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Kavanagh

John Kavanagh

The chaotic end to the Parliamentary year in Canberra left a lot of financial legislation waiting for consideration and, with only relatively few sitting days until the next election, there is a fair chance that some of that legislation will lapse when the election is called.

When an election is called and Parliament is prorogued, bills and other business before the House of Representatives lapse and need to be reintroduced in the next Parliament. Business before the Senate also lapses. If there is a change of Government those bills might never be seen again.

The Prime Minister announced last week that the Budget would be delivered on April 2, about one month ahead of schedule. It is expected that an election will be called after the Budget.

Parliament has three sitting weeks, at most, in February and March before the Budget session. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to get through the backlog of bills. And we have a minority Government that may have trouble managing its parliamentary agenda.

Bills not passed, that will have an impact on the financial services industry, include:

  • Treasury Laws Amendment (Design and Distribution and Product Intervention Power) Bill 2018. This gives ASIC extra power to direct the way banks, investment managers and other financial services providers market their products.
  • National Consumer Credit Protection Amendment (Mandatory Comprehensive Credit Reporting) Bill 2018; the introduction of mandatory comprehensive credit reporting by the big banks, which was supposed to have taken effect at the end of September.
  • Treasury Laws Amendment (Enhancing Whistleblower Protections) Bill 2017: a whistleblower protection regime in the Corporations Act to cover the corporate, financial and credit sectors.

Superannuation changes still in the works include:

  • an amendment to establish a one-off 12-month amnesty to enable employers to correct super guarantee underpayments without penalty;
  • an amendment to allow the Australian Taxation Office to issue directions to employers to make SG payments, in cases where they fail to comply with their obligations;
  • changes to the rules covering non-arm’s length transactions in superannuation funds;
  • a bill allowing high-income employees with multiple employers to opt out of the super guarantee regime to avoid breaching the concessional contribution cap;
  • a super fund member’s share of the value of certain limited recourse borrowing arrangements will be included in the member’s total superannuation balance;
  • a cap of 3 per cent on super fees, including administration fees, investment fees and prescribed costs, on super accounts with balances less than $6000;
  • Opt-in life insurance cover for young members and members with low balances; and
  • a requirement for super funds to have one-third independent directors on their trustee boards, and an independent chair (a news report this week has suggested this bill is now off the table).