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Wednesday, 24 February 2021
Page: 99


Senator DODSON (Western Australia) (18:46): On behalf of the opposition, I rise to speak on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Reuniting More Superannuation) Bill 2020. At the outset, I can confirm that the opposition will be supporting this bill. Labor has a proud track record on superannuation and will continue to fight for a stronger and fairer superannuation system. Our superannuation system sits alongside the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Medicare and the National Disability Insurance Scheme as a significant national achievement. Unfortunately, too many Australians still retire without adequate retirement savings. This is why our superannuation system needs to be strengthened and protected, not undermined. Every Australian deserves dignity in retirement.

As originally drafted, this bill contained a single schedule that amends the Retirement Savings Accounts Act 1997, the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993, and the Superannuation (Unclaimed Money and Lost Members) Act 1999 to facilitate the closure of eligible rollover funds by 30 June 2021. This measure addresses recommendation 5 of the 2019 Productivity Commission inquiry into superannuation, which recommended that the Australian Taxation Office be responsible for holding lost superannuation accounts and that the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority oversee the winding up of eligible rollover funds.

These changes build on the 2019 protecting your super legislation, which saw low-balance and inactive accounts transferred by trustees to the Australian tax office but not to eligible rollover funds. Since the implementation of the protecting your super legislation, fund trustees have been required to transfer inactive or low-balance accounts to the Australian tax office. Eligible rollover funds were designed to look after unclaimed superannuation, but essentially they are now redundant. This legislation provides a timetable to wrap up the remaining ERFs by 30 June 2021, with funds transferred to the Australian tax office. This will allow the Australian Taxation Commissioner to reunite superannuation accounts they receive from eligible rollover funds with the members' active accounts. The Australian tax office has successfully reunited more than 2.1 million lost or forgotten superannuation accounts. This is a great success rate over a 10-year period.

Labor will continue to support measures that target duplication accounts and stronger, fairer superannuation schemes and systems. The opposition will be supporting the government's amendments, as circulated on sheet SH137. As outlined in the supplementary memorandum circulated with the amendments, the amendments delay the operation of the charges proposed to be made by schedule 1 of the bill to provide trustees of eligible rollover funds additional time to exit the market. In addition, the government amendments insert schedule 2 to the bill:

… to provide that a superannuation provider may pay to the Commissioner any amount it holds on behalf of a member, former member or non-member spouse, if it reasonably believes that paying the amount to the Commissioner is in the best interests of the member, former member or non-member spouse, and for reunification by the Commissioner of those amounts with the member, former member or non-member spouse's active superannuation account.

Australia has a superannuation scheme that is the envy of many countries around the world. It was established by a Labor government to ensure that people could live in retirement with a measure of dignity. This is not a history that is shared with those on the opposite side of the chamber. For decades now, the coalition in opposition and in government have worked to undermine and dismantle the system that has been helping to bring security and dignity to Australians in retirement, to reduce the burden on the social security system and to build our national prosperity. There are those opposite who would halt the rise of the superannuation guarantee or, worse still, abolish it altogether. Before the last election, Mr Morrison promised that he would leave superannuation alone, a very straightforward promise one would have thought. But now he appears to have changed his mind and he has a plan to cut workers' superannuation. Labor will fight this unfair plan. It is unfair that the Prime Minister and every other minister of parliament pulls in 15.4 per cent superannuation on their earnings, but the Prime Minister and government senators and members reckon that 9.5 per cent is enough for ordinary workers. Mr Morrison engaged consultants to try to back in his plan to cut workers' superannuation, and they said 9.5 per cent might be enough under certain circumstances. But, on further examination, these certain circumstances are wages growing by four per cent every year well into the future. When wages have not grown by four per cent for the last decade, this is simply fanciful. The Prime Minister will accrue more superannuation in two years than the average Australian retires on. It is absolutely critical that the Prime Minister keep his promise to leave superannuation alone.

Whilst Mr Morrison might not be backing workers to 12 per cent, Labor is backing workers with a 100 per cent commitment to the legislated superannuation guarantee rise. The Labor leader, Mr Albanese, and the shadow minister for finance, Mr Jones, reaffirmed Labor's commitment last week. We call on the government to make the same commitment. Freezing or repealing the legislation increases will not lead to pay increases and will not change super tax benefits for high-income earners. The original timetable has already been delayed twice. This has cost workers retiring today between $60,000 and $100,000 in their superannuation balances.

The Reserve Bank has identified low productivity growth, globalisation, underemployment and a decline in bargaining power—all of these—as drags on wages growth. Wages are weak not because of superannuation guarantees but because the government has no credible economic plan to raise them. We agree that workers need a pay rise. We do not think it should be paid for with super cuts. The last time the Liberals and Nationals froze the superannuation guarantee, what happened? Did we see an explosion in wages growth? No, we did not. Wages growth did not pick up. In fact, we had record low wages growth instead.

The Liberal Party has form when it comes to undermining superannuation. Those opposite have opposed every increase. Whilst this bill makes sensible changes that we support, we know what lies around the corner. Government senators continue to have free reign to advocate measures that will undermine the strength of our superannuation scheme and undermine a decent retirement for millions of Australians. It is time for the government to keep its commitment and unequivocally reaffirm the promise of the Prime Minister, Mr Morrison, before the last election when he said he would leave superannuation alone.