Labor are committed to Australia’s superannuation system and any changes that will make it stronger are fairer. Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones MP outlined the reasons for this in his second reading speech:
Labor has a very proud track record when it comes to superannuation and we'll continue to fight for a stronger and fairer superannuation system. Because a few things have been said in this parliament today about the role of the Australian trade union movement in respect of superannuation, I want to take the opportunity to acknowledge the great contribution that the Australian union movement has made, together with the Australian Labor Party, in establishing our modern superannuation system.
Labor and the union movement won compulsory employer-paid superannuation through national worker-led campaigns, together with legislative action in this parliament to put together what today is a universal workplace right to occupational superannuation—a right that, in my lifetime, was once available only to politicians, public servants, senior managers and long-serving employees in certain industries, such as the banking and financial industries. Today, it is a universal right and one that is enjoyed by the people who attend us around this parliament, whether they're cleaning our offices or helping us here in the chamber, by the members of parliament, and by other parliamentary staff. It is a universal right.
Labor have publicly stated support for the principle of choice. The reasons are articulated in Stephen Jones MP’s second reading speech:
Labor supports the objects of this bill which are to provide choice in superannuation, but we're committed to ensuring that every worker is in a high-performing fund and that adequate information is available to empower consumers with the information that they need to make choices that are in their own best interests. What is clear is that people do want to make the right choice and do want to have the right to choose their super fund, and the law should support that. But we also are very cognisant of the fact—a fact brought into stark relief by the Hayne royal commission into the financial services industry—that, often, a lot of evil can be done in the name of choice. We want to ensure that workers are not forced into funds either ill-informed of the consequence of those choices or because some other contrary or corollary arrangements have been made by an employer in a workplace with a proponent of that fund which is not in the worker's interests. People are already voting with their feet. In the last 12 months, $20 billion has moved into the not-for-profit sector, with consumers in search of lower fees and higher performance. Choice is already happening.
The Senate Economics Legislation Committee is currently inquiring into the provisions of this bill, and Labor reserves our position on the proposed choice of fund changes until after the Senate committee has reported. We are using the Senate inquiry process to ensure that there are no unforeseen consequences. A lot of evil has been done in the past in the name of choice. It's blatantly obvious that if a consumer, if a worker, is to have choice then that should go hand in hand with them having all of the information available to them. The choice has to be a genuine one. We want to ensure that consumers are empowered with the information they'll need to make choices in their best interest. I foreshadow that Labor will be moving amendments to the Treasury Laws Amendment (Your Superannuation, Your Choice) Bill in the Senate at the conclusion of the ongoing Senate inquiry.
Labor referred the Super Choice legislation to this inquiry to ensure the bill had no unforeseen or unintended consequences which left superfund members worse off or with less choice.
Labor notes the evidence given by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Electrical Trade Union, Maurice Blackburn, McKell Institute of Victoria, Industry Super Australia, TWU Super and the National Tertiary Education Union in opposition to the bill.
Labor notes in 2.40 of the Committee report the ACTU highlight the detrimental effects that the bill could have on defined benefit product offerings.
Labor notes in 2.62 of the Committee report that Unisuper gave evidence that highlighted the detrimental effect that the bill unamended could have on their defined benefit product offering.
Labor note that in 2.63 of the Committee report that Unisuper have provided to the committee an amendment that addresses their concerns.
Labor Senators support this amendment and believe that any risk to defined benefit offerings lessens choice and achieves the opposite objective to what the bill intends.
Labor support the principle and important role of collective bargaining in Australia’s industrial relations system and note that the NTEU, ETU and TWU argued their members were better off as a result of collective bargaining.
The ACTU provided evidence to suggest that the bill could include a provision that allows for workers to bargain for a single fund or set of funds, where it is determined by the Fair Work Commission it is in their best interests.
Senator PATRICK: You say that a resolution to this could be an alternate or an amended bill that permits a super fund to be nominated in an EBA but with an opt-out provision?
Mr Mitchell : That could be explored. I think it would be interesting to see how that would be presented. Similarly, there is an amendment that we would advocate for, which is one that was put in the last parliament, which allows the Fair Work Commission to make a ruling over a clause as a line item, essentially saying, 'Are these workers better off for having this kind of restriction in their agreement?' That would take into account, in our mind and in the previous parliament's amendment's mind, whether or not the insurance is appropriate for workers—like in the TWUSUPER case, where there is no affordable insurance offering in the same way—or whether or not those employers are at a higher risk of unpaid super. It would be an ability for the Fair Work Commission and an independent tribunal to make a ruling saying, 'In this case, and for this agreement, we believe that the workers are better off.' Perhaps, as part of that amendment, we can explore ways to say that if the clause has a way to deal with multiple accounts that should be considered in that clause's favour. If it doesn't, it should be to the detriment of that clause.
That Unisuper’s suggested amendment referenced at 2.62 of the Committee report be adopted to allow the continued operation of open Defined Benefit Schemes.
That any amendments include a provision that allow for workers to bargain for a single fund or set of funds, where it is determined by the Fair Work Commission it is in their best interests.
That the bill be passed subject to recommendations 1 and 2 being adopted.
Deputy ChairCommittee Member
Senator Kimberley KitchingSenator Jenny McAllister