House debates

Monday, 18 February 2019

Bills

Treasury Laws Amendment (Protecting Your Superannuation Package) Bill 2018; Consideration of Senate Message

4:54 pm

Photo of Clare O'NeilClare O'Neil (Hotham, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Justice) Share this | Hansard source

I'm really pleased to make some comments on the Treasury Laws Amendment (Protecting Your Superannuation Package) Bill 2018. It's very important that we use this opportunity to set the record straight, because what the government has done on this bill is a complete disgrace. It just shows the incredible chaos and dysfunction and disingenuousness which we are seeing govern this country at the moment, and it has to be recorded for the benefit of this parliament. I want to note, before I get into the detail of this, the sneaky way in which this was done, because the government moved amendments to gut the central purpose of this bill on Thursday afternoon, after members of this House and all of the press gallery had gone home—I think, hoping that no-one would notice. Of course, Labor noticed. These sorts of sneaky tricks that the government play may not always make the front page of the newspaper, but we do need to hold them to account.

The amendments to this bill that the government are moving take out what they said was the most critical part of this bill. They have done something that is completely at odds with the interests of ordinary Australians. I know that to be the case because those on the other side stood in this parliament, day after day after day, told us how crucial the schedule of the bill was, but they then voted to remove it in the other place on Thursday afternoon.

This bill has a really important intention. The intention of the bill is to protect people who are not well served today by our superannuation system—young people, for example, who tend to accumulate lots of different superannuation accounts as they go from job to job, and people on low incomes who might be taking a long break from work—they might be unemployed for a long period of time—and yet all the while they've got insurance charges being taken out of their accounts. A lot of those people don't need insurance. I know that they don't need insurance.

But we had the member for Higgins and the member for Kooyong standing up, day after day, harassing Labor for some reason—Labor, who supported this bill—for not being able to get it through the Senate, instead of supporting Labor's amendments to this bill. They would have made sure that people who do need insurance—those who are working 40 storeys up on a building site, for example—were able to continue to be insured, and the young, vulnerable people, who the government said they were so worried about, could have been protected. That was the proposal that Labor put forward. But, instead, what the government did in the Senate on Thursday night was voted to remove the section completely. They actually voted with the Greens. I get terrified when those on other side start to partner with the Greens because, when they do it, it's always for the reason of politics. That's all this is.

What we have here is a government that is so scared of compromise—which is actually what we do here as a parliament—that it would prefer to take the central purpose of the bill away than agree to a position that was quite close to its own, actually, and that was the Labor Party's position. They have behaved like shrill, ridiculous hypocrites. I have had to sit there reading the newspaper, day after day, when for some reason the government was saying it's our fault that the Treasury Laws Amendment (Protecting Your Superannuation Package) hasn't passed the parliament—a bill that we supported! Here we have the government gutting their own legislation in order to not to have a loss in the Senate. I just want to read to you, just to give you a sense of the tone of the ridiculously shrill commentary coming from the other side, what the Treasurer said on 10 January 2019:

… we have legislation before the Parliament which is very important to getting the members' best interests advanced, in particularly this idea around allowing younger members to opt-in to insurance policies in their super.

That would give 5 million members the opportunity to choose and would save them up to $2 billion a year as well.

…   …   …

And for the life of me, I can't understand why the Labor Party seems to be blocking these important reforms endorsed by the Productivity Commission.

Indeed! But this Treasurer, having said that in January, instructed his senators on Thursday to remove this section of the bill entirely. I think it is pathetic. I think the minister should be in here explaining why, having argued that this was so critically important—having beaten his chest all summer and put things on the front pages of newspapers—he then said, 'We don't actually care about this. We're going to let those young people continue to pay charges for insurance that we know that they don't need.' I think it's pitiful, it is pathetic, and, if we needed an example to prove that these people have stopped governing for our country, that they exist for politics alone, then this is it.

Question agreed to.

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