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FSC Blog - Impact of proroguing parliament on financial services reforms

The financial services industry has always been an 'issues rich' environment for our politicians and policy-makers, and this year has been no exception.

This means that there were many policy issues impacting on the financial services industry that were being debated by parliament last week when the parliament was prorogued and the Government made major steps towards an early election.

The decision to prorogue the parliament is made by the Governor General, on the advice of the Prime Minister, and took effect on 15 April. Proroguing has a significant effect on the progress on all bills that were in the process of being debated by the last parliament.

This article explains the effect of proroguing parliament on the bills before parliament, and outlines what the industry may expect on these policy issues going forward.

In addition to proroguing parliament the Governor General called a new, special sitting of parliament that commenced on Monday 18 April. The special sitting was called to specifically allow the parliament to consider two industrial relations bills that would restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and create new obligations for Registered Organisations.

The two industrial relations bills have not been passed by the Senate, handing the Government a double dissolution trigger.

As a result, however, all the financial services bills that were before the previous parliament have lapsed. For our industry this effects bills concerning:

  • Superannuation governance reforms, requiring all trustees to appoint one-third independent directors;
  • Superannuation choice of fund reforms that would prevent enterprise agreements from removing a consumer's right to choose their own fund;
  • The life insurance remuneration reforms that implement the Government's policy on the life insurance framework;
  • Superannuation transparency measures, including enhanced dashboards for both MySuper and Choice products;
  • Amendments to the portfolio holdings disclosure regime to allow its effective implementation for superannuation investments; and
  • Managed investment trust reforms that would implement an important component of the policy to grow Australia's financial services exports.

There were also regulations relating to many of these bills that have been similarly affected, including the design of the choice dashboard and important elements of the portfolio holdings disclosure regime.

It is important for the industry to understand, however, that whilst these reforms have lapsed, this does not equate to a change in policy by the Government.

Under parliamentary rules, the Government has two options to progress debate on any of these bills:

  1. Reintroduce the relevant bills into either house of Parliament; or
  2. Pass a procedural motion that directs either the House of Representatives or the Senate to resume the debate from where it's previous finishing point.

It is too early to determine whether the Government will seek to resume debate and finalise passage of any of these bills prior to an election. Whilst it looks unlikely that any measures will be addressed, other than the industrial relations issues that were the cause of the special sitting, it is not uncommon for both houses of parliament to deal with non-contentious legislation should the two major parties agree to do so.

The Government also has the option of holding off on these bills until after an election and have the bills reintroduced under a new parliament.

The industry should therefore be aware that current bills may still pass during the life of this parliament, or alternatively will be debated and passed after an election and once a new government is formed. 

This article also appeared in a recent edition of Super Review.

The Financial Services Council (FSC) represents the interests of the industry and we have an obligation to speak out on policy issues like those outlined above. With a direct influence on legislation discussions, we advocate for policy outcomes which not only enable the sector to deliver innovative services, but also help strengthen the economy as a whole.

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The author, Blake Briggs, is a Senior Policy Manager at the Financial Services Council.

This article also appeared in a recent edition of Super Review.

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