Thursday, 18 June 2020
Treasury Laws Amendment (Your Superannuation, Your Choice) Bill 2019; In Committee
Senator Whish-Wilson, potentially I was misleading the chamber, because I wasn't responding to your statement; I was responding to Senator Paterson's question. He did have a question. He had a question about whether I knew of any superannuation fund members out there who felt that they had been denied choice, particularly those that were part of UniSuper—which was pertinent to your amendment specifically, Senator Whish-Wilson, because it was in fact UniSuper that drafted that first amendment, or drafted the draft of the amendment that I think you then presented to the chamber today. And I know that because they presented the same draft of the same amendment to me.
We questioned them. In fact, I think I spent about an hour on the phone with UniSuper, just trying to understand what their objection was, and they couldn't explain it. They kept saying, 'It's difficult. It's the actuarial numbers; they don't stack up.' I was going, 'Well, explain it to us. Give us a good crack,' because we had a few actuaries in the office. Even the actuaries in the office said, 'No, I don't think you're right here.' UniSuper can't explain why their business model doesn't stack up—or it only stacks up if you deny choice. I don't think the government is in the business of propping up a business model that doesn't stack up without people wanting to get into it, without people choosing to get into it. And many people will choose to get into UniSuper, because it is a good fund. It does a good job. But I think it can continue to be a good fund and continue to do a good job without the need to compel people to go into it, compel people to have multiple funds and compel people to have two sets of fees and two sets of insurances. That just doesn't seem logical.
And, going back to what that member of UniSuper said, why would we discriminate against academics over anybody else? I find this very strange, coming from the Greens, because I know you are very big supporters of academia. Certainly, in your earlier line of questioning, Senator Whish-Wilson, you were explaining the profound importance that academia plays in our lives and how we want to be able to support the university sector. That does seem to be at cross-purposes with this amendment.
Sorry, I've ignored you, Senator Paterson. I didn't mean to do that, because I do have some more examples of employees who have felt that they would like to be out of a particular fund and would like to have choice, something that most Australians have—although around 800,000 or so Australians at the moment have either restricted choice or no choice at all. They would like to be treated as fairly as those other Australians who do have choice.
Another employee of an ACT university wrote to the government complaining about UniSuper's 'uncooperativeness' in rolling over her super into her main fund. She noted the significant fees that she being forced to pay to maintain an account that she did not want. Now, that is unfair. That is unfair. If we are to support people to work in academia, why would we treat them so badly? You're absolutely right; we want people to work in academia. But, if we're going to treat them like this, surely that would be a disincentive, not an incentive, to work in academia.
In Queensland, an employee of a Queensland university wrote to the government with concerns that UniSuper was engaging in political activities that she disagreed with. I really don't want to get into the ideological wars of superannuation—