These questions were asked in the Senate on September 8th 2022.
My question is for the Minister representing the Assistant Treasurer, Minister Gallagher. APRA's review of super fund marketing expenditure found that 12 funds spent $87 million on marketing between 2018 and 2020. Funds have a legal duty to spend members' money in a way that financially benefits the members. The regulator found funds had a lack of evidence that this spending can be justified. But, instead of cleaning up this apparent waste of money, your government is cutting back on transparency over how this spending gets disclosed. Why are you making it easier for funds to spend the retirement savings of everyday Australians on billboards and TV ads promoting themselves when the regulator clearly says this money isn't delivering benefits to members?
Senator GALLAGHER (Australian Capital Territory—Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Finance, Minister for Women, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Vice-President of the Executive Council):
I thank Senator Lambie for the question. Labor is committed to delivering accountability, transparency and good governance in every part of our financial system. Our world-class superannuation system is a massive success story, delivering $3.4 trillion in national savings and better retirement outcomes for Australians. I think Senator Lambie is referring to the regulations that will come before this Senate around some changes that were being made to streamline disclosure requirements for superannuation funds and aligning those with the national accounting standards. The new regulations will still require superannuation funds to disclose, in particular in relation to any political donations, and they will ensure that the new regulations will have a high level of meaningful transparency for superannuation members.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Lambie, a first supplementary question?
This supplementary question is actually really simple. Under your draft annual members' meeting regulations, will it be easier or harder for members to identify specific payments their fund has made on advertising to industrial bodies and related parties? We just want to know: will it be easier or harder?
(Australian Capital Territory—Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Finance, Minister for Women, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Vice-President of the Executive Council):
I think the issue around the annual members' meetings is around the process of holding those meetings, so the idea is that members are able to ask for further information through those mechanisms. I would say that they are still able to ask for that
Senator Hume: How do they know what to ask about if you don't disclose it?
Senator GALLAGHER: If they're interested in that, they will know they want to ask about it. Then they can ask for it through that process and have the information provided.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Lambie, a second supplementary question?
The assistant minister previously said these regulations need changing because the compliance costs for funds are too high. I just don't get it. Funds have to keep track of all their expenses and report the big number they add up to. So here's my question: how much extra would it cost, exactly, for funds to tell people what numbers they added up to get to their final figure?
Australian Capital Territory—Minister for the Public Service, Minister for Finance, Minister for Women, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Vice-President of the Executive Council) :
If there is further information to provide to Senator Lambie I will come back; I don't have a figure in front of me. But I do understand that there is a view that aligning some of the requirements or reducing red tape around them, but still allowing requisite information that members will be after, is behind the regulations that the minister has made. I should say that the regulations still do require a level of information to be provided through these annual members' meetings. I see, and the government sees, no reason for any reduced transparency for members. This allows streamlined reporting in line with some of the other arrangements, including the Australian Accounting Standards.