Monday, 4 December 2017
The problem with the Australian Labor Party is that they're so inconsistent. Here, on Thursday, they ran an argument passionately and energetically on how these bills should not be part of the government's agenda this week. Over the weekend, I've reflected on the arguments put eloquently by Senator Wong. On reflection, Senator Wong persuaded me of the merits of her argument. When they came into the chamber, imagine my surprise that the Labor Party position had changed.
I wonder why Labor were fighting tooth and nail last week to stop the government from putting this legislation into our agenda. I suspect that that was because Labor was worried that there was majority support in this chamber for this legislation. I'm wondering why Labor are now fighting tooth and nail in trying to stop the government from removing the bill from the program for this week. Would that be because Labor think there is now no consensus in the chamber in support of this legislation? Here we have Senator Wong trying to suggest all sorts of motivations and trying to suggest that, somehow, the government is alone in making judgements on whether or not there is majority support for a particular proposition in this chamber—a chamber in which neither the government nor the opposition have majority support. But, of course, that is what it is.
Last week, the government thought that there was majority support for these very important reforms to our superannuation governance arrangements. On these matters related to superannuation, where Labor acts as an agent of the commercial interests of the union movement, it's very hard to have a rational conversation on good public policy with the Labor Party. So, of course, we must engage with the crossbench in relation to these matters, and so we have. As it turns out, there are some matters that remain unresolved and that will be the subject of further conversations. It is only good management and good practice that, in order to facilitate the formation of the good consensus across the chamber that is behind good public policy, we now take this course of action in adjourning debate on these bills. As Senator Fifield has made very clear to the chamber, the government will not be bringing these bills back this week. In fact, we will only bring these bills back if and when there is consensus on and support of these bills in a form that is acceptable to a majority of senators in the Senate. Yes, we will continue to work on good public policy, because we believe it's important for the retirement savings of Australians to be properly protected and for the retirement savings of Australians to be able to maximise net investment returns. We believe that there is some serious need for improved governance standards, in particular when it comes to industry super.
Incidentally, there are quite a number of industry funds that already deploy the one-third, one-third, one-third model, where one-third of the directors are independent directors—and you know what? They're better for it. But there are some major funds that have particularly passionate agents of the Labor Party who are promoting their commercial interests in this chamber and who are resisting it tooth and nail, not because it is in the best interests of working people but because it's in the best interests of union-dominated industry funds and—of course—their paymasters, the union movement.
I don't really want to hold up the chamber any more. I just want to say that the reason the government's position has changed on the non-inclusion of these bills in the program this week is precisely the same reason that the Labor Party position has changed. Let's not kid ourselves: the Labor Party has precisely the same reasons for why they have changed their position—I see that Senator Cameron is engaging in some last-minute crossbench lobbying. In order to not facilitate that for too much longer, I now conclude my remarks.