On 20 December last year, Treasury released its consultation paper on the early release of superannuation benefits following an announcement by Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer that the government would review the rules around early release in cases of severe financial hardship and on compassionate grounds.
Under the current legislation, one of the circumstances in which funds may be released on compassionate grounds is to prevent foreclosure of a mortgage, explained DBA Lawyers special counsel Bryce Figot.
One of the issues explored by the consultation paper is whether this should be extended to include individuals who are unable to meet rental payments, he said.
While some might argue that renters don’t have much to show for their rental payments in a financial, tangible sense, said Mr Figot, there’s a lot to justify extending access to super on these grounds, particularly given the growing percentage of lifelong renters.
“Why do home owners get this free kick or essentially this free safety net from the super system, when renters don’t?” he said.
Mr Figot said he also supports the idea of extending early access to superannuation for victims of domestic violence.
During a five-year period volunteering at a community legal centre, Mr Figot said he encountered a number of women facing homelessness or who were homeless, which was largely traced to domestic violence.
“So while I can certainly see the counter argument for ‘no you've got to preserve it’, and that is one of the competing guiding principles, having worked with people who were homeless and were facing homelessness as a result of domestic violence, I'm very sympathetic to adding this as new grounds,” he said.
“It would have been great if that was one of the things that I could have done for people as a legal service; to help them make an application to get some money from their super so that they wouldn't become homeless.”