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Monday, 23 March 2020
Page: 2865

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (16:49): It is the position of the Australian Labor Party that we want to provide support for households, we want to provide support for businesses, and we want to provide support for workers who are about to lose their jobs. We were told by the Treasurer in question time today that, in the coming weeks, up to one million workers are going to find themselves out of work. Labor stands ready to support the government in providing benefits to those workers.

The Leader of the Opposition has spelt out in comprehensive detail why the provisions in schedule 13 are a bad idea. They're a bad idea because the government proposes to raid the superannuation savings of workers to make up for the unwillingness it has to fund benefits adequately for workers who are about to lose their job. It is our patriotic obligation to point out a bad idea. The only thing worse than a bad idea is a bad idea that is poorly implemented. Unless Labor's amendments are accepted by the government, this proposal will be poorly implemented.

We are advised by the government that 1.6 million applicants are expected to take avail of the new provisions within this schedule. Those 1.6 million applicants will make their application to access superannuation through the myGov portal. Yes, Madam Deputy Speaker, it's the very myGov portal that fell over during its first test this morning. Not only did it fall over; it was unable to cope with the overwhelming number of people who were applying to access Centrelink benefits. But the minister responsible stood in the courtyard a few moments ago and said that this was as a result of a denial-of-service attack. He then had to come into question time a few moments later and said, 'Actually, that was wrong; that was not true.' So Labor have significant concerns—and we ask the minister to respond to this: how is Labor, how is the opposition, and how, in fact, are the Australian people to have confidence that this measure is going to be properly implemented? Is it going to be a repeat of the bushfire grants all over again, where big announcements are made but they fall over in the implementation?

We are deeply concerned because of the mechanisms around which this schedule will operate. The 1.6 million applicants go to myGov, they make their applications through myGov and myGov sends it through to the regulator, who, in this instance, is the ATO—and the ATO is the assessing authority. Most people will think, 'Well, if the ATO is the approving authority, a payment can be easily issued from the ATO'—but this is not the case. The ATO sends a notice to the trustees of the member's superannuation fund, saying, 'Please pay this money into this member's bank account.' That sounds reasonable. The only problem is the superannuation accounts don't have that information. With all the goodwill in the world, the minister might wish they did and the parliament may wish they did, but the simple fact of the matter is they don't. They don't have that information.

So we have Labor's sensible amendments. If the government seriously wants to make its idea, albeit flawed, work properly, it should accept Labor's amendments. Labor's amendments—simple; perfect in their simplicity—ensure that, when the ATO contacts the superannuation fund, and says, 'This fund member is eligible to receive early relief,' the ATO must provide the superannuation fund with all the information that they have that will enable the superannuation fund to make an early release of the funds. We say to the government: accept these amendments; they will make your proposal, albeit flawed, work all the more better.

The consequence of not accepting Labor's amendments is that those applicants will go to the superannuation fund and up to 1.6 million Australians, who have been led to believe by the government that they're going to get ready release of their superannuation funds, are going to be frustrated by delay. And I'm not talking about delays of days or even weeks; it could be significant delays. If we are talking about 1.6 million Australians who are going to make an application between now and the end of June this year—and quite possibly another application a week later—it will fall over, in the same way that myGov fell over. Accept our reasonable amendments. (Time expired)