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    Labor notes the first ever Code of Practice which is an initial step towards improving standards in the life insurance industry.

    Life insurance is an important way for Australians to financially protect themselves and those close to them. It can provide essential funds and income protection in times when they suffer from illness, injury, disability or the death of a close family member.

    Labor believes that this first voluntary Code is a step in the right direction but much more work needs to be done to rebuild consumer trust and confidence with life insurance in light of the recent cases of mistreatment of holders of life insurance policies.

    Labor notes the concerns of consumer advocates who say that greater thought needs to be given to issues including:

    • Claims timeframes that apply for life insurance products that are attached to superannuation accounts which appear to be neglected in this Code
    • The independence of the ‘relevant’ medical specialist who does not have to be independent of the insurers under the Code
    • The medical definitions of certain conditions associated with claims, and,
    • The status of the Code under the existing legal framework in Australia where it appears not to be enforceable in a court of law.

    Labor will be watching the proceedings of the current Joint Parliamentary Committee on Corporations and Financial Services into the life insurance industry closely.

    We will also be keeping a close eye on how this Code is implemented and will continue to work with consumer advocates and the insurance industry with a focus on improving protections for consumers within the life insurance industry.

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    Thank you very much for that warm welcome and can I thank you very much for the invitation to speak with you this morning in my new role as Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services.

    May I begin by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land we are meeting on, the Ngunnawal people. I pay my respects to elders past and present, and acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

    I’d like to begin by thanking the organisers of this year's Leadership Forum for inviting me to speak with you this morning.

    As a proud – and what some might say parochial – Senator for the ACT it would be remiss of me to not also welcome you to our beautiful city, for those of you who are coming from elsewhere and hope that you get some time to enjoy the beauty of the nation’s capital.

    Having recently taken on the shadow portfolio of Small Business and Financial Services, I have been spending a great deal of time trying to get around and meet with all of the stakeholders and can I say there are an enormous amount of you. Particularly in the area of superannuation where there is so much work underway, so much reform happening and so much politics around it.

    It’s been really generous of people; I know I have met with some of the people in this room. I have many, many more meetings to go but it has been very generous of people with their time and their preparedness to talk and share information and to provide me with their priorities and other issues of concern.

    In terms of retirement income policy there is certainly a great deal of reform and discussion underway. It is our challenge as lawmakers to coordinate these reforms and ensure that those in retirement are properly supported across all the relevant policy areas.

    I believe that Labor has been leading much of the discussion in this area and I will comment on that further but my comments here today reflect my initial observations in this portfolio on the key issues facing us and the elements that are required for Australia to continue to build a strong and sustainable retirement income policy for the long term.

    I should begin by saying that Labor believes that we need to approach ageing as a positive. 

    We should be celebrating our longevity.  It is a sign of Australia’s success that we are living longer and healthier lives.  Of course, that doesn’t apply to all of us. The life expectancy of indigenous people still remains at appalling low levels.

    We should be pleased overall that more people are living longer and spending longer in the retirement phase.

    Yet often the tone of our public discussion on ageing and retirement is framed in terms of costs.  Older people are not, and should not be a burden.

    I’m sure it’s not the intention to frame the debate as being negative; however, one of the downsides of the focus on the fiscal challenges has meant that at a time when people should be enjoying their post-working lives, some are feeling like a burden. 

    People who have worked and contributed to the economy and the community for decades, be it in the workforce, family or community sectors have earned the right to a dignified retirement.

    The best way to counteract any tendency to consider older Australians a burden is to ensure that our policy settings are as coherent, effective and targeted as much as possible to support our ageing across the community in a fiscally sustainable way.

    Government policies directly impact the lives of people in retirement in many ways and they will become increasingly important as our ageing population continues to grow.

    According to the Blueprint for an Ageing Australia the number of people aged over 65 will increase by 84.8 per cent from 3.1 million in 2011 to 5.7 million in 2031. I am sure I am not telling anyone in this room these statistics for the first time. 

