It’s the final run to election day and it’s anyone’s guess as to the outcome!! We’ve put out several news alerts comparing Labor and Coalition policies. We’ve sought to highlight the policy facts affecting self-employed people. Here’s our final pre-election analysis.
Last Sunday Scott Morrison made a big pitch with a new housing policy. It’s a pitch to first-home buyers. Morrison announced that if he retains government, first-home buyers will be allowed to dip into their superannuation money to boost a deposit. His theme is ‘it’s your money!’
Our comment, however, is on a broader issue affecting everyone with money in the big superannuation funds, including self-employed people. This issue shows a stark difference between Labor and the Coalition.
Do superannuation funds present a risk?
Incredibly, up until now, super funds—particularly the union/employer association-controlled Industry funds—had few if any legal requirements to be public about how they manage your superannuation money.
Compare this to listed companies, particularly banks. Banks have strict disclosure requirements. Heavy penalties apply if the banks breach these laws. Disclosure means that government, the media, financial analysts and so on can keep a close eye on the banks, not just from a performance perspective but also in terms of the key question of whether deposits are safe.
Superannuation funds have effectively faced none of the disclosure requirements that apply to the banks. We know this because of a review into superannuation (The Cooper Review) conducted by the Labor government in 2009. The global audit company Morningstar said in its submission to the Review:
Australian superannuation scheme providers and fund managers currently have a mish-mash of approaches to holdings disclosure … Superannuation and managed funds disclosure in Australia is also poor when compared with the extensive mandatory disclosure requirements for listed securities …. Regular, comprehensive holdings disclosure would also provide greater opportunity for detection of undesirable behaviours…
Neither APRA nor ASIC appeared to undertake any form of direct auditing. APRA only reported what the super funds reported, saying it took no responsibility for the data reported.
The Cooper Review recommended major changes to require disclosure. But Labor chose to ignore these, and nothing was done.
Last year the Morrison government pushed through laws that force superannuation funds to disclose how and where they invest your superannuation money. These laws took effect in March this year. Labor, along with unions and the industry superannuation associations, strongly opposed the new disclosure laws and actively sought to block them. More disclosure requirements are needed.
There is now $2.3 trillion in the big Australian superannuation funds. It is extremely concerning that Labor would oppose complete and major disclosure requirements. As Morningstar stated in 2009, without proper disclosure there is always the threat of ‘undesirable behaviours’.