Thursday, 21 June 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Human Services, Senator Kim Carr. Can the minister inform the Senate what the government is doing to help small businesses meet their obligations to look after superannuation for their workers?
I thank Senator Singh for her concern for the superannuation rights of the five million Australians who are employed by small business. This week the Department of Human Services is running a nationwide campaign to promote the Small Business Superannuation Clearing House. This service allows businesses with fewer than 20 staff to pay their workers' super contributions in one electronic transaction. The DHS clearing house then distributes the superannuation contributions to the nominated funds. It cuts the level of red tape for managers and it brings security for workers. All those benefits come at no cost to the business or to workers. It is a smarter, faster and cheaper way to operate. That is why business strongly endorses this service.
Increasing numbers of business owners are looking to the Commonwealth to help look after their workers. In the first two years of its operation, the clearing house has already transferred more than 560,000 individual payments, valued at some $316 million. Over 150,000 employees in some 24,000 small businesses are covered by the program, but we of course have the capacity to service many more. That is why we want to make sure that more businesses sign up to help secure the future of Australian superannuation for workers in small business.
There have been some suggestions that we need to reduce the flexibility of the scheme and the rights of workers rather than help businesses support the choices of their employees. But we are not in the business of providing a second-best option. Superannuation is a great Labor reform. It provides security for a quality retirement for many millions of workers and their families. This is a legacy that we will not compromise. By enabling them to draw upon the support of a quality public service, we will empower businesses to empower their staff. This is the return on our investment in public enterprise. We do not have to join the Liberal Party in the race to the bottom. We can implement the innovative and creative solutions that Australians deserve. (Time expired)
This government knows that there is a creative role for the public sector in building our nation. I strongly endorse the value of good public administration. In my portfolio alone, there are countless examples, one being the jobs and skills expos which have put more than 20,000 people into work in some of the most disadvantaged regions in the country. This is how the public sector helps to build our economy.
Senator Conroy interjecting—
Senator Conroy, you are quite right. There are those opposite who do not share our vision, because essentially they are backward in their approach. They are not interested in supporting Australian workers, because essentially they have a Neanderthal attitude to the development of social policy in this country. As Senator Conroy well knows, those knuckle-draggers opposite refuse to fulfil their obligations to the Australian people. (Time expired)