    Concerns have been raised by think tanks such as the Grattan Institute that today’s generation of young Australians may have lower living standards than their parents did at a similar age.

    We cannot afford to let this happen and to prevent it we need a well thought through and comprehensive approach to longevity.

    Earlier this year, my colleague Jenny Macklin released Labor’s agenda for tacking inequality.  This offered new thinking and a new agenda.  

    If we are to ensure that older Australians can be active members of our community then we have a duty to ensure that we have a proactive plan to support longevity, for protecting the rights of older Australians and to provide them with an opportunity to continue to work if they choose to, or to live a dignified and fulfilling retirement.

    We believe that Australia needs a national strategy to coordinate longevity priorities, policies and programs across all governments across the country.

    Future Labor governments should consider appointing a dedicated Minister for Ageing and Longevity to oversee a whole-of-government approach to longevity policy, similar to the coordinating role that the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women currently plays.

    An obvious area for further thinking is the issue of retirement income for women. 

    This has come up a lot in my first few months in this portfolio. It is something that Chris Bowen has spoken about previously and my Senate colleague from New South Wales Jenny McAllister has worked very hard on progressing through the Senate Committee process during the last Parliament which many of you may have participated in.

    I share Chris and Jenny’s concern around the disparity between men and women’s retirement savings balances.

    Women suffer in their super savings in several ways. They earn less during their working life and they often take time out of the workforce with parenting or caring responsibilities. This means that there can be years where no income is received at all or when they do work they work part time hours to juggle the demands of children, ageing parents and their careers.

    The facts are clear:

    • 43% of women work part time
    • women working full time earn 19% less than their male colleagues, and
    • women take on average five years out of the workplace to care for children or other family members. 

    44% of women rely on their partner’s income as their main source of retirement income and according to a recent Senate inquiry into women’s superannuation at retirement men’s superannuation balances at retirement are on average twice as large as those of women. 

    This concerning statistic means that women, particularly single women, are at greater risk of experiencing poverty, housing stress and homelessness in retirement.

    If we are to address this issue as a whole we do need to fix the pay disparity between men and women and more generally the way that women are treated in the workplace.

    I am not saying that we haven’t come a long way. We have.

    If we look back even 50 years women were often limited on their choice of career but we now do have women in senior decision making roles in the board room or indeed, as members of the Australian Senate, but we cannot ignore the fact that women are generally paid less than men for doing the same job.

    We will never succeed in ensuring that women can live a dignified retirement if we cannot address the issue of pay equity at the early stages of a woman’s career.

    We also need to look more closely at the periods of time when women take leave to have a child. This might be looking more closely at superannuation during periods of paid parental leave. I do acknowledge that this is not necessarily a cheap or easy solution, although it is probably easier than cheaper, and is something that we as a party have not yet reached a final position on, but that does not mean that we are not looking at it.

    I will be working with my colleagues including Senator McAllister to progress our thinking on these issues during this term of Parliament and I would welcome the views of any of you here today on this issue because it’s an area that I have particular interest in and I know many others share my views.

    In terms of some of the recent debates around superannuation in particular, the Labor party strongly believes that we need confidence in the retirement incomes system. 

    In recent times we have seen significant policy changes proposed and in some cases implemented, to the age pension, the age pension asset and incomes test and superannuation with more to come.

    Too many policy changes introduced too quickly can undermine public confidence. People close to or in retirement feel the impact of these changes particularly acutely and I have noticed this in the correspondence I have been getting from people right across Australia since the announcements were made in the budget.

    Unfortunately, the Government’s mismanagement of its proposed changes to superannuation taxation has certainly shaken this confidence in the broader community.

    Currently the superannuation system holds approximately $2 trillion dollars in national savings with estimates showing that this will grow to $4 trillion over the next 10 years and to $9.5 trillion by 2035 it’s essential that confidence is maintained in the system.

    Labor recognises the need for certainty and that is why in the past we have advocated for a Council of Superannuation Custodians which would help to maintain a period of stability over government decisions regarding super and help guide lawmakers about the best approach to policy changes that may affect confidence and certainty in the superannuation sector.

