After the government went on the offensive, Labor has taken a more diplomatic path in presenting its case for why it is better for the financial services industry.
Appearing via video-link at the SMSF Association National Conference in Adelaide Thursday, shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers playfully avoided falling into the same antagonistic political discourse the financial services minister used in her speech.
“I know in the teeth of this election campaign what you’re really hoping from me is 15 minutes of partisan spray about all the weaknesses in the government,” Chalmers said. “Unfortunately, I’m not going to do that. Hopefully you’re not too disappointed.
“What I’m hoping to do instead is take a step back and give you a sense of how I’m seeing the economy and what policies I think we need.”
Chalmers said the broader Australian population doesn’t understand SMSFs are a “big part” of the super sector.
A quarter of superannuation assets under management are in the SMSF sector, which now boats over 600,000 funds with 1.1 million members according to ATO data.
Analysis from Wealth Data has found the level of assets per SMSF adviser has more than doubled over the last five years.
“In simple terms the SMSF cake is getting bigger but the number of slices per adviser has reduced,” Wealth Data director Colin Williams said.
“While not every SMSF is seeking an adviser and not every adviser wants to provide advice to SMSFs, there is little doubt that existing advisers who want to be part of this opportunity are in a very strong position.”
Shadow financial services and superannuation minister Stephen Jones said he wanted to avoid continuous “regulatory hits”, echoing a similar line he made at the RIAA conference a fortnight earlier.
“The last thing we want for the SMSF sector, whether its advisers, accountants or customers, to worry about is the next regulatory hit coming out of Canberra,” Jones said. “We want you focused on delivering great outcomes to members and for the retirees themselves we want you to have piece of mind in your retirement.”
Like Hume the day before, Jones said he wanted to “reduce red tape” in the advice industry.
“We want to guarantee retirees have access to affordable, professional advice at the right time and in a way they can afford and understand. Over the last five years the advice sector has been in turmoil.”
Mishandled regulatory changes have made it harder for the profession, Jones continued, but also harder for consumers to get access to the advice that they need.
“Australians have never been retiring with more money. They’ve never had more difficulty in getting access to professional financial advice. We want to change that to ensure all retirees can get access to the advice they need.”
Guarantee for the SG
While Hume boasted the Morrison Government’s pledge for no new taxes on superannuation, she made no commitments to protecting the super guarantee, which Jones and Chalmers both restated.
“We want to make the case your nest eggs are always going to be safer under Labor,” Jones said. “Only Labor has made the rock-solid guarantee the SG levy will continue if we are elected.”
In what was a rare attack during both speeches, Jones criticised the Morrison Government for its lack of commitment on the issue.
“We’ve had all sorts of weasel words from the Government and the Prime Minister who promised before the last election to deliver the SG levy but then spend the last two years trying to undo that promise.”
Chalmers said it was important not to be complacent about Australia’s super industry and it had the opportunity to a “big part” of the solution to the nation’s economic challenges.
“It’s important to recognise that even with those massive amounts of capital available for investment we do have issues with volatility and uncertainty at the moment.”
“That’s why we have put so much effort into protecting the 12 per cent legislated SG and a framework that supports investment in large scale infrastructure and clean energy.”
Stability and certainty
If there are two words both parties want to be associated with, they would be ‘stability’ and ‘certainty’.
Hume said a “re-elected Morrison Government means stability and certainty” for the superannuation system in her speech on Wednesday.
Chalmers said Labor’s priorities for super are “stability and certainty going forward”, while Jones said Labor understands the industry needs “stability and certainty when it comes to regulation in superannuation”.