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Wednesday, 24 October 2018
Page: 10974

Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (16:19): I support the passage of this bill. I would like to read out the title of this bill: Corporations Amendment (Strengthening Protections for Employee Entitlements) Bill 2018. That's the thing, the amendments to this bill are about employee entitlements. In particular, I believe that the strengthening should include superannuation. It is incredibly important for employees to be able to recover superannuation, through the Fair Entitlements Guarantee, where their employer has become insolvent. Sadly, there have been many cases in my electorate where employees have been left out of pocket substantially, particularly with respect to superannuation.

The Fair Entitlements Guarantee is a very valuable and necessary scheme that activates on behalf of an employee when their employer goes insolvent, providing access to up to 13 weeks of unpaid wages, unpaid annual leave, long service leave and other benefits beside. However, the guarantee needs to be strengthened further, because there is one huge blind spot, as I have just mentioned: unpaid superannuation.

I have spoken multiple times in this place on the scourge of unpaid superannuation to employees by unscrupulous employers. The Australian Taxation Office estimates that Australian workers are victim to almost $2.85 billion of unpaid super each and every year. Those employers are robbing not just the employees but also all Australian taxpayers, because they are leaving people without the opportunity to have a decent super to retire on, and therefore they will be entirely reliant on the pension.

Mr Deputy Speaker, this is not good enough. The government needs to do more to protect both employees and the businesses that are doing the right thing. My second reading amendment calls upon the government to amend the Fair Entitlements Guarantee to align access to unpaid superannuation with claimable unpaid wages. Now, government says, 'Oh, this is a huge cost!' Well, last time I looked, we're talking about just over 9 per cent, and we are talking, fortunately, about a small proportion of Australians in this circumstance. It is small, but I think it is an important step to address the blight on the future of Australian retirees and, ultimately, the public purse that unpaid superannuation presents.

Really, this is about sending a message that superannuation is important. If we don't include it in here, if we don't see it as an employee entitlement and if we just see it as a nice, little added extra that most employers pay, then we are losing the whole point of what superannuation is supposed to be. I formally move the amendment as circulated in my name:

That all words after "the House" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:

"calls on the Government to consider amending the Fair Entitlements Guarantee to include up to 13 weeks of superannuation guarantee contributions, to align it with claimable unpaid wages".

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hogan ): Who is the seconder for this motion?

Mr Wilkie: I second the honourable member for Mayo's most excellent amendment and reserve my right to speak.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this, the honourable member for Gorton moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with the view to substituting other words. The honourable member for Mayo has now moved as an amendment to that amendment that all words after 'the House' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The question now is that the amendment moved by the honourable member for Mayo to the amendment moved by the member for Gorton be agreed to.