PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
THURSDAY, 11 MARCH 2021
SUBJECT: Josh Fryenberg’s investment cancellation power.
STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: The Government has introduced a bill into Parliament which gives the Treasurer extraordinary power. It's unprecedented. Effectively, the Treasurer will have the power to cancel the investments made by a superannuation fund if he doesn't agree with them. This should send a shiver down the spine of every business in the country.
It's a rare piece of legislation that can unite the interests of the business community, the minerals and mining industry and the environmental movement, but this bill will do exactly that. We're calling on the Government to withdraw the legislation and withdraw this extraordinary power. We're calling on the business community to back Labor in this call.
It's only a few months since the ANZ Bank made a rather uncontroversial decision to put climate risk in the list of issues that it considers when investing and making my loan decisions. The response was extraordinary. You had Cabinet Ministers slamming that bank for doing the same thing that many other banks have done and that the bank's own regulator said that they should be doing. You had the Government initiating an inquiry into investment decisions of Banks, superannuation funds and insurers. This power is extraordinary. What it actually does is means it means that the investment decisions of superannuation funds and their investors are dragged into the political turmoil. It's not hard to see how this would be weaponised in a hung Parliament. You get a group of crossbenchers who say we don't really want to back this piece of legislation and we won’t back this legislation unless you use your power to cancel that investment in that particular wind farm, that particular mine or that particular business over there. You'll see this power weaponised. Ordinary, lawful everyday investment decisions of superannuation funds will be dragged into the political fray.
It sets a very dangerous precedent. It's a very small step for the Government to say, well this law or only today impacts on superannuation funds but down the track extend it to other corporates. So they must withdraw the legislation. We're calling on business, we're calling on the mining sector, we’re calling on the environment sector to back Labor's calls in doing this. It's dangerous. It's unprecedented. It’s bad for democracy and it will create economic uncertainty.