Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Treasury Legislation Amendment (Unclaimed Money and Other Measures) Bill 2012; Consideration in Detail
I move amendment (1) as circulated in my name:
(1) Clause 2, page 2 (table item 2), omit the table item, substitute:
Submissions from the Australian Bankers' Association (ABA), the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) suggested three years was too short a period of inactivity to deem an account unclaimed, particularly given the growing number and type of accounts that customers intentionally leave inactive for extended periods.
Submissions from institutions provided to the committee also challenged the government’s claim that owners of inactive accounts would be better off once the money in those accounts was transferred, with examples provided of many accounts where interest paid on those accounts was currently higher than CPI or inflation.
In relation to this measure, the coalition thinks that it is particularly disturbing that information provided by Treasury confirmed that they were unable to quantify the number of affected accounts. Treasury did not even know how many accounts were going to be affected but mentioned that approximately 14,000 accounts were transferred to ASIC last financial year. When questioned whether inactive accounts of active customers—for example, customers with other active accounts would be excluded—Treasury simply stated that the definition of unclaimed moneys had not changed.
It is important to note that the test for unclaimed moneys within the legislation before the House is whether or not a transaction has occurred on that account, not whether or not you have other active accounts within one institution. When the coalition pressed Treasury around current statistics for bank accounts that will be impacted by this legislation, they were only able to refer to current data under the current seven-year time limit. Of the accounts listed in ASIC's database that were transferred in the 2012 financial year, half had a balance below $1,275 and the mean account balance was approximately $4,400. Perhaps the most disturbing feature was the current largest unclaimed bank account listed in the ASIC database was for $992,750 in Carlisle, in Western Australia. If this is what is going on on ASIC's register after seven years, then how many people are going to be affected after three years? The government does not know. The coalition deems this to be an unsatisfactory policy motivation. The coalition will also move an amendment to delay the implementation date of schedule 2 to this bill, which deals with the changes to first home saver accounts, for similar reasons to that which I have outlined for the delay of schedule 1. Our amendments will also delay the start date of schedule 4 of this bill which amends unclaimed moneys in superannuation. This delay will provide a more timely introduction for the government, given the autoconsolidation changes that are due to commence on 1 January 2014.
In short, we are giving everyone time to properly consider this legislation and to properly implement it. The policy intent might be there, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer is right to say we had similar in principle unclaimed policy proposals under our government. But this government is just doing a fix to try and get the budget to surplus this year. That is all it is about, and quite frankly we are not going to cop it because we will not support legislation that is fundamentally flawed and adds to the red tape burden of everyone on an everyday basis.
The question is that opposition amendment (1) be agreed to. I think the ayes have it. Do the noes have it? Is a division required? In accordance with the resolution agreed to earlier, the division is deferred until the conclusion of the discussion of a matter of public importance. The debate on this item is therefore adjourned until that time.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Having been in the House when you called the result of that vote, I would ask that you review the proceedings between now and when you have indicated the debate may take place on this matter. My distinct recollection of the last few minutes is that the amendments were determined by the vote that was taken here. There was no voice calling for no and there was no call for a division before you declared the matter.
Opposition members interjecting—
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (12:27): I called for noes and there was a no. The member for North Sydney and the parliamentary secretary will resume their seats. I said: 'The ayes have it?' and the ayes said yes, which is often the case in a division. I then called for noes and, although there was a quiet no, there was a no and I asked if a division were required.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I do not want to reflect in any way upon the chair, but I distinctly did not hear—and I am sitting right here—any members on the other side of the House call out no when you invited them to do so. Therefore you declared the vote in our favour. I would ask you to refer the matter to the Speaker for checking the tapes, because I think you acted entirely properly. There were no declared noes against the amendment; therefore, the matter is passed. If the government seeks to have the matter resubmitted for a vote at a later time, then that is something it can discuss with us. But I did distinctly hear that there was no dissenting voice.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (12:28): The member for North Sydney will resume his seat, as will the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer.
I ask for a similar opportunity to what you gave the member for North Sydney. There were clearly two voices for no, and if they have a problem hearing that is their problem and not ours. There were clearly two noes.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER (12:29): I did call for the noes. I started by calling if the ayes had it, as would normally be the case: you would call for the ayes and not immediately call for the noes. They were very quiet noes, I will admit.
Mr Ripoll interjecting—
Mr Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I ask that this matter be referred to the Speaker for consideration and that the Speaker advise the House prior to any vote that is being held over until after the MPI. I think that is a perfectly reasonable approach. Mr Deputy Speaker, I am not suggesting that you were in any way wrong, but I do suggest that, long after the vote was declared, there was a voice of dissent. Let the tapes determine that. I really do urge you to do that, Mr Deputy Speaker.
Mr Deputy Speaker, on the point of order: if it helps the House, if I was too quiet on this occasion—although I made it quite clear that it was a no and I looked at you at that point; you may not have seen me or heard my the voice—I ask that you call it again and I will make sure that I yell it very loudly. We can go to the video ref as many times as you like. My intent was clear. The no was clear. If others did not hear it, that is their problem. I am asking you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to consider that the intent was clear—and it is quite clear what we are trying to do—and re-put the question. If you are concerned that somehow it was not loud enough—it was loud but not loud enough—I am prepared to make it as loud as necessary to ensure that it is loud enough. No-one questions that it was loud; it was just not loud enough.
I thank the parliamentary secretary. I have ruled that the noes have it and that there will be a deferred division. That will be an opportunity for the House to decide on the amendment. There are divisions yet to be taken.