    Such a Council would allow future changes to superannuation to be more thoroughly considered and done in a timeframe that allows people to invest their money with greater certainty and without the added concern that government may change the goal posts on a frequent basis.

    Many have raised the option with me of only making significant legislative changes to super on a five yearly basis, in line with the Intergenerational Report. This is something we do see merit in and will continue to discuss with stakeholders right across the sector.

    For more than a year Labor clearly and consistently made the case that a system which sees half of all superannuation benefits flow to the top 20 per cent of income earners, and 40 per cent of all benefits flow to the top 10 per cent of earners, is a system in need of reform.

    In the current fiscal environment, we need to ensure that our superannuation tax concessions are targeted and effective.  That is why Labor proposed changes back in April 2015. 

    After initially opposing Labor’s approach, the Government announced changes to superannuation tax concessions in the 2016-17 budget.  Unfortunately, these changes were developed in the rush to prepare a budget to go to the election and the proposed policies had flaws and certainly those were drawn out over the election campaign and over recent months.

    The issue of retrospectivity has obviously dominated the recent election campaign and the different views within the Government over retrospectivity have done nothing to encourage Australians to contribute to their superannuation balances over and above their employer’s concessional contributions.

    People want to know that decisions they take now will still deliver their intended outcome in retirement. We believe this is crucial and it is something that Labor will always protect.

    Labor has attempted to work collaboratively with the government on the changes to superannuation. We took this approach because we believe that it is crucial that, despite political differences, Australians know that their retirement savings are protected and that the Parliament will act maturely and responsibly to legislate in Australia’s best interests.

    We will continue to work in good faith as we consider the Government’s latest legislation. 

    However, I cannot let the government’s grand plan for addressing women’s low superannuation balances through allowing ‘catch up payments’ go unremarked upon.

    Labor’s position to oppose catch up payments as proposed by the government is based on fact.

    The fact is that these payments will help those on high incomes and will cost the budget $350 million over the forward estimates at a time when we don’t believe we can afford it.

    It won’t provide a vehicle for women on lower incomes who have been out of the workforce for several years to contribute extra to their super balances.

    I have talked with many women’s groups about this issue and I have read the independent analysis.

    There may well be women who take advantage of catch up payments but we maintain that these women will be predominantly higher income earners who have the capacity to contribute over and above their employer contributions.

    We are continuing to analyse the Government proposals that were released in the recent weeks and I will be in charge of taking our proposed response through our normal Shadow Cabinet and Caucus processes in the next sitting period.

    In terms of the objective of superannuation the Government has also proposed an objective of superannuation which would be legislated for the first time.

    This is something that we do support and it came out of the Murray FSI Inquiry.

    We believe that something as significant as the objective of super needs bipartisan support and are seeking to engage more with the Government on their proposed definition. 

    The Government commenced discussions and negotiations with Labor in late 2015. This was prior to my time but I am told that discussions were progressing well. However, they did stop in the election and the definition was announced as part of the Government’s wider reform package on budget night without any further consultation.

    We understand that there are many in the sector who have concerns with the Government’s process of consultation on the objective as well as its wording.

    I have no doubt that everyone here today would have an opinion on what the definition should be and I note that CSRI has expressed a view on the wording of the objective stating that it is “to provide adequate income through all the years of retirement for all Australians in a sustainable way.”

    If we are to truly seize the opportunity that we have before us and legislate the best possible objective of superannuation we need to involve all of those who have a view, listen, genuinely consult and be willing to open our minds to other opinions.

    If an objective is worth having and is worth legislating then it’s worth doing properly and we are continuing to consult with stakeholders and the government over this and will finalise our position in the next few weeks.

    I know in the time I have available to me today I have only touched on a few of the issues and it is my early thoughts in this policy space. I know that there is much work underway and many reviews in train and a lot of stakeholders to continue to get around to. I will say that the approach that Jim Chalmers took and Chris Bowen took on developing policy ideas and genuinely consulting is one that I intend to continue.

