Coalition MPs are being encouraged to fight the government’s own proposed superannuation reforms, which would give the Treasurer new powers to block funds’ investment decisions, as crossbench support for the legislation dwindles.
Labor superannuation spokesman Stephen Jones has written to Coalition MPs George Christensen, Jason Falinski, Barnaby Joyce and Resources Minister Keith Pitt, as well as senators Gerard Rennick and Amanda Stoker, encouraging them to consider having the proposed superannuation changes “re-committed for debate in your party room”.
Labor superannuation spokesman Stephen Jones is encouraging Coalition MPs to raise the government’s super reforms in the party room.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
“I acknowledge that this is an unusual move, but the issue at stake warrants it,” Mr Jones says in the letter he directed to MPs he believes could be sympathetic to his concerns. “The power you are being asked to vote for allows an Australian Treasurer to cancel a private sector investment.”
He describes the power as an overreach, contrary to Liberal values and setting a dangerous precedent. “It will be politicised in environmental, heritage and industrial disputes,” he says. “It is not your friend.”
Superannuation Minister Jane Hume said during the week the measures would be used sparingly allowing the government to step in when the regulator faced a grey area.
The controversial Your Future, Your Super Bill was due in the House of Representatives this week but has yet to face a vote following public lashings from several crossbench MPs, including Craig Kelly and Bob Katter, who say the additional powers for the Treasurer are an overreach and new measures stapling workers to their super could have detrimental outcomes on insurance cover.
The Coalition has 75 seats in the House of Representatives and needs one crossbench vote to get the legislation passed. Labor has raised doubts the government will be able to get the bill through the House without amendments.
The legislation was not listed on a draft order of business circulated among MPs early on Friday for the first sitting day next week. Senator Hume has a planned start date for the reforms of July 1, leaving 10 days to get the legislation passed in the House and the Senate for this to occur. Failing to get the necessary votes in the House would be embarrassing for the federal government, which unveiled the changes in last year’s budget promising they would help reduce fees by limiting the creation of multiple accounts and improve performance.
Mr Jones says in the letter Labor would be “willing to work with the government to pass legislation which improves the performance of superannuation funds, reduces fees and removes chronically underperforming funds from the industry”. The Opposition has proposed eight amendments, including removing the new veto powers. This is the second time Mr Jones has written to Coalition MPs to criticise the legislation.
Submissions to Treasury about Your Future, Your Super regulations closed on Tuesday. The Actuaries Institute has asked for the performance tests to be deferred due to concerns about the way they measure assets. The Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees criticised a lack of detail over the Treasurer’s veto powers and the possibility of stapling measures leaving unengaged members in underperforming funds or without adequate insurance cover.
“It is unclear why the government would be seeking such extraordinary powers, but this will lead to significant uncertainty that will impact member outcomes,” the AIST submission says. “No details of how this proposed power will work are included in these draft regulations.”
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