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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6139

Mr BROAD (Mallee) (12:57): It gives me a great deal of pleasure to talk about this bill because, in my area, unfortunately, there are too many instances of people paying their workers but not paying their superannuation. As someone who's worked as an itinerant worker at times when I was somewhat younger, somewhat fitter and somewhat buffer and better looking, doing lots more physical work—

Dr Aly interjecting

Mr BROAD: Am I embellishing? Am I misleading the House? When I was somewhat younger and working in shearing sheds, I was always conscious that there were times when people would be doing that sort of work and their employers wouldn't be paying them their superannuation.

This bill, I think, does have some merit. I know there's always been some angst about, 'Are we letting some people who have been doing the wrong thing off the hook by giving them a 12-month amnesty?' The first thing I want to say is that what I want is for people who haven't been paid to get paid. That is probably more important to me than seeking a prosecution early. But, of course, an amnesty is not letting them off the hook long term. It just means we want to make sure Australians who have worked hard get their full entitlement and benefit from their work and that their work and their wage does include their superannuation.

There's a misconception, perhaps, by some in small business. It's a misconception there is really no excuse for anymore, considering that superannuation has been around for a very long time. That misconception is somehow that the money that is paid to superannuation is the employer's money, not the employee's money. I want to make sure that people in my electorate know that isn't the case and that, if you work, part of the money you earn is superannuation and you are due that superannuation. You should be paid that superannuation. That superannuation is for your benefit, particularly in your retirement.

I will also say that, whilst there's always some controversy around superannuation—I know there was when it was first introduced—it has proved to be a very wise political and economical way of dealing with an ageing population. The fact that we can look into our forward liabilities with our senior Australians and know that we've got close to $2 trillion worth of money sitting in superannuation I think has been a very wise thing.

I take a view that I also want to allow people, particularly some of the poorer people in my patch, to afford houses, and I think that there is value in some superannuation being allowed to be a deposit on a house, particularly where wages are low and housing prices are low but rents are high and there's capacity for people in my patch to service a loan on a house. For example, they might be able to service a loan on a house for $270 a week. The price of a house in my patch can be as low as $185,000, but the difficulty is getting that deposit to get started; therefore, they're precluded from eventually becoming homeowners and are stuck being renters for too long. I think that superannuation should be broadened to that, but that is, I guess, a sideline to this particular piece of legislation.

The disclosure of information will be clearer under this bill so that the Australian tax office will be able to look in a lot more detail to ensure that a person who should be paying superannuation is actually doing so. I think that's always been a little bit difficult, and I'm pretty pleased that there are some additional provisions around ensuring that there's clearer disclosure of information.

Can I also say that the government is making it easier for small businesses with the Single Touch Payroll for employers of 19 or fewer employees. I note that many of the breaches by not paying superannuation are by some of our smaller businesses with a turnover of less than $2 million. I think that's probably the example in my patch as well. We don't have many big multinational companies in the electorate of Mallee; we have smaller, family-owned businesses, and there are examples of some of them just not getting their bookkeeping right. Making it simpler is part of the answer, as well as making it known.

I think that's something that we also need to be thinking through. There also needs to be a big-stick approach. Of course, employers must pay an employee's superannuation. But, for those smaller businesses, it also needs to be made easier, and that's what we're trying to do in this piece of legislation as well. For those small businesses that have a turnover of $2 million or less, we need to be very clear on this: that's turnover. Many farming businesses might only employ two or three people but might easily have a turnover of $2 million or more. People have a perception sometimes, if they haven't run a business, that $2 million is a lot of money. Well, $2 million might be what you spend, and what you get back in the actual take-home pay might only be $50,000. I think that making it easier for those businesses that have small turnovers is essential, and it's a complementary part of this legislation.

One of the things that I have been very mindful of is the tax cuts that have just recently gone through this chamber and the Senate. Can I say that 73.8 per cent—if you look at our statistics—of people in the electorate of Mallee earn under $87,000 a year. We're not a high-wage-earning electorate. They have been very mindful that there has not been a lot of opportunity recently for significant pay rises in their pay packets. Cost-of-living pressures, I think, are very firmly felt by people who live in my patch, because public transport is not readily available in many of our country towns, so having to drive is an extra expense, with fuel at 160c a litre, so $1.60 a litre. People have to travel. Most of my electorate are going to get $530 a year as a tax refund. That will, I think, be very beneficial for them. It's just a small way of saying that, wherever possible, we want to make sure that you keep your money in your pocket rather than us taking it.

