Senator pushes for criminal penalties for super industry
Senator John Williams has urged the government to pass legislation that would introduce criminal penalties for directors of superannuation funds who breach their duties to members.
In a speech delivered by Kerry Chikarovski on behalf of Senator John Williams at the Workplace Super Specialists Australia Conference, Mr Williams stated that he supported a legislative change to the Superannuation Industry Act that could see criminal penalties imposed on those who fail to meet their obligations.
“People, when they commit criminal offences, should face criminal laws, serious fines and jail term for stealing Australian workers money and retirement funds as they should,” he said, as reported by SMSF Adviser’s sister title Investor Daily.
Senator Williams pointed out that a bill was introduced into the upper house in September last year that would impose civil and criminal penalties on directors of RSE licensees who fail to execute their responsibilities to act in the best interests of members or who use their position to further their own interests to the detriment of members. The bill has remained in the Senate since then.
“You all know how this place works. If we don’t have the numbers, it gets put on the back burner,” said Mr Williams.
The proposed legislation was announced by former minister for revenue and financial services Kelly O’Dwyer in July last year. She said the measures would make directors of superannuation funds who breach their duties to members “subject to the same civil and criminal penalties as directors of ordinary managed investment schemes”.
In April, Ms O’Dwyer also announced plans to increase penalties for the most serious criminal offences under the Corporations Act to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment for individuals.
Senator Williams said that criminal acts were still criminal and that finance professionals needed to face the consequences.
“Criminal activity is criminal activity and I want to see these criminal charges attached to superannuation so in the future when individuals, trustees or directors steal money from the retirement funds of hard working Australians, they face the proper music,” he said.
Senator Williams was also supportive of another amendment to the Treasury Law that would remove exit fees for consumers from funds, along a range of other changes.
“It [the bill] protects low-balance accounts by transferring them to the ATO where no contributions have been made in 13 months or more,” he said.
The senator called upon his colleagues across the aisle to support these changes to the industry that would protect Australians.
“When these bills come here to the Senate, if Labor and the Greens oppose that punishment, they will have to have a good reason for it,” he said.