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Thursday, 13 February 2020
Page: 992

Senator PATRICK (South Australia) (12:45): I rise to speak on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Recovering Unpaid Superannuation) Bill 2019. Centre Alliance supports this bill. Underpayment or nonpayment of superannuation is an enormous issue that is often realised far too late to be remedied. According to Industry Super Australia, nearly three million Australians suffered from superannuation nonpayment or underpayment in 2015-16, totalling an incredible $5.9 billion in unpaid super. The bill balances the interests of employers and employees through a carrot and stick approach. For those employers who may be delinquent in their payment of employee superannuation entitlements, they are offered an amnesty. Once the amnesty is over the penalties are doubled.

This bill creates a practical inducement for employers to comply with their legal obligations. It's important, because the effect of unpaid super is far-reaching. The impact on the broader Australian community is there when a person's financial future is seriously compromised and they have to rely on social security in their retirement. It also allows unscrupulous businesses to use unpaid super payments to finance their operations with employee entitlements; they're basically using it to gain a competitive advantage over other businesses that are actually doing the right thing.

Superannuation is a legal right and it is unfair and un-Australian that employees are too often denied their super payments by their employers. This is why Centre Alliance has been engaging with both sides of the chamber in relation to the potential to include the payment of superannuation within the National Employment Standards. Currently, the situation is only the ATO can pursue nonpayments of super. Labor has moved an amendment that will empower individuals to pursue the nonpayment of their super through the courts or the Fair Work Commission where the ATO fails to do so. Now, that's an important issue. It establishes fairness and should lessen any opportunity for employers to become delinquent in the payment of an employee's superannuation entitlement.

Now, while we've been talking to Labor about this—and Centre Alliance agree with this principle—we've also been talking to the government, who have some concerns about the implementation details of that. In the best goodwill of the Senate, the government has now agreed, and has given an undertaking to Centre Alliance, that it will examine, in good faith, whether to incorporate the payment of superannuation contributions into the National Employment Standards and to arrive at any proposed policy changes within six months. That's an undertaking that Centre Alliance has decided to accept. It allows us to work towards getting this issue resolved in a manner that will involve, no doubt, consultation and careful thought. We expect the government will honour that undertaking. There will be other super bills, and I can assure Labor that if we don't get to that point then at the next super bill, or the next bill where it's relevant, Centre Alliance will support it again. I have advised Labor of this—once again, just to be open—and they understand we won't be supporting their amendment on the basis of the undertaking provided by the government. With that I'll leave it there and commend the bill to the house.