    At the same time we will work with the government in good faith in the interests of the Australian superannuation system on issues soon to be before the Parliament.

    We will also continue to look to ways to further strengthen our retirement income policies for the future and certainly Jenny Macklin has laid down the challenge for us all in that regard.

    I once again thank you for the opportunity to speak today as part of this Forum and I genuinely look forward to engaging with you as I continue my work for the Federal Labor Party.

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    In an embarrassing rebuke for the Turnbull Government the Credit and Investments Ombudsman (CIO) has thrown cold water on Malcolm Turnbull’s ill-thought through plan for a banking tribunal, saying it could become a “lawyers picnic”.


    The CIO says in a stinging rebuke, that any merger of the existing ombudsman’s services into a tribunal would be a “big mistake” and could potentially limit the scope of matters that people could have heard.


    Malcolm Turnbull’s banking tribunal was announced last Friday without any detail in yet another desperate attempt to distract and avoid the scrutiny and accountability of a royal commission.


    Nothing short of a royal commission into the banking and financial services sector will be enough to get to the bottom of why people are getting ripped off and in many cases left with nothing, due to bad financial advice and bad banking practices.


    TUESDAY 11 OCTOBER 2016.

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    In the final hour of Malcolm Turnbull’s cover-up committee, it was finally confirmed the Treasurer has been secretly colluding with the CEO of one of the big four banks to protect them from a Royal Commission.

    BRIAN HARTZER, CEO OF WESTPAC: I mean the course of the conversation [with the Treasurer] it would have been noted that there was a proposal to have a royal commission and the Government has instigated this set of meetings -

    MATT THISTLEWAITE: As an alternative? 

    HARTZER: Um, well, that would be one way to characterise it, I don’t remember it being put that way.

    House of Representatives Economics Committee – 6 October 2016 (link to vision)


    This is a damning admission which shows Mr Turnbull has no regard for ordinary Australians who feel let down by their bank and he is only interested in protecting the banks.

    This week the CEO’s of Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, NAB and Westpac all freely admitted to significant and systemic failures within their banks.

    One by one the CEO’s turned up to the Committee and admitted their failures to customers. One by one the CEO’s apologised and promised to do better. And then they left, protected by the Turnbull Government and safe in the knowledge that they won’t need to return for another year.

    But for the victims of dodgy financial advice and banking scandals who weren’t given the opportunity to have their voices heard this week, the admissions, apologies and promises to do better are simply empty words.

     The banks openly admitted to widespread failures and problems within their organisations with examples of fraudulent conduct, professional misconduct, illegal or unethical behaviour, overcharging on fees, inappropriate financial advice and staff performance incentives designed to cross-sell bank products.

    The apologies and promises to make things right have been given before. But nothing ever changes.

    Customers continue to get ripped-off and thousands of Australians remain devastated by the failings of the banking and financial services sector.

    Labor will continue to stand up for the many thousands of Australians who have lost their homes, retirement savings and businesses, who weren’t given the opportunity to have their say this week.

    Among the mix of spin, contrition and obfuscation, there were hints of the real problems that lie below the surface of our banking sector.

    Australians learned that:

    • The Commonwealth Bank has had to pay a further $11 million in compensation to clients who received dodgy financial advice, on top of more than $50 million already disclosed. About 10 per cent of the 6,000 cases reviewed so far have warranted compensation – and there are still many cases left to resolved.
    • After media scrutiny of its CommInsure arm, the bank has reviewed and paid out at least 17 claims it had previously denied and continues to review others – despite this not one person has lost their job.
    • Several of the ANZ traders implicated in the Bank Bill Swap Rate rigging scandal are back at work while the matter is still being prosecuted by ASIC through the courts.
    • ANZ was made aware of a serious case of fraud in relation to loans worth almost $1 billion, but it took them six months to refer the matter to ASIC and the police.
    • ANZ has reported 45 financial planners to ASIC in the past year alone – but can’t say what’s happened to their clients or whether compensation has been paid.
    • Not a single NAB senior executive lost their job over the financial planning scandal, in which 750 customers received bad or no advice.
    • Westpac acknowledged the bank had investigated cases of customer incomes being inflated on loan paperwork but refused to give more details 

    The only way to get to the bottom of the rip offs, give a voice to those affected and prevent these scandals from happening again is to hold a Royal Commission.

    Labor and the Australian community will not be distracted from this by Malcolm Turnbull's cover-up committee.



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    Malcolm Turnbull's protection racket for the big banks will be on full display this week when their CEOs appear before his cover-up committee.

    For the many thousands of Australians who have lost their homes, retirement savings and businesses, these government-sponsored hearings with the banks will be completely inadequate to address their concerns.

    A brief sit-down with the banks while Parliament is deserted will not be enough to get to the bottom of the issues within the banking and financial services industry. Only a Royal Commission can do that.

    This committee does not have the resources, time or powers to properly investigate:  

    • How widespread instances of illegal and unethical behaviour are within Australia’s financial services industry;
    • How Australia’s financial services institutions treat their duty of care to their customers;
    • How the culture, ethical standards and business structures of Australian financial services institutions affect the behaviour of these institutions;
    • Whether Australia’s regulators are really equipped to identify and prevent illegal and unethical behaviour;
    • Comparable international experience with similar financial services industry misconduct and best practice responses to the adverse incidents which have ruined so many lives.

    Malcolm Turnbull knows his sham committee doesn't have the scope or powers to properly investigate these issues – because he designed it that way.

    The bank CEOs will walk away at the end of their three-hour chat, safe in the knowledge that they won’t be questioned again for another year.

    Meanwhile, those who have lost their savings, their homes or their businesses and who remain in debt to the banks will be stuck living with the consequences every day. 

    The only way to get to the bottom of the rip offs, give a voice to those affected and prevent these scandals from happening again is to hold a Royal Commission. Labor and the Australian community will not be distracted from this by Malcolm Turnbull's cover-up committee.


    This is a joint media release with Labor's Shadow Minister for the Treasury, Matt Thistletwaite MP.

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    The Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is out of step with the Australian people with a new reports showing more 62 per cent of Australians think a royal commission into Australia’s banking and financial services sector is important.

    Even Malcolm Turnbull’s own supporters overwhelmingly back a royal commission, with 59 per cent of Liberal/National voters saying they want to see one established in today’s Essential Poll.

    Malcolm Turnbull will do and say anything to avoid a royal commission despite the majority of Australians demanding one be established.

    Over the past five months we have seen the Prime Minister acknowledge problems across the banking sector yet he consistently fails to do anything about it.

    Next week’s sham committee process secretly negotiated and agreed to by the banks won’t do anything to address the unethical and illegal shortcomings that have plagued the banking and financial services sector in recent years.

    It’s time for the Prime Minister to stop protecting the banks and instead stand up for ordinary Australian’s including the thousands of victims of financial scandals and rip-offs who continue to fight for justice.

    Labor will continue to push for a royal commission because we know that this is the best way to hold the sector accountable for what has happened in the past and prevent scandals in the future.


    Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services.

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    The Turnbull Government has serious questions to answer about their apparent special treatment for the big banks ahead of a public inquiry designed to scrutinise their practices and bury the need for a Royal Commission into Australia’s financial services sector.

    The Government has given the inside lane to their best friends, the big banks, by allowing them to choose the dates they will appear before the public inquiry before the inquiry was even established.

    This is nothing but a stitch-up by a government and a Prime Minister that will do anything to avoid a Royal Commission into the banking and financial services sector.

    Bringing the banks to Canberra for a one-day hearing, in the middle of the school holidays, at a prearranged time is not what we need to get to the heart of the issues in the banking and financial services sector.

    The dates for the inquiry have been set without the input of committee MPs. This was done in secret and in partnership with the banks.

    The Government must reveal why they thought it appropriate to allow the banks to dictate terms of the public enquiry.

