I rise to speak on the Banking Amendment (Unclaimed Money) Bill 2013 currently before the House. But before I do I would like to place on the public record, being a new member in this House, that I had the privilege of witnessing three excellent, outstanding valedictory statements by men who have served not only this parliament but our nation very honourably. I would like to associate myself with their kind words. It steels me to be a better man in this place. By all standards, they are gentlemen to model oneself on. I compliment them on their efforts in the House and wish them well in whatever their endeavours may be into the future.
An honourable member: I thank the member for Wright.
Mr BUCHHOLZ: It is one of the more chivalrous duties undertaken. Now we are back to the business of bashing each other up again—the job at hand.
The bill currently before the House, the banking act, seeks to transfer funds of unclaimed money from bank accounts back to the Commonwealth, with refunds to authorised deposit-taking institutions—ADIs—if money is collected unnecessarily. Some background on the bill: it is an attempt by the government, in its 2012 MYEFO, to find savings to bolster their now-defunct commitment of delivering surpluses in the 2013 budget. The government announced an array of changes relating to unclaimed monies in bank accounts, life insurance accounts, superannuation accounts and corporations, which I will go to and break up as to where the pots of money are.
In basic summary, what this bill seeks to do is to allow this government—as an unintended consequence of delivering the sixth biggest deficit for this nation, of not being able to balance the books and of reckless fiscal management—to now sink to a low. It allows them to sink to a low where, as a measure to try to strengthen the financial position of this nation, we are going into the bank accounts and the savings accounts of hard-working, decent Australians and taking that money if it has lain dormant for a period of time which I will outline in my speech. They are taking that so-called 'unaccounted for' money and relocating it to the government coffers to try to bolster their financial position. Shame on this government, I say; shame.
The changes they seek to bring forward relate to the time at which the money is recognised under the relevant law as lost or unclaimed. These will be the provisions which this government will use in order to activate parts of this bill. The time periods for accounts to be treated as unclaimed monies will be significantly shortened by these amendments by the government. For bank accounts, it will be reduced from seven years back to three. If you have a bank account sitting there ,which had not had any activity in it for seven years, that would be picked up. I myself, as a holder of many accounts and having employed over 100 men and with 14 transports, had accounts that were taken under that seven-year rule. It was not a lot of money. At that time, you probably could have bought a car with the amount of money that was taken from my bank accounts. I can advise the House that the difficulties in trying to get that money back through the system, through the provisions that provide for that, are somewhat tiresome and clumsy. I had a team of internal accountants that worked for me full-time and it took virtually the entire dedicated team of my staff, that I paid, to try to get that money back. I lost some over that seven-year period, but this bill seeks to shorten that seven-year period to three years.
One of the unintended consequences of this bill, again, is that it mistakenly catches someone like a grandparent, an average grandparent, who may have the capacity to put some money away to help a grandchild or to bestow some money on a person later in life—a loved one. I am starting to get traffic now coming through my office—people are coming in and saying, 'Listen, I had $30,000 sitting in a bank account and it's gone! The government has taken it and it's sitting in a consolidated revenue account.' It is happening now. My offices are starting to raise these concerns. I say as a diligent member of this House: surely we have not fallen, as a parliament, to trying to prop ourselves up financially by raiding the bank accounts of our grandparents. It is a disgrace. Have we, as a nation with the wealth, the education, the great skills and resources we have, now fallen to a new low, in a way somewhat similar to Cyprus? When they raided the bank accounts of their population it was condemned. Their action was condemned by the Prime Minister in this House at that very dispatch box. The actions of Cyprus were condemned, but behind the scenes they knew a bill was coming before the House with which this government would do exactly the same thing—where they would take unclaimed money.
