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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7906

Senator STEPHENS (2:56 PM) —My question is to Senator Coonan, the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer. Is the Assistant Treasurer aware that on page 26 of its compliance program for 2002-03 the ATO states that up to 500,000 employees may not be receiving their correct superannuation entitlements and that 12,000 complaints from employees are expected this year? If the Assistant Treasurer is serious about doing something to help these 12,000 Australians who lodge complaints about non-payment of super, will she move to remove the secrecy requirement that currently prevents employees from being told anything about the progress of their complaint?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —Thank you for the question. The situation with respect to the superannuation guarantee raises some very complex issues which relate obviously to people's privacy and to the privacy of employers. Clearly, the legislation that has been passed this year has improved not only the opportunity for compliance with the superannuation guarantee but also the ATO arrangements enabling it to provide information to those who need to have information about whether their payments have been made.

It is obviously a difficult issue. Some businesses, unfortunately, do go broke and there are some that do not make these payments and compliance is an issue. The provisions can always be streamlined. They are matters that can be looked at to ensure that the best information can be made available to contributors and that the superannuation guarantees are made when required. The government's election policy, the amendment to the superannuation guarantee and the different time frames that require more frequent deductions are the things that mean people's savings are much more protected and that information is available to them if they are not able to otherwise access their information. All of the measures taken by the ATO are calculated to ensure that these guaranteed payments are made and that penalties are inflicted and exacted when those payments are not made.

Senator STEPHENS —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I do not think the minister answered my question. Perhaps she can help me in this regard: can the Assistant Treasurer confirm that, if an employer becomes insolvent while owing statutory superannuation entitlements to employees, the government's so-called employees entitlement scheme will not pay one cent of those lost retirement savings? As the minister responsible for superannuation, what is being done to correct what is an outrageous and unfair loophole in the system?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —Thank you for the supplementary question, which certainly does not come under my portfolio. It is a matter for the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations.