Senate debates

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Bills

Treasury Laws Amendment (Your Superannuation, Your Choice) Bill 2019; In Committee

11:14 am

Photo of James PatersonJames Paterson (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I'm very pleased to have an opportunity to come down and participate in this committee stage of the debate, because I wasn't actually able to participate in the second reading stage of the debate. I have a number of thoughts I'd like to share with the chamber on this very important bill and perhaps a question or two that I'll ask the minister, given the opportunity.

One of the things that struck me about the second reading debate was the different philosophical approaches to the concept of choice. We had, on this side of the chamber, government senators, who I think correctly understand choice, which is that choice is something that individuals exercise themselves. They are informed by a range of sources of advice and information, they consider that carefully and then they exercise their choice to be a member of a super fund or a member of a different super fund, to shift from one super fund to the other.

On the other side of the chamber, we had Labor senators making some very interesting contributions on the question of choice. Labor senators, in fact, although they pretend to believe in choice, don't really believe in choice. They say they believe in choice. I think I heard Senator McAllister summing up for Labor senators at one point saying, 'As we have made clear in this debate, we believe in choice.' I'm not sure it was that clear in the debate that Labor senators believe in choice, because most of their contributions were about how workers really weren't best placed to make choices about their own financial future, they weren't best placed to decide for themselves how their retirement funds should be spent or where they should be placed and needed guidance and assistance in making the choice, and a concept of collective choice had to be exercised on their behalf, because they couldn't make informed choices themselves.

Of course, collective choice is not choice at all, if you dissent from the collective decision. If you are an individual worker and you want to place your retirement funds in a different super fund because you made the judgement it's in your best interest but the collective choice has been made on your behalf that you should not be allowed to do that, where is your choice? You don't get to exercise choice at all. That really comes down to the heart of this bill.

We on this side trust individuals to make decisions in their own best interest, appropriately advised, considering their retirement income, and those opposite don't trust them. Those opposite want to coerce them to do things they would not choose themselves and they want to pretend this is somehow collective choice. It's a very unusual approach to the idea of choice. So Minister, considering this issue of collective choice or individual choice, have there been any examples of workers who have tried to or have wished to exercise their own individual choice that's differed from the collective choice that was going to be imposed upon them? Have they been able to exercise that? If they haven't been able to, is there any way in which this bill might assist them to exercise that?

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