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Thursday, 12 September 2019
Page: 2760


Mr TIM WILSON (Goldstein) (11:03): I'd like to start by correcting the record because, I'm sorry, but the previous speaker did mislead the House. The member for Kingsford Smith did mislead the House in stating that I said that we should stop the increase in the compulsory superannuation guarantee from 9.5 per cent to 12 per cent. That is actually false. It is misleading the House. What I said was that we should consider whether people have the choice of taking increased superannuation or wages. If the member for Kingsford Smith, who is skulking out of the chamber now, is prepared to mislead and deceive the Australian people and this chamber in pursuit of his objective because he wants to justify his argument, we all know the weight and gravitas that can be added to his argument: somewhere between zero and nothing. There's not much of a cigarette paper between the two of them.

In saying that and clarifying the record—and I'm sorry and disappointed that I was not able to do that at the time when the misleading statement was made—this bill is quite straightforward in its intent. It's designed to ensure the integrity of the superannuation system for working Australians and to make sure that there's a pathway for people to comply with the law—to make sure they pay the appropriate amount of superannuation, that where there is an excess it's not being done through inappropriate means and that we build a sense of public confidence. That's a fundamental and worthy objective. It's something that we should all support as part of a robust system that meets the needs of Australians. But I have long held the view that we need to make sure that the system has integrity for everybody. What we have had is the development over a period of 30 years of a superannuation system which has progressively evolved with different legislative and regulatory arrangements to make sure that Australians can retire with confidence and dignity. The previous speaker, outside of his misleading statements, raised lots of concerns around the challenges of an ageing population—points and concerns which I hold very strongly—about making sure that people are in the best position to be able to stand on their own two feet for the entirety of their retirement.

But we also need to acknowledge that the evolution of the superannuation system has led to a particular design. What we have at the moment is a very fund centric focus around the superannuation system. We have a very fund centric process of legislation and regulation which focuses the design around how they should operate. But what's often missing in the discussion around compulsory superannuation is a focus on consumer choice. When it comes down to it, choosing your superannuation fund is the first significant financial decision that you will make, and, between that and buying a house, probably the most significant one you will make over your lifetime if you're the average Australian. That's why we should be encouraging and empowering Australians to (1) have choice rather than have them compelled to take up options under their industrial arrangements and workplace arrangements, and (2) have the choice between any different model based on what they think best suits their interests over the long run. That means we need comparability and transparency in the system, because at the moment the system is rigged in favour of some funds against the interests of Australians.

I'm making no apologies. I'm in this chamber to represent Australians, not capital interests, as some people seem to be, because they seem to want to constantly preserve the regulations that are in place to favour the few. When you have a fund centric approach, that's where you end up. When you have a consumer interested approach, you have legislation that guarantees the integrity of the system, like this one does. It makes sure that people have choices across models—whether it's self-managed superannuation funds, retail funds or, of course, industry funds—and they're not automatically thrown into one camp despite what their personal preferences may be; they're not defaulted into it. We don't discourage people from making active choices and we don't discourage people from learning about the choices and the options that are available.

Of course, there are huge benefits from fund aggregation, and nobody would argue otherwise. It enables them to do things like increase their borrowing capacity in wholesale markets. But when it comes down to it, we should want consumers and workers to be informed and to be literate, to be able to compare and to have transparency around the different options that they can choose from so that they can make informed decisions. That is the basis on which they make an informed decision. It is when people get a sense and understanding, as an 18- or 16-year-old who has started their first job, of the gravity and weight of one of the biggest financial decisions—certainly the first big financial decision—they'll make over their entire lifetime.

We want people to be engaged. One of the big problems with the superannuation system today—and the entire retirement system, of course—is that many people might default into a fund, and they don't really think about it apart from getting the occasional statement from their fund once or twice a year which they chuck in the bin. They don't engage until they're about 55, once the kids are off their hands and they actually have to start thinking about their retirement. That's not an uncommon story.

We want Australians to have a greater sense of ownership and empowerment and responsibility over their retirement, to understand the gravity of the situation that we all face, as individuals and as a country, to secure long-term dignity and choice through our whole life cycle. That doesn't come from default options. It's not just about comparability and transparency; it's also about portability. People may choose as an active decision, even if it's a default, to go into an industry fund or, if they decide they get better returns or better outcomes for themselves or greater empowerment and choice, they can move over to retail funds as they see fit. Then if they get to a point when they see it's to their advantage they can choose the alternative of going into a self-managed fund, as I have, and they won't be dissuaded and they won't face punitive measures.

We know that that is anathema to the opposition not just because of their obsession with only defending the interests of the few and the capital that they have influence on and control over but also because of their constant demonisation of the private sector. We saw very nakedly and clearly in the lead-up to the last election that just about every single policy they had in the economic space was designed to diminish the power of Australians to manage their own finances and their choices. Their policy around the abolition of refundable franking credits was designed to move people out of SMSFs and push them into industry super, where they have influence and control. They ought to be ashamed of themselves for shutting down Australians' choices in order to suit themselves. That's why some of us are so proud to have stood up against that agenda, the nefarious agenda of the opposition, which, no doubt, like the head of a hydra, will come back, and they will pursue it once again, because their objective at heart is not about the integrity of the system. Their agenda has nothing to do with the taxation system. Their agenda at every point has something to do with one thing—their control over Australians' lives. The same was true of negative gearing and their approach, when they wanted to shut down that pathway. They wanted to corporatise housing and create a pathway where the only people who got to invest in housing were their mates.

I don't think that's right. I think every Australian should be able to stand on their own two feet and take control of their own personal circumstances and not be pushed around by the Labor Party or their buddies. Some of us should stand up for the empowerment of 26 million Australians, not just of those who sit on that side of the chamber. If they think that some of us are going to sit here in silence and wait until they're able to achieve their nefarious ends, they're kidding themselves.