Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2022


Australian Taxation Office

5:39 pm

Photo of Andrew BraggAndrew Bragg (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

I really appreciate the opportunity to take note of this important document in relation to the government co-contribution for low-income earners, which of course is one of the various superannuation programs that the Commonwealth government runs. It is very important to note in relation to this matter that there has been significant debate in this chamber and beyond this parliament about the government's approach to the matter of superannuation transparency. One of the first acts of this government in this space was in relation to the stripping of transparency measures that were put in place in the last parliament and required the disclosure of payments from superannuation funds to unions.

Minister Jones in the other place decided that was his No. 1 priority—to strip transparency so that workers could no longer see how much money their super fund was paying to a union. It's really shameful stuff. After a debate in in this place, where Senator Pocock moved a disallowance and there was extensive discussion about why on earth this was a priority of the government, I note that there are now additional disallowances that have appeared on the papers, including one from Senator McKim. I think that is an important development. It also reminds me of the reporting in today's newspaper about the prospect of improving the transparency arrangements in this area across the board. I think everyone wants to see the compulsory savings scheme being the most transparent of any government program because we are going into people's pay packets, taking 10½ per cent of their money and sending it off to someone else to manage. The idea that we are not going to allow transparency is fundamentally flawed, and that's why I welcome the proposed disallowance from Senator McKim and the other initiatives that have been engaged in this space. We want to see complete transparency. Whether the funds are being run by a financial services business—be it an insurance company or a bank—or by an employer group, a trade union or a collective, the idea that their workers and their members are prohibited from seeing when their money is being sent off to a related party is fundamentally flawed and cannot stand.

The last time we considered this matter in this chamber, the disallowance was defeated, and we now have a situation where funds have been able to table their members' statements without the transparency which appeared in our regulations from government. In the case of AustralianSuper, which is one of the household names, they are now able to conceal $100 million in related party transactions. In addition to that, they are able to hide $1 million in payments to unions. We don't know which unions those funds have been paid to. As a result of this change made by Minister Jones, you can now receive more transparent information about the whereabouts of superannuation contributions from the AEC website than you can from the members' statement. The last time I looked, there weren't too many members of superannuation funds trawling through the paper records of the Electoral Commission to work out where their money had been paid to a union. The whole point of the members' statements was to make it digestible so that a person could say, 'Okay, this fund that I'm a member of is paying $100,000 to union A,' or, 'This fund that I'm a member of is paying $500 to a financial services company, related party B.' That principle has been removed from these regulations, but I am now much more confident than I was a month ago that we will be returning transparency for these members, who should be able to see exactly where their money is being paid. I look forward to seeing that, and I thank the Senate for the opportunity to make these remarks in relation to this report.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.


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