Senate debates

Tuesday, 24 August 2021



5:15 pm

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

I rise tonight to address the Senate on the question of superannuation policy. People will be aware that New South Wales has been enduring a very lengthy lockdown. One of the major issues that has come out of this lockdown has been the disproportionate impact on small businesses. It's all well and good for people who work in the public sector or for big businesses to be immune from the crisis, but it's the people who are in personal care sectors that are most affected. These are the travel agents, barbers and hairdressers, beauticians—the list goes on. One of the questions that comes up regularly in conversations I have with people who are working in these affected small-business sectors is: why can't they get access to their super like they could last year? Last year we put forward a very effective policy called early release super, which was very engaging for people. I think it is quite mean and nasty that we would deny people access to their own money above and beyond disaster support payments.

This takes me to a couple of policy ideas that I have. One is that there should be a permanent early release scheme for people. People can get access to their super now for IVF and lap-band surgery where trustees grant it. I think that, in the absence of the government wanting to put in place a permanent scheme, it is appropriate that trustees look upon the cases raised by small-business people in particular and grant them access to their own money—because it is, after all, their own money. If they are going to grant people access to their own money for IVF and lap-band surgery, and if small businesses are at risk of never recovering from the lockdowns, then they should be granted access to their super. I'm very happy to assist people in making those representations.

The other issue is that we need to pursue longer-term productivity-enhancing reforms. Super is a huge bet the nation has taken, and it is probably one of the riskiest policies we've ever enacted. Ten per cent of people's money goes off to these funds and they generally manage it quite poorly. I have already discussed how people are denied access to this money. It was given to the financial institutions and the unions by politicians 30 years ago for various political reasons—

Opposition Senators:

Opposition senators interjecting

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

I take the interjections. Here we go: the vested interest. They're defending the crooked super scheme. It's all crooked.

Opposition senators interjecting

I take the interjections. Once again, Labor will do anything for big super. You will do anything to defend super. Keep going—you're making my point for me. It's the party of vested interest. This is fantastic.

Opposition senators interjecting

Keep going. We'll look forward to clipping that loop later. I take the interjections. The point is that 30 years ago Paul Keating gave the keys to the city to the financial institutions and to the unions, and they have run this industry for themselves and not for the workers. The returns are poor relative to other options. One of the things we should be pursuing over the next little while is the Future Fund as an option for default super. It has outperformed all the average super funds and it's something I think could work very well.

The Labor Party want to bind people up in red tape and in opaque structures because they don't want people to run their own affairs. You believe in paternalism. You want to separate people from the money. You want the donations that flow through to the unions into your political party. It's all about money. What I'm interested in is pursuing policies which enable people to get control of their own affairs. We should be looking at ways to make the system work better because it's not working in the interests of people. Who could imagine that we would have a policy that is designed to reduce the costs of an ageing population that costs the taxpayer more than it saves? It doesn't work. It doesn't get people off the pension. All it does is line the coffers of the unions and the Labor Party, and they will defend that to the hilt. The Labor Party would rather save super than save Australia. That's why they're opposed to early release. They're opposed to any measure that is designed to improve the system for workers. You're not here for workers; you're here for yourselves. You're the party of vested interests. You should be ashamed of yourselves. We should pursue these reforms because they would improve outcomes for workers, and they're who we are here to serve.