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Wednesday, 16 September 2015
Page: 6923


Senator SMITH (Western Australia) (09:31): Previously in my speech on the Tax and Superannuation Laws Amendment (2015 Measures No. 4) Bill 2015, I was reflecting on how the government was continuing with the previous Labor government's initiative, first announced in the 2013 federal budget. Of course, quickly after coming to government on 6 November 2013 the coalition government announced that it would also continue to enact this measure.

The government's decision to proceed with the increase to the small or lost members' superannuation account threshold is a sensible measure. I have no trouble saying that of course, and I am sure my colleagues on this side have no trouble in saying that. When the Labor Party puts forward a sensible idea—one that will modernise the economy and benefit consumers—the coalition is prepared to back it. What a shame, of course, that the reverse is not true. What a shame that those opposite have consistently and trenchantly fought this government's attempts to make sensible reforms to get the budget back under control and to pay down debt. What a pity that more recently the opposition has been engaged in a despicable campaign against the free trade agreement with China, a campaign designed and run at the behest of xenophobes within the CFMEU and other of the Labor Party's financial enablers. I make that point only in passing, but I think it is an important one on which to start the day.

The changes in this bill are complemented by the other measures that will reduce red tape for superannuation funds by removing redundant reporting obligations and by streamlining some of the lost and unclaimed superannuation administrative arrangements. These changes include updating the definition of 'uncontactable' to account for contemporary forms of member communication—for example, email or online communications; supporting eligible rollover funds proactively consolidating lost accounts; and allowing direct payments of lost super held by the ATO to persons with a terminal illness.

These changes will enhance the nation's superannuation system by making it easier for individuals to be reunited with their lost and unclaimed superannuation. That can only be a good thing. To the fullest extent possible, superannuation should benefit the people who earn the money, and it should not be a sneaky way for governments to raise revenue.

I know the Australian Taxation Office has made extensive efforts with regard to uniting Australian workers with their lost superannuation accounts through an online service, and I am sure those efforts will continue. It is an area where, quite frankly, I think superannuation funds should also be proactive, just from a customer service point of view. But of course, that is a discussion for another time and is outside the limited scope of this bill. However, the changes contained within the bill underscore the point that the coalition government is committed to ensuring that money Australians have saved for their retirement through superannuation is preserved and is available for their own use in retirement, rather than being depleted by account fees and charges. They are changes driven by a sense of fairness and improving the sustainability of the nation's taxation and superannuation structures. They are entirely consistent with the government's overarching economic approach and values, and I commend the bill to the Senate.