The government’s new superannuation laws have barely left the station and already the wheels are coming off.
After they passed through Parliament on Thursday, Superannuation Minister Jane Hume did the media rounds on Friday to try and explain them.
Unfortunately, the result was confusion, not clarity.
In defending the government’s new stapling arrangements, which pin a worker to a single super account for life, she has made a serious error.
In multiple media interviews she assured workers in dangerous jobs (like construction and mining) that they have nothing to worry about when it comes to their insurance coverage.
She could find no evidence, she claimed, of any difference in life insurance offerings between super funds for dangerous occupations and safe occupations.
This is what she told the ABC (and repeated similar claims on Sky TV):
“There is no reason why anyone should feel that if they have life insurance within their superannuation and they switch jobs that they wouldn’t be covered.
“They should be covered. There are no occupational exclusions.”
The minister is dead wrong and she should correct her inaccurate assurances immediately.
Here is a brief (but by no means exhaustive) list of large super funds that DO exclude certain dangerous jobs from their insurance coverage.
AMP – Excludes bricklayers, concreters, dogmen, labourers, plumbers who work on rooves, electrician linesmen, riggers and scaffolders.
MLC – Excludes farm labourers and railway workers.
CFS –Excludes bricklayers, concreters, dogmen, labourers, plumbers, painters, riggers and scaffolders and welders if they work at heights above 15m and/or are not properly qualified.
REST – Excludes all dangerous occupations at the insurer’s discretion.
HostPlus – Excludes carpenters, concreters, labourers, painters, plumbers and electricians working above 15m.
Such exclusions make perfect financial sense because they lower premiums.
Many of these funds were set up for lower risk occupations like café workers, retail workers who shouldn’t have to pay for high risk insurance they are unlikely to need.
An inattentive minister
High-risk workers have their own funds (eg CBUS in the construction industry) that do offer high-risk insurance at a price.
Either these basic facts have somehow escaped Minister Hume’s attention, or the government’s legislation is more radical than it has been prepared to admit.
If the government is proposing that all workers, even in low risk jobs, should now be forced to pay for high-risk insurance coverage, Minister Hume should say so.
The same Minister who’s told working families she’ll lower fees on their super should now tell them their insurance premiums are going up.
The same Minister who lectures the super industry on accountability must fess up that she’s been keeping them in the dark about the impact of her legislation.
These details matter.
Craig Kelly is no fellow traveler of mine. But I agreed with him when he told parliament this week that even if one worker dies or has a serious accident on the job, and isn’t insured, that’s one worker too many.
Minister Hume, if you won’t listen to Labor on this issue I implore you to listen to your former colleague.
It cannot instil confidence that Mr Kelly has a greater grasp of the facts of this matter than the person entrusted with overseeing the $3 trillion Australians have put away for their retirement.
Stephen Jones is Labor’s shadow minister for superannuation
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