PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 2 JUNE 2021
SUBJECT: Your Future, Your Super Bill.
STEPHEN JONES, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Well the Government’s controversial superannuation Bill is before the Parliament today. Important to note this is now a hung Parliament so it’s fate is uncertain. The cross bench have said they are very, very uncomfortable with many aspects of the Bill. But the fact is this: No Liberal and nobody who calls themselves a conservative should vote for a Bill which contains a provision which enables the Australian Treasurer to take control of Australians’ savings and to direct the way their savings are invested. That’s exactly what this bill does. It’s unprecedented. It’s an absolute stinker and it has to go. We’re calling on members of the coalition partyroom to vote against this Bill. I can’t for the life of me see how it’s got through their partyroom, a Bill which enables the Australian Government to take over the savings of Australians and to cancel private sector investment and tell superannuation funds, to tell Australians, where their money is invested is unprecedented. It’s unbelievable that a Government that calls itself in favour of the private sector and individual rights is introducing a Bill into the Parliament which gives the Treasurer the right to cancel private sector investments. Now many business organisations have talked out against it. Even members of the Government’s own party room, Senator Rennick last week said he was probably not going to vote for the Bill. Many members of the crossbench have said that they're going to introduce amendments to fix the obvious problems within the Bill. The Bill is a stinker. It can't go through Parliament in its existing form. I'm calling true conservatives and true Liberals to do the right thing and reject this bill. At the very least, remove those obnoxious provisions which will allow the Treasurer of Australia to cancel a private sector investment and take over Australians’ savings. This is a power which is very, very dangerous, unprecedented in peacetime and it absolutely has to go. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Craig Kelly, Bob Katter a few of the other independents have said they will vote against it. Would you hope their come through on their pledges previously?
JONES: Bob Katter, Craig Kelly, Pauline Hanson, in fact a whole range of the crossbenchers have raised very legitimate concerns. They, like Labor, are concerned that you set a very dangerous precedent if you introduce a Bill into Parliament to gives the Treasurer the power to cancel a private sector investment. This is a law that will exist forever. It's introduced by conservative Government because they think they might be able to do conservative business with it. It'll be there forever. I mean it doesn't take a lot of imagination to work out how a power such as this could be used. One Treasurer mightn’t like wind farms, he cancels an investment in a wind farm. Another Treasurer might say, well I don't like coal mines and cancels an investment in a coal mine or a gas project. Or there's a company that's been involved in a protracted industrial dispute or many years of wage theft. It's very easy to see how a power like this could be used to cancel private sector investments and to interfere in the private savings of ordinary Australians. It is bad law. It shouldn't happen. And nobody who calls themselves a conservative or a true Liberal should vote for it.
JOURNALIST: As I understand, there are some positives to the Bill. It’s going to make it easier for women to claim their fair share of superannuation if they are going through a divorce. Surely there are some changes in there you would back on their own?
JONES: That Bill’s not even before the Parliament of the moment. You're talking about a completely different Bill. The Government promised three years ago that they were going to introduce new superannuation transparency legislation. They have now just introduced an exposure draft of that legislation three years late. One hundred percent support, we've been calling for them to do it for three years, absolutely. If they introduce that Bill into the parliament today it will have our support. But this Bill, the Bill to give the Treasurer the power to take over private sector investments and to cancel investments that the Treasurer doesn't like, it's a stinker. It has to go.
JOURNALIST: Do you have concerns that that money then will be used to prop up things like coal-fired power stations, gas fired old sort of dirty energy as opposed to clean energy investments that a lot of these super companies are moving towards?
JONES: Here’s the thing you’ve got to understand: If you want the Treasurer to take over your investments, if you want the Treasurer to be the trustee-in-chief that sets up a very, very dangerous power. That's a power that can be used by future Governments and all sorts of different ways. We argue, Labor argues, actually let the experts get on with investing money in the best interests of the members. Let individuals make those decisions themselves. It's not the role of the Treasurer to jump in and say, I see what you're investing your savings in, we don't like it, we're going to cancel those Investments and make sure do something different. We think that's dangerous. We don't think that's the role of the Commonwealth Government. At a time when aged care is in crisis, at a time when the pandemic is raging, at their time when they can't sort our basing basic things like a vaccine roll out, particularly to our most vulnerable groups and I can't stand up a fit-for-purpose quarantine system, they're diverting themselves into these sorts of areas and saying we know better than every trustee in this country and we want to take over your superannuation savings, that's crazy. We've got to knock this off.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned there the crossbenchers talking about some amendments. Would there be any of those you’d be happy to get behind, or would you want this whole thing to go down entirely?
JONES: Labor’s not trying to sink the bill. We're trying to save it. We actually think we should be measuring the performance of superannuation funds. We think superannuation funds should be performing at the top level and there are too many bottom level performers which are robbing Australians of much-needed retirement savings. We one hundred percent support that. But what we don’t support is attaching two provisions to the Bill which run in completely the opposite direction. I mean I haven't talked about their proposition to staple members to dud funds, but that's what they're proposing to do. My number one objective, and the one objective that surely every Parliamentarian and Senator in this place can agree to, is that we shouldn't be giving this this Treasurer or any other Treasurer the power to take over your retirement savings and to cancel investments and to set yourself up as the trustee-in-chief. That's just wrong.
JOURNALIST: So it's just those specific provisions that you're particularly worried about, not the Bill in it’s entirety I guess?
JONES: We want to save this Bill, not sink it. And if they just focus on improving the performance of funds and stop trying to set Josh Frydenberg up as the trustee-in-chief. This is the guy you can't balance his own budget, but he wants to take over your savings. That's not good enough.