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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 12504

Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (11:45): This is a very important piece of legislation that is part of a suite of significant reforms in the superannuation area that this government is undertaking. I am pleased that those on the other side are also here articulating their support for the Superannuation Legislation Amendment (New Zealand Arrangement) Bill 2012.

As the parliamentary secretary has indicated, Australia absolutely is committed to the closest possible relations with New Zealand government. In fact, the moment that we are now at is a natural development of a long-term and sustained relationship. As early as the 1920s there were significant formal arrangements between our two countries to ensure and facilitate the free flow of people between both New Zealand and Australia. The landmark 1973 trans-Tasman travel arrangement has allowed Australian and New Zealand citizens to enter each other's country to visit, live and work without the need to apply for authority to enter the other country before travelling. Obviously that has enhanced the movement of New Zealand citizens to and from Australia and this has enhanced, I would argue, the economic conditions of both countries.

The number of New Zealand citizens in Australia certainly increases when economic times in Australia are good relative to New Zealand and decreases when the economy slows. The capacity to have people moving in and out of our labour market to enhance our own economic growth is a very sound arrangement that benefits the people of both our nations. At the heart of all of our legislation should be that consistent concern for the benefit of people.

As of 30 June there were approximately 647,000 New Zealand citizens present in Australia. This piece of legislation attends to that significant number of people who want to be able to ensure their retirement funds are safe. In considering the options for a portability retirement savings scheme between Australia and New Zealand, a formal working group was established in 2007. By 2009 both the Australian government and the New Zealand government had signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the Trans-Tasman Retirement Savings Portability Scheme.

To all those people who were involved in articulating a vision of what was possible and then preparing the necessary documentation—making agreements with relevant authorities to ensure a sound and safe and just structure—this is a red-letter day. It is an achievement of a goal that has been sought for some time by people with that interest. Essentially what this legislation will enable Australians and New Zealanders to do—and I want to stress that this is a voluntary thing—is take their superannuation from one country to the other. If someone wants to move their superannuation, this legislation will benefit that.

In terms of movement across our two countries, more than about 50,000 New Zealanders move to Australia each year and about 14,000 leave Australia to live permanently in New Zealand. When you are making such an important decision for the benefit of your family, obviously you would want to be able to be sure that there was a great deal of probity around it. This piece of legislation, at the end of a long period of consultation, has ensured that individuals will be able to streamline their financial affairs when they undertake a significant movement of their life and their family from one of these two great nations that formed the ANZUS Treaty and served so valiantly in the cause of freedom over many years as Anzacs.

As I said at the beginning of my commentary, this is just part of a suite of significant improvements and streamlining of superannuation capacity for Australians—and in this case to the benefit of New Zealanders as well.

This government has increased the superannuation guarantee from nine to 12 per cent, we have introduced low-income superannuation contributions—effective from 1 July this year—we also implemented a one-off refund of small excess concessional-contribution cap breach from 1 July 2011, and the superannuation guarantee for people who are 70 years of age, as a limit, will be abolished as of 1 July 2013.

I commend this bill as part of a significant suite of important reforms that have outcomes delivered by a determination to improve and enhance the life outcomes for Australians, and in this case New Zealanders as well. I certainly understand that the legislation and the commencement of this scheme have been welcomed by the governments and the people on both sides of the great Tasman Sea. I am pleased to report that ASFA, the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees have also indicated that they welcome this legislation. I understand that the New Zealand press has been particularly welcoming of the progress of this legislation and the commencement of this scheme, once the legislation is passed, and with those words I commend the bill to the House.