But they are not just going to pull up at having a crack at your bank accounts. Life insurance money, previously treated as unclaimed money after seven years, could also be claimed after a reduced three-year period. Superannuation accounts with balances of less than $2,000 or accounts of unidentifiable members that have been inactive for 12 months will be required to be transferred to the Commissioner of Taxation as well. The theory behind that is that one person might have had a couple of jobs. There was a period of time—a generation—where when you got a job, that was the job you served at for life. When you look at the demographics of our younger workforce, today we have a far more fluid workforce, where it is not unfeasible that one would have maybe five or six employers—serious employers—over the lifespan of one's capacity to work and contribute to the nation.
Superannuation accounts that are not collectively joined and no longer have contributions paid into them will by default meet the definition of dormant. These become a great revenue base for this government to prop up their fiscal inabilities. The period of time for inactive superannuation accounts and those of unidentifiable members before they are transferred to the Australian tax office will be reduced from five years to 12 months.
Then there is the unclaimed property of corporations. The unclaimed property of a corporation could be assets held like artwork, paintings and other chattels. Those assets may not be owned by a single person or they may be left after creditors and others are paid when a corporation becomes defunct. Those assets also come under the auspices of this bill. Unclaimed property of corporations is now to be recognised directly in the Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue Fund upon receipt by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission as opposed to in the companies and unclaimed moneys special account.
I am going to share with you now the breakdown of the money. It totals roughly $886 million, which for this purpose I will round up to $900 million. That is the projected revenue that this bill intends to pick up. Firstly I talked about the dormant bank accounts. They will roughly come in at $92 million. If this is going to raise around $900 million and the cash component is just under $100 million, then the real bulk of this money is going to come from dormant superannuation funds. That is around $675 million over the forward estimates, with most of that being in the first 12-month period, 2012-13. The forecast for those funds is $513.5 million.
When you have a government that makes poor financial decisions you can see how they affect everyone. I want to share with the House the story of a friend of mine who has no political interest in the world whatsoever. Often we would get to the point of speaking about politics and he once said: 'It doesn't matter who is in government. It doesn't really affect me because I get paid the same whether Labor or Liberal are in.' I suggest that no-one can escape bills like this one. You will not be prejudiced on this if you have an allegiance to Labor or Liberal. If you have a dormant bank account or a dormant superannuation account, you are going to get caught in this, irrespective of your political persuasion. So superannuation contributors are the big losers.
Try to be proactive. My advice to the nation, to my electors in Wright, to mums and dads and to people who work in the electorate I represent is: if you have any dormant superannuation accounts, consolidate them into one single account which you are continually contributing to and that will keep that superannuation account at arms-length of being deemed to be dormant. I encourage you to do that pronto, with haste.
Before this bill got to this place there was a government-controlled Senate economics committee inquiry held into this bill. The government recommended that the bill be passed. The coalition members of the Senate economics committee gave a fairly scathing dissenting report on this bill before it came to this House. The coalition moved a series of amendments which sought to delay the implementation of both schedules 1 and 2, which are the cash and the superannuation components relating to bank accounts and the first home saver accounts. We wanted to delay those for a full year. We wanted to delay those until 31 December to give people time. We wanted to raise awareness so that they could get out in front. We wanted to save them the heartache of finding out that their money had been taken from their bank accounts.
The coalition also sought to delay schedule 4, which relates to superannuation accounts, for a full year to align with the deadline of the autoconsolidation necessary under the previous announcements of the SuperStream reforms that are due to commence on 1 January 2014. So we would have had them aligned with legislation that was already planned. This government gave over 300 commitments—some will argue it was over 500—to deliver a surplus. Because the desire of the government to deliver a surplus was so intense, bills like this had to be brought forward so the revenue could be counted in this reporting period. The government could not afford to wait, so those amendments were disregarded.
The bill we are dealing with today is a result of the unintended consequences of a government that has lost its way, by its own definition. The fiscal management of this government will be a legacy that will haunt them for many years. This does not serve the interests of every Australian. This is a bad bill. It has been badly thought out. The procedures and processes for this bill have been rushed. I condemn this bill for the intended heartache it will cause Australians.