The government and its financial regulator have failed people in distress who need early access to their superannuation funds, the opposition said.
Regional Development spokesman Bob Baldwin told parliament that changing responsibility for deciding on compassionate early release of super money was “just shifting the deck chairs”.
Baldwin was speaking on a bill that will transfer responsibility for deciding if super funds can be released early from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) to Medicare.
The measure doesn’t change the criteria – mainly health grounds but including threatened mortgage foreclosure on a family home - for permitting early release.
The opposition supports the move.
However Baldwin used the debate to attack Superannuation Minister Bill Shorten and APRA.
He told of a woman who had her granddaughter killed and house destroyed by fire, but was refused access to her super.
That meant she couldn’t rebuild and finally she lost her property.
Another family was in distress from a combination of health problems and having their money in a fund that was frozen during the global financial crisis.
It was basically told “tough luck”, Baldwin said.
Labor backbencher Shayne Neumann, whose electorate includes some of the hardest-hit areas in the southern Queensland floods, said the system had been “far from compassionate”.
He said people already traumatised by the floods were further traumatised by the bureaucracy.
Neumann welcomed the change, saying Medicare was much better placed than APRA to deal with people urgently needing help.
Medicare has the shop fronts and the trained staff, he said.Debate on the Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Early Release of Superannuation) Bill 2011 continues.
Government warns against snap decisions on super
Elsewhere, Superannuation Minister Bill Shorten said Australians should not make any snap decisions about their superannuation accounts despite balances taking a hit from share market volatility.
Gains of the past year or so have been wiped out as local and global stock markets tumble amidst concerns about sovereign debt and slowing growth in Europe and the United States.
Shorten said now is not the time to run away from super.
“As an actual investment product super’s done reasonably well over the last 20 years,” he told ABC Television yesterday, citing gains of about nine per cent during the past two years.
“Certainly it’s being a wild ride this week, but we still finished ahead.”
Now was not the time to make “snap decisions”, Shorten said, adding the equities market generally had performed well in Australia.
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