I note that on my Facebook page some people have said to me, 'Keep your $10 a week and spend it on hospitals and schools.' Whenever I've then contacted them and said, 'There are some really good schools and health services in the electorate of Mallee that would happily receive a donation of $530'—the Wimmera Cancer Centre is being built because of donations—those people have gone all quiet on me. Ultimately that's not a bad argument. If they want to give away their additional savings, they can do that, because it's their money to spend. In my view that's how a government should run—that is, we should provide essential services, but ultimately wherever possible we should ensure that the Australians who make money have a say on how their money is spent.

The principle that you make a country wealthier by making its citizens wealthier is a very sound one. You create a framework for those who get out of bed earlier than others and for those who take a risk as opposed to those who don't. If those people receive more in doing so, you can lift their—and, ultimately, the country's—standard of living. You do not create wealth by taking away from the rich and giving to the poor; you create wealth by creating incentives across a broader economy so that those who get out of bed get more.

Ultimately that gives us a strong economy, but the economy itself should not be the end point for anyone in this place; the economy is simply the engine to deliver the type of society that you want. In my patch I want a very fair society where people have opportunity. With your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker Georganas—I have been very pleased to see prosperity in the township of Mildura as a result of free trade agreements. That has been a good thing. There are jobs and money. You know what else I've seen? I've seen small-business people say, 'We do not want a town where our young people and our Indigenous are going to miss out.' Some small businesses in my town have been very proactive about Indigenous employment. If you walk around Mildura, you don't see people in our Indigenous community sitting on the river, drunk with nothing to do; you see young Indigenous fellas saying, 'I'm going to do an apprenticeship,' or, 'I'm going to go to university.'

Businesses—one of them formerly Fishers Supermarkets—have worked out how to be culturally relevant workplaces, and people are engaged in ensuring that the economy is the engine for us to deliver the type of society we have in our region. Some exciting things are going on. When you introduce economic growth into a regional town the outworkings of that initially become an incentive for financial gain, but after that they very quickly become opportunities for ensuring that regional Australia addresses some of our societal concerns. I also point out that we have seen this with a group called Sunassist, volunteers assisting people in our region who have mobility issues. People who have a strong economy can also develop a good society.

This bill is about ensuring that a person who works hard, puts in and thinks they're getting paid superannuation actually gets paid superannuation. This bill is about ensuring that those who have not been paid superannuation, be it because of neglect or because of oversight, get their entitlement over the next 12 months. It is a fair warning to any employer that, whilst there's patience for a short period of time to ensure that we can collect the money, that patience from the federal government's perspective will run out. If you're not paying your superannuation guarantee to your employee, you will receive the full wrath of the law: up to 12 months imprisonment.

I also say that we want superannuation funds to be transparent. One of the things that concerns me—as a young man with very small amount of superannuation, having been not a very good shearer and not a very good farm worker, I remember having $6,000 worth of superannuation—is the fees that went on that superannuation. It seemed that it was going backwards faster than it was going forwards. That meant that I wasn't going to be able to retire until I was about 485 at the current savings rate I had on my super. We also want transparency in our superannuation funds for those who have small balances. We want to make sure those balances are protected and that they're protected for the young.

I think that, ultimately, even more needs to be done in the space of ensuring that people can compare like with like when it comes to superannuation funds. For many people, superannuation funds are too complex, and I want to ensure that, when they come to working out where they're placing their money for their future retirements, it's clear what the earnings are, clear what the fees are and clear how they can access it. I think we are getting to that space, but I don't think we're quite at that space now.

This is a good bill. It's a step in the right direction. Superannuation is your money; you earn it. I say to those employers in my patch: not paying workers' superannuation will no longer be tolerated. Too much of it goes on in my region, and this is a step in the right direction to ensure that you will get caught if you do the wrong thing. You will get prosecuted, and those prosecutions are very, very firm: up to 12 months in jail. People are working hard for their money. They deserve to keep it. They deserve to be able to make provision for their retirement. This is a good bill. Thank you.