DR ANNE ALY MP
MEMBER FOR COWAN
TREASURY LAWS AMENDMENT (YOUR SUPERANNUATION, YOUR CHOICE) BILL 2019
SECOND READING SPEECH
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WEDNESDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2020
I rise to speak on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Your Superannuation, Your Choice) Bill 2019. Much has already been said about this bill. I think we had a fair time debating this bill in the House yesterday, and as I was sitting in my office I heard the familiar twang of the member for Goldstein, delivering one of his usually very fervent diatribes. I stopped to listen, to see what the member for Goldstein was saying about this bill, thinking he might be defending the bill and that he might be debating the merits of the bill and defending the government's position on the bill and the reasons this bill is necessary. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, because the member for Goldstein, in attacking Labor and Labor's standing up for workers, took his time to deliver what, to my mind, can only be described as a really quite curious case of hypocrisy.
That said, and considering that we have had some time to debate this bill, I would like to take the time to look at the merits of the bill and examine it in a little more detail, adding, of course, to the debate that has gone before me, particularly from my Labor colleagues on this side of the House. They have pointed out Labor's position on the bill and the reasons we are reserving our position on the bill until we've had a full Senate inquiry, and why we're proceeding cautiously. While we support the principle and intent of the bill, we are proceeding cautiously around some of the aspects of the bill.
To begin, the bill really is a single schedule, just providing that employees under workplace determinations or enterprise agreements made on or after 1 July 2020 have the right to choose their superannuation fund. It seems very simple indeed, doesn't it? And don't we all want the right to be able to determine our own financial future? Don't we all want the right to be able to choose the products on which we spend our hard-earned money. So, choice in superannuation is something that Labor supports. That is why we have a proud track record when it comes to superannuation and why we want to continue to fight for a stronger and fairer superannuation system.
We are also committed to making sure that every worker is in a high-performing fund and that adequate information is available to empower consumers with the information they need to make choices in their best interests. As many on this side have pointed out, while we do support choice, we also want to have those safeguards in place to ensure that that choice is made in a very informed way and that the bill actually does deliver what it intends to deliver. To that effect, the shadow minister put forward some amendments to the bill. Particularly, those amendments point to and speak to Labor's commitment to superannuation, because those amendments ask that the House notes that too many Australians retire without adequate retirement savings. Isn't that a fact?
People in my electorate, for example, are coming to me at the age of 60, having just been made redundant after working for 30 years for a company that has either not contributed to their superannuation or not adequately contributed to their superannuation, or they just didn't have any superannuation. Those people are now facing not just the next few years in poverty, being unable to pay their bills and unable to get a job, but, given the fact that Australians are living longer, they're also facing at least 20 and perhaps even 30 years in that condition. It particularly adversely affects women and older women, who are more likely to live in poverty in their later years.
So, I think the amendment the shadow minister moved—that the House notes that too many Australians retire without adequate retirement savings—is perfectly reasonable and entirely appropriate. The other part of the amendment that was moved by the shadow minister reaffirms the commitment to the legislated superannuation guarantee rise to 12 per cent by 2025. I'll come back to that a little later.
Our position on the bill as it stands at the moment is that we note that the Senate Economics Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into this bill, so we reserve our position on the proposed choice-of-fund changes until after the Senate committee has made its report. In other words, we want to see scrutiny of the bill. We want this bill to be scrutinised, and for good reason. I'll go through some of those reasons.
The first reason is that we aren't quite sure of the unintended consequences of this bill and whether there will be any adverse consequences of this bill. Concerns have been raised about employees, for example, being forced by their employers into superannuation funds which are underperforming and may be substandard compared to the employees' existing entitlements. This parliament hasn't fully explored the unintended consequences of the bill in that regard.
In a submission to the previous Senate inquiry on the bill, Industry Super Australia indicated that, of those employees covered by enterprise agreements, only 7.4 per cent have no choice of superannuation fund. That's a very small percentage, 7.4 per cent. In actual fact that represents just 1.9 per cent of the workforce. It seems a remarkably small percentage of the workforce that actually have no choice in their super fund. Even within super funds there are choices. When I was an academic, I was on UniSuper, and I know, for example, that UniSuper offers you choice within the UniSuper fund. The industries which have the highest percentage of people who have no choice are education, retail, construction, public administration, wholesaling, electricity and agriculture. There are questions around that which I think the Senate committee should be looking into.
But, whilst we support choice and the intentions of the bill, one of the most pressing and important reasons why Labor reserves its right to fully support this bill and would like to see further scrutiny of this bill in a Senate committee is this government's track record on superannuation and its ideological opposition to industry super funds. Forgive me for being cynical, but part of me thinks that perhaps this bill is just a manifestation of that ideological opposition to industry super funds. My concern is that this ideological opposition to industry super funds goes even further amongst some members of the Liberal-National party caucus. Recently we've seen Senator Bragg call for all kinds of superannuation to be made voluntary for people earning under $50,000.
Absolutely, backed up by another Liberal senator, as my colleague here says. We also had a WA Senator, Gerard Rennick, describe superannuation as a cancer. Describing superannuation as a cancer is absolutely extraordinary, if you ask me. When you have statements like that coming from the other side, I think it's perfectly natural, it's due diligence and it's the right step to take to ask that any legislation that even touches upon superannuation be fully scrutinised and looked over with a fine-tooth comb, because you simply cannot trust that side of the House when it comes to ensuring Australians have the right superannuation, have access to superannuation and are guaranteed superannuation so they do not have to live in poverty in their ageing years.
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