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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13344

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell) (18:22): I rise today to join with my colleague the member for Moncrieff in opposing this appalling piece of government legislation, the Treasury Legislation Amendment (Unclaimed Money and Other Measures) Bill 2012. I think the reason we do not see a conga line of Labor MPs lauding the great vision of the Gillard government in this regard is that we all know what is really going on in relation to this legislation. This is a shameful grab for money because the budget is broken. The usual looters who like to come in here and laud the vision of the Gillard government in doing this or doing that are not here today. They are not here to tell us about what a great and glorious policy measure this is, because this is not a great and glorious policy measure. In fact, they know it is a very ugly measure indeed, symptomatic of our often quoted saying from the Liberal side of politics that Labor cannot manage money. Indeed, even the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, who often in the House of Representatives lauds the government as the best friend that superannuation has ever had, is not here to tell us in relation to this unclaimed money measure that this government is the best friend that superannuation ever had. You really do not want friends like that—friends who are willing to take away your super accounts and your earnings, knowing that you may be financially impeded by not receiving a higher rate of interest, giving you a cut-price rate, a Bill Shorten rate.

There are serious concerns with this legislation that I want to turn to, in particular in relation to many of the different areas that will be covered by the government's amendments to the Banking Act, the First Home Savers Account Act, the Life Insurance Act, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission Act and the Corporations Act. So many pieces of Commonwealth legislation being amended ought to clearly flag that there is an issue with this legislation. Let us take the example of the First Home Saver Accounts, an issue that is emblematic of this government's approach to managing money. In 2008 the government said they were going to create First Home Saver Accounts. They said we need to boost national savings for young people, we need to give them a head start in getting their first home, and these First Home Saver Accounts will be particularly beneficial. It is a relatively new measure, but let us say that so far it has not been an unqualified success, although some people have benefited from it and used this new measure wisely. We certainly do not know enough about it. But for the government to say three years later that it would take those first home accounts back from people if they did not use them was, I think, a very odd policy setting indeed. It was like saying, 'We want you to save for a home'—and who can save for a home in three years or four years—'but if you do not do something with this account we are going to take it off you and pay you a lower rate than you might obtain in the marketplace and certainly a lower rate than the First Home Saver Accounts qualify for.' This was a very odd approach to the government's own measures. They were basically sending two signals to people: 'if you get these First Home Saver Accounts you'll get a good deal' and 'don't hold your money in these accounts too long without doing anything with it because we will take it back and pay you less'. That to me is emblematic of what is going wrong with this legislation.

If the government were serious about this they would consider the opposition amendments to this bill to increase the time of inactivity. There is no exact science on this, but we are at least trying to suggest that a greater period is necessary in relation to this legislation. We understand how to manage money and we understand that the psychology of the settings that you put in place from government are serious. If you are trying to get people to put money into these First Home Saver Accounts but you say, 'In three years your money might have gone back to the government at a lower rate anyway,' I think you are sending very distinct and different signals that will penalise what you trying to do.

This is very ugly indeed. There is certainly no justification for the three-year inactivity test that we find in this legislation. There is no justification from the government as to why it is three years. We know why it is three years. We can all make the assumption that the three years is related to the fact that the government needs to get its hands on that money as quickly as possible. Three years must be the optimum time for the maximum amount of revenue that is out there. It is because the government needs the cash to make the budget balance. I know that many members opposite would agree with me that there are many types of accounts that should be excluded from this. Certainly it is not understandable why First Home Saver Accounts have been included in this legislation, being such a new measure; it does not make any sense whatsoever. But there are plenty of other kinds of deposits and other interest-bearing accounts where people are being paid more than the CPI and people are going to get a higher interest rate if their money is left alone. Again, what is the signal we are seeing from the government? Savings become a little more risky out there in people's minds: 'Should I leave my money alone in savings for a period of time? Maybe the government will come for it! Is it okay to lock it up and get a higher rate, to put my savings aside and build on a firm foundation?' Well, maybe not, because maybe Wayne Swan is going to come calling. Maybe the best friend that superannuation has ever had in this government, Bill Shorten, is going to be your best friend and rock up and say, 'Id like to get my hands on that account.' Well that is what is happening here.

We are all laughing, but this is not really very funny. This is actual legislation. These are amendments to all of the serious financial acts in Commonwealth law. We are very concerned about these measures. Without going on unduly, all of my colleagues have outlined the details of our concern about all the different schedules. There are very real reasons why we should oppose this legislation. It is not just because we know the intent behind it; we know that the government are desperate to get their hands on the money; it also because they have included a series of types of accounts which ought not to be included because they have come up with arbitrary time frames which may discourage saving and further damage the progress of our economy.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Windsor ): It being 6.30, in accordance with standing order 192 the debate is interrupted.