22 February 2018
Transcript - #2018009, 2018

Interview with Leon Byner, FIVEaa

SUBJECTS: Early release of superannuation benefits on compassionate grounds

LEON BYNER:

Thank you for being with us. One of the roles of this show is that when you call us about stuff and other callers say yeah I've got the same problem we not only can talk about it, chew the fat, but we can go to the regulators, the legislators and say look there is an issue here can we do something about it? And this is another example where the Federal Government have been somewhat in good receipt of your concerns. The Turnbull Government has released for consultation the exposure draft regulations on the transfer of the early release of superannuation benefits on compassionate grounds to the Australian Tax Office. So what's happened here is, and you have heard the callers ring in where people are clearly in a very desperate situation financially and they've got super and they can't touch it and they get told "ohh the rules don't allow us I'm sorry you'll just have to cope" and the outcomes can be quite disastrous. So let's talk to the Revenue and Financial Services Minister Kelly O'Dwyer. Kelly thanks for joining us today.

KELLY O'DWYER:

Great to be with you Leon.

LEON BYNER:

Now how would this work and when can it be introduced?

KELLY O'DWYER:

So there are two things that we're looking at here. The first is that we know there is a big problem that exists right now when people want to access their own money, their own superannuation money, because at the end of the day it's money that they've earned, that they've set aside, and in certain circumstances they should absolutely be able to access that money. Under the current system they have to apply to the Department of Human Services to assess that application. It can often take months and months and then when they finally make a determination they notify the individual who then often, who is in a stressful position themselves, has to go to the trustee of the fund to try and get release of those funds which again can also take months. Now we don't think this is good enough. We think this system needs to be absolutely streamlined so that people get access to their money when they need it. And we are talking about people for instance who can have terminal illnesses who are waiting months and months and months for their own money. We're transferring responsibility to the Australian Taxation Office who will be able to not only assess the application, but as soon as that's done, in a much more timely fashion, they will notify the trustee directly so the individual doesn't have to go through that trauma and the funds can be released quickly.

LEON BYNER:

Alright so if this goes through which I think it probably will, I don't see why anyone would object to it, then you would contact the ATO?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Indeed, you would contact the ATO. But we're also doing another thing, Leon. For about twenty years we have had the same rules in place, the same fairly strict rules about how it is that you can access your own super whether it's on financial hardship grounds or compassionate grounds and it is a pretty strict criteria. We are currently reviewing that at the moment because we know that there are a number of anomalies. I've had letters, just as you had callers Leon, letters from people who for instance have got a disabled child and who are able, if they own their own home, to access their superannuation under the current compassionate provisions to modify their home to actually make it much more practical, for instance for their child. But if they're renting they are in an even more vulnerable position, they can't actually access any of their own money. Now we're looking at whether or not these sort of anomalies are fair, whether there are other examples of when it is that you should be able to access your super. Noting of course that your superannuation is meant to be there for your retirement so it is a balance. But we have been receiving lots and lots of submissions on this and we are going to very very carefully review it.

LEON BYNER:

How soon can this happen?

KELLY O'DWYER:

In terms of the early release and the transfer to the ATO we are going to be introducing that to the Parliament very soon. We've released the exposure draft. As soon as we have received a bit of feedback on that it's going in this year – in a matter of weeks and we are hoping it would be pretty non-controversial and go through the Parliament.

LEON BYNER:

Yeah I'd expect it would. So in the meantime Minister, this is important, if anyone has got an issue and we're in this kind of transition, what would you recommend they do?

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well under the existing system until that goes through, they still need to go through the Department of Human Services, the existing provisions at the moment, until there is this change. I wouldn't advise anyone to delay on that because we know the vagaries of Parliament and we'll be pushing to get these changes through as quickly as possible but as you know we have a very interesting Senate and…. (interrupted)

LEON BYNER:

Ohh I don't think Labor is going to object to this.

KELLY O'DWYER:

Well I wouldn't have thought so but you never know when politics can be played on some of the simplest things. I would be hoping that not only Labor and the Greens agree to this but the crossbench as well and that we would be able to get it through the Parliament very quickly. But if people do have an issue right now whether it's for financial hardship reasons or on compassionate grounds they should immediately go through the current process and certainly the Department of Human Services is definitely on notice that we want them to assess the applications quickly and we've put the funds on notice too because once they are notified we want them to release those funds quickly and sometimes it takes funds quite a period of time before they'll actually do that.

LEON BYNER:

Minister, thanks for joining us today and one point – if you've got Hank Jongen in charge you've got a good man doing it because he is a good compassionate man and he's helped a lot of people. Thank you for coming on this morning.

KELLY O'DWYER:

Thank you – glad to be here.