    The inquiry hasn’t even started and already the Government is giving the banks special treatment. The Turnbull Government must answer the following questions:

    • When did they first approach the banks about possible dates? 
    • On whose direction did they do so given the Committee was not established until last night?
    • Did Government representatives specifically offer to hold the hearings outside of a parliamentary sitting week? 
    • Did any Government MP on the committee speak with the Treasurer or his office about hearing dates for bank executives prior to the committee finalising the timetable?
    • What correspondence has passed backwards and forwards, and will it be publically released?

    Yet again, the Turnbull Government is bending over backwards to help the big banks. This is further proof that they are desperate to protect the banks from a Royal Commission.

    Labor will not stop pushing for a Royal Commission because we know that this is the only way to hold the sector accountable for what has happened in the past, and to stop these scandals from happening in the future.


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    Malcolm Turnbull’s biggest achievement in the past 12 months has been his defence of the banks.

    After one year in office Malcolm Turnbull has shown he’d rather defend the banks from a Royal Commission than defend the victims of banking and financial services rip-offs.

    How is it that the Prime Minister who is supposed to govern for all Australians can ignore the heartbreaking stories of those who have been left financially ruined by their banks or financial advisers?

    Over the past 12 months we've learnt that Malcolm Turnbull will do whatever it takes to avoid a Royal Commission, and he's turned his back on those hard working Australians who have fallen victim to financial scandals.

    I have met victims of financial scandals over the past few weeks and their personal stories highlight exactly why we need a royal commission, to shine a light on the scandals that have left these victims with nothing, but also ensure that these heartbreaking cases, the scandals, the rip-offs never happen again.

    Labor will continue to push for a Royal Commission because we know that this is the only way to hold the sector accountable for what has happened in the past and stop the scandals in the future.

    After one year in office, the one thing Malcolm Turnbull has proven is you can him out of the investment bank, but you can’t take the investment banker out of Malcolm Turnbull.


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    The superannuation mess is an emblematic example of the failure and division of the Turnbull Government. 

    Four months since the Government’s retrospective superannuation reforms were announced in the Budget, the Coalition remains so divided that they are unable to bring the legislation forward to implement these changes.

    If the Prime Minister really thinks that the division and disunity his super reform package has created is a “great achievement” , then he really is a Prime Minister in office but not in power. 

    For the past 15 months Labor has made it clear that we are up for serious reform and having a constructive discussion with the Government over how to make the super system fairer while assisting with budget repair. 

    Labor’s plan delivers more budget savings than the Government’s without retrospectivity, improving the Budget by $238 million over the forward estimates and $4.4 billion over the medium term. This is above and beyond the savings claimed by the Liberals but set to be undermined by their own infighting.

    Malcolm Turnbull promised reforms to superannuation but just like on so much else during his first year in the job, he has failed to deliver.


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    In the latest embarrassing development in the Government’s superannuation shambles, Scott Morrison is today expected to release draft legislation without any reference to significant elements of the reform package including the controversial $500,000 retrospective contributions cap that has been tearing the Government apart.

    The Prime Minister has repeatedly claimed that these reforms are "iron-clad” and would be taken to the Parliament as they were announced in the budget.

    If anything less than the full legislative superannuation reform package is released today it is a very public and humiliating admission that he and his Treasurer have completely lost control over these important reforms.

    Australia's superannuation system is recognised as a world leader in providing for retirement incomes for older Australians and we cannot allow it to become a play thing for various members of the government to use as they wage their internal, divisive battles with each other.

    Labor will engage constructively to implement super reforms which are fair, which assist with budget repair and which promote confidence in the superannuation system for the long term.

    Labor’s plan delivers more budget savings than the Government’s without retrospectivity, improving the Budget by $238 million over the forward estimates and $4.4 billion over the medium term. This is above and beyond the savings claimed by the Liberals but set to be undermined by their own infighting.

    Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison need to get back in charge, take control and release the full legislative package so that it can be considered as a whole. Anything less is yet another example of this Government being in office but not in power.


    Senator Katy Gallagher is Labor's Shadow Minister for Small Business and Financial Services. 

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