Tuesday, 12 May 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. In response to a question on ABC yesterday about Australians being defrauded of their retirement savings, Senator Bragg said that fraud resulting from the government's early super access scheme was 'an immaterial component'. Is Senator Bragg correct?
About $10 billion or thereabouts in early release superannuation payments have been released back to the owners of that money—the people saving for their retirement—to help them deal with the challenging financial circumstances they are facing. There has been a comparatively minor incidence of fraud, which has been detected, which has been acted upon, and the interest of those impacted Australians will of course be looked after. Of course, that will be addressed as appropriate. But, let me tell you, this is an important program; it's a popular program. We will continue to take effective action to prevent fraud and, of course, to deal with it if and when it occurs. Anyone who commits fraud will have the book thrown at them.
While Australians facing financial hardship have resorted to accessing their retirement savings early in the absence of adequate government assistance, Senator Bragg has said, 'I think it's a good idea to have access regimes like this on a more permanent bases.' Does the minister agree with Senator Bragg?
As I've said in response to an earlier question, individual members and senators on the Liberal-Nationals side are free to express their views and to speak their mind. I know that, on the socialist side of the chamber, that is not so easy, but, on our side, people can speak their mind. As far as the government's position is concerned, the support measures we have put in place in the context of helping people to transition through the challenging period that we are going through now are temporary. They are not ongoing, and we are not considering making any of the temporary measures ongoing—not this one and not any of the other temporary measures.
There's just no truth to the premise of this question at all, because there's no proposition by government to go down that path. The government is not proposing to make that change. Early access to superannuation under hardship provisions is a longstanding arrangement and has been in place, I would think, since the inception of compulsory super, if not soon thereafter, and it's appropriate for that to be in place. It has been adjusted as we are going through this period to help Australian families get early access to their superannuation in the context of the hardship they may be facing, given the economic impact of the coronavirus crisis. That is entirely appropriate, but this is a temporary measure. We're not proposing to make it permanent. We don't think that would be appropriate, and that is not something that is on the table.