of their superannuation accounts to feed the interests of financial services companies—sometimes banks and sometimes many other agents—who want to extract the value of the hard-earned savings of those young Australians for their own benefit.

I have had constituents come up to me over time and complain about their low-balance accounts, particularly those of young people at the start of their working life, and how the value of their superannuation account balances is being extracted for the benefit of insurance payments that they don't seek, wish or want, because it doesn't reflect their stage of life. All it does is remove the value of their account to the benefit of the companies that hold their balances. Many of the constituents who have raised this with me haven't just raised it in an esoteric way. They've watched themselves or their young children who have got their first job lose the value of their superannuation account balance through these fees and insurance premiums. When you put that in the context of what the Leader of the Opposition did when in his previous role in government, when he deliberately designed mechanisms within the superannuation system to encourage the raiding of young Australians' superannuation accounts, not only does it raise an eyebrow but it also raises the question yet again: does he act in the interests of workers or does he act in the interests of his union friends, allies, comrades, financiers and sometimes acolytes? That is ultimately what this bill is trying to address. It is actually putting consumers and workers at the centre of the superannuation system, not the industry funds run by unions.

It's a pretty straightforward proposition, which is perhaps why the opposition is so relativist on this piece of legislation. Perhaps the opposition leader and those who surround him, those who sit on the other side of this chamber, in a choice about whether union-controlled superannuation companies should be able to raid and extract every single cent of value out of the superannuation accounts of young Australians and whether funds should be provided to finance the interests of union-backed superannuation funds, are choosing the interests of their union mates yet again. That's what it looks like to me, and I suspect that's what it looks like to thousands of young Australians whose superannuation accounts are being raided by the types of regulations in law at the moment, which were unjustifiably introduced by the Leader of the Opposition and at their expense.

It is true that there is a very important role for superannuation and people being encouraged to save for their retirement, no matter at what stage of their life. It is also true that underpinning a strong economic environment where people earn wages and contribute to their superannuation accounts is a strong economy. Of course, we know that, under this government, we have made a strong economy the primacy of our focus, because when we deliver a strong economy a human, social and environmental dividend comes with it, as well as an economic dividend. But, of course, a strong economy also heavily depends on having certainty in the market and, in particular, the legislation and regulation. We know that we don't have that with the opposition leader and the legislative agenda that he would aspire to introduce.

I was reminded of that only this morning when I spoke on a program on 2CC Canberra radio, where the interviewer, Tim Shaw, was asking the member for Canberra simple questions like:

Do you agree and do you support your leader in the winding back of tax cuts for medium business that he announced this week?

And time and time again the member for Canberra dithered and couldn't answer the question. It was like the member for Bass the day before—in fact, it was Bass squared. Her answer was:

We are continuing to consider businesses up to $10m turnover but we have always been crystal clear that we put schools and hospitals ahead of tax cuts for big business and the banks.

That's the standard line, the rhetoric. It has obviously been poll tested. It's not actually sincere. Then the interviewer, Mr Shaw, was quite right in saying:


or, as we refer to her, the member for Canberra—

I asked you specifically, do you support Bill Shorten's position when he said 'yes' to the winding back of tax cuts for medium businesses? And I remind you that you are a former small business person yourself.

She responded:

Yes I am and a proud former small business person—

good on her on that. She went on:

… as I said, we are continuing to consider … up to $10 million turnover.

Mr Shaw responded:

So the leader was wrong to announce to the media that, yes, the policy of the Australian Labor Party was to repeal already L.A.W. law tax cuts for small business?

The member for Canberra said:

Well there has been internal discussions on this issue, those discussions continue …

And the interview goes on—train wreck day 2.

In the end, we now have an opposition that clearly doesn't understand the importance of a strong economy or the interest of how it delivers for Australian workers and everything else. But the Leader of the Opposition no longer even enjoys the support of his party for his economy-wrecking agenda. I would hope that, when you see a Leader of the Opposition pushing forward an economy-wrecking agenda—whether it is repealing tax cuts, taking money out of the pockets of hardworking Australians, or it is potential meddling in industrial relations, or it is an economy-wrecking emissions reduction target; whatever the economy-wrecking position he takes—at some point the members opposite would actually stand up and defend the rights and interests of ordinary Australians and particularly workers.

That is why they should be supporting this piece of legislation—not the moral relativism that they engage with in the speeches in this place but actually supporting a cap on fees so that young Australians in particular do not have their superannuation accounts raided by union-backed superannuation funds. They should be supporting a piece of legislation that says that, if you do not want an insurance premium, you should have the freedom to choose not to get one from the get-go. You shouldn't have to find out that all this money has been taken out of your account before you turn around and say: 'Actually, I don't think that's right. At 16, I'm not sure it's actually a good financial decision to get a life insurance premium.' It might be, later, but not when you're only earning a few thousand dollars and you certainly have a superannuation account balance of less than six grand.

That's what's at the heart of this piece of legislation. It's just making sure that young Australians and those people with low, duplicate accounts don't get their money raided by the unions. Imagine that! I would have thought that this is a relatively straightforward proposition for everybody in this parliament to support, except for the fact that we know it will be going against the direct agenda of the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party in the past, who have actively supported raiding those accounts.

This bill seeks to do very sensible things. It does not require a genius to be able to stand up and realise that the principal benefits of this legislation are for those seeking their opportunity on their way up. They might have multiple accounts and have multiple jobs. They may have low balances because they have not contributed very much over the years, because they have started at a very small base at the start of their career.

But never forget, Deputy Speaker, that there is another big group of Australians—in fact, the majority of Australians—who will gain and secure the benefit from this piece of legislation. Rightly, there has been a focus on the low balances of women in their superannuation accounts, particularly as they enter retirement age, certainly in comparison to men. We all know that there are multiple factors that drive that. But, because superannuation is often one of those matters that are heavily debated, particularly when you see family breakdown or marital breakdowns, women have been exposed to some of the worst cases of egregious gouging because of life circumstances. I never want to get into generic and overgenerous assessment of people's individual circumstances. Every person's life is different. But the other core group of Australians who will benefit from this legislative reform is not just young Australians seeking their opportunity, in that their superannuation accounts will not be raided by union interests; it is women who will get the benefit of this reform.

It saddens me no end that those on the other side of this chamber, who could be supporting sensible, pragmatic reform to support young Australians and women, have chosen to put the interests of their union mates against those of Australians. They have chosen to support those people who fund their campaigns—to support those people who organise and rally to get them elected. Sometimes there's a thing in this parliament where we should rise above the interests of politics and look at the future of the nation. If we say that we are going to sell out young Australians and women, in particular, by keeping in place an unjust, unfair form of legislation and regulation that undermines their interests to the benefit of big-union established interests, the modern Labor Party no longer has any claim to understand what justice means in a free society.