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Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Page: 9825

Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate) (11:30): Firstly, let me say, as the government has previously indicated, that we believe funding arrangements are appropriate but, of course, always under review. Let me also indicate that the government will not be supporting these amendments. These amendments seek to retain the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal so that AFCA will not be able to hear and determine superannuation complaints. Instead of a one-stop shop, we would be left with a two-stop shop. Under a one-stop shop, consumers will be able to approach one body to resolve all financial disputes, eliminating uncertainty, confusion, inconsistency of outcomes and the cross-referral of disputes between bodies. Where a complaint covers multiple providers within the financial system, managing these complaints will be smoother. The one-stop shop will remove the current duplication associated with multiple external dispute resolution bodies, such as duplicated governance arrangements, systems, overheads and costs associated with regulatory oversight. A one-stop shop will also be better able to respond to unanticipated changes in dispute volumes and to reallocate resources from those areas experiencing a reduction in dispute volumes to those areas experiencing higher dispute volumes. For example, in the event of a natural disaster like a flood or a cyclone, AFCA will be able to increase resources in areas where disputes may increase, such as in the area of general insurance claims. A one-stop shop will have much more flexibility and direct control over its funding and dispute resolution processes. This will allow a more timely resolution of superannuation complaints.

Again, the Ramsay review found that maintaining a tribunal structure to resolve superannuation complaints would not provide the flexibility needed to adapt to changes in the superannuation sector and that existing pressures would only increase in the absence of significant reform. This is why I indicated before that the government is acting on the independent advice of the expert Ramsay review panel, which recommended an industry dispute resolution scheme as a more flexible and effective model than a tribunal. I would also like to remind the chamber again that the overwhelming majority of submissions to the Ramsay review expressed concerns that a statutory tribunal would be legalistic, inflexible and costly, delivering worse outcomes for consumers, and that key consumer groups, including the Consumer Action Law Centre, the Financial Rights Legal Centre and Financial Counselling Australia, have indicated their primary position remains that the best framework for dispute resolution in the financial system is a single industry ombudsman scheme for all disputes, including superannuation disputes.

I would also take this opportunity to comment on a related matter that was mentioned by Senator Whish-Wilson, referencing the view of CPSU members at the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal. I would note that only 12 employees of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal are members of the CPSU. The CPSU does not speak for or represent all employees of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal, or rather ASIC, as they are actually ASIC employees. So, with those few comments, I indicate the government's opposition to these amendments.