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Wednesday, 5 December 2018
Page: 9463

Senator WHISH-WILSON (Tasmania) (12:24): We had issues with this bill, and in a second I will be moving a second reading amendment. I think it's worth noting this bill has been on the Notice Paper for nearly six months. It's been listed seven times. Why haven't we dealt with this previously? It's obviously important legislation. There is some speculation as to why this hasn't come to the chamber previously. Obviously, our new minister, Mr Robert, from the other place, may not necessarily have been a popular choice within the coalition as the new minister. I understand he was a numbers man for our current Prime Minister and got an elevation following that. He, of course, had a fall from grace previously as a minister, and it's been quite strange that this legislation and some of his other legislation hasn't been able to get through to us here in the chamber. Nevertheless, I wanted to highlight that in my office we had a discussion and we were going to move as an order of business that this legislation be dealt with along with the bill that we've just passed so we could actually bring it on and get it through the chamber.

Nevertheless, I wanted to say, when we go back to the inquiry on this legislation, the Greens did have additional comments. We felt very strongly on a couple of issues. For most Australians, superannuation is compulsory deferred wages. It's intrinsically applied to their employment, and without a job, of course, there would be no superannuation. It follows that unpaid superannuation is not working capital for businesses. It is employee's money that should be disbursed as regularly and consistently as employees turn up for work. It should be that simple. So it makes little sense the payment of superannuation is not legislatively aligned with the payment of wages and that nonpayment of superannuation is not seen as being as heinous as the nonpayment of wages. In the digital age, with fully electronic payrolls and banking, there is no excuse for employers not to pay the Superannuation Guarantee each and every payday.

Whilst this bill makes inroads towards addressing imbalance between the treatment of superannuation and the treatment of wages, it doesn't finish the job. The Australian Greens support a comprehensive range of measures designed to address the mismatch between superannuation and wages. The Senate Economics References Committee 2017 report, Superbad—wage theft and non-compliance of the Superannuation Guarantee, which Senator Ketter, who is in the chamber, was involved in, explored the problem extensively and identified relevant issues. But even it fell short of making some simple and unequivocal recommendations that would help ensure employees get paid their superannuation. We recommended in a dissenting report to that committee that legislative changes be made to require superannuation to be paid in alignment with regular pay cycles or on a monthly basis—whichever is the lesser pay period.

I move:

At the end of the motion, add "but the Senate:

(a) notes that the current requirement for the payment of the superannuation guarantee on at least a quarterly basis creates a significant risk of non-compliance and hinders the prompt detection of superannuation guarantee non-payment; and

(b) calls on the Government to introduce legislation that would require superannuation to be paid in alignment with pay periods stipulated in workplace agreements, or on a monthly basis, whichever is the lesser period".

That's our second reading amendment, and I will conclude on that basis.