Senate crossbench defeat Albanese government’s superannuation regulations

Home Economy Senate crossbench defeat Albanese government’s superannuation regulations
Senate crossbench defeat Albanese government’s superannuation regulations

The Albanese government has suffered its first major defeat in parliament after senators formed an unlikely bloc to overturn Labor’s new superannuation regulations.

The Greens, the Coalition and the crossbench teamed up in the upper house to topple controversial reforms that had abolished the requirement for super funds to publicly disclose donations and payments.

Tasmanian crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie’s disallowance motion to knock back Labor’s super regulations passed the Senate 42 votes to 21 on Thursday morning.

The super reforms were expected to be overturned after the Greens confirmed on Tuesday they would support Senator Lambie’s motion after their attempts to strike a deal with Labor turned sour.

Senator Lambie and her colleague Tammy Tyrrell are among an unexpected alliance of crossbench senators, including independent David Pocock, who joined forces with the Coalition to campaign against Labor’s super regulations.

The reforms led by Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones abolished the requirement for superannuation funds to disclose itemised information on donations, marketing and sponsorship expenditure.

Funds were instead required to disclose such payments in aggregate form, meaning funds could report total amounts to members without revealing what money was spent and where.

Labor said the changes would remove red tape and reduce the administrative burden on super funds.

But Senate crossbenchers and the Coalition were concerned the reforms weakened integrity and transparency and made funds less accountable to their members.

Mr Jones, who has been contacted for comment, has plans for other superannuation reforms in this term of parliament.

Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, who campaigned against Labor’s changes to super disclosure rules, said the Coalition’s earlier reforms had forced super funds to disclose all payments made to unions and related parties.

He said the success of Senator Lambie’s disallowance motion on Thursday meant $30m of retirement savings would now be disclosed to workers each year in their annual statements.

By way of example, he said recent data from the Australian Electoral Commission showed one super fund had paid $2.5m to the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining And Energy Union in the past year.

After teaming up with the Coalition, Greens Treasury spokesman Nick McKim warned the Albanese government not to take the left-wing party’s support for granted.

Senator McKim accused Labor of having reneged on a deal to fine law-breaking banking executives — in exchange for the Greens’ support on the super disclose reforms — after “shameless lobbying by the banks”.

“Today, the Greens have demonstrated that there are consequences for this,” he said.

“If the government expects the Greens to be reasonable, then they need to demonstrate that we can work with them in good faith.”

The striking down of the super regulations in the first parliamentary sitting week of 2023 is the Albanese government’s first real blow in parliament since the federal election.

It also spells further trouble ahead for Labor in the Senate this year as it tries to legislate contentious environmental and industrial relations reforms.

Labor does not hold a majority in the upper house, meaning it needs to rely on the support of either the Coalition or the Greens and two crossbenchers to pass legislation.

Read related topics:Anthony Albanese

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