Bad attitude laid bare

SMSF sector government response attitude

The recent pattern of snubs to the concerns of the SMSF sector regarding legislative change seems to confirm the government is contemptuous of the sector which is bad news for trustees and practitioners.

It’s been quite clear from the outset the Albanese government is no friend of the SMSF sector, but a recent event has probably made that sentiment more clear than ever before. I’m referring to what happened at this year’s SMSF Association National Conference in Brisbane.

Like most industry body events, politicians from both sides of the political fence are invited to speak. It’s not always groundbreaking stuff, but the audience appreciates hearing Canberra’s views about the big issues in the sector – and we all know there are some major ones right now.

Further, historically, it is most important for the sitting minister responsible for the superannuation or financial services portfolio to attend. Unfortunately, this year, Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services Stephen Jones gave it a miss and instead submitted a short video to deliver his message to delegates.

This may not seem like the biggest deal in the world, but according to SMSF Association chief executive Peter Burgess, it was the first time the relevant minister did not attend the conference in person.

And while the Member for Whitlam may not have meant any offence by his no-show, it would appear attendees took it to heart by basically voting with their feet. Just as the video began, attendees started heading for the exits immediately, much like when a football team is consigned to a defeat and supporters want to get a jump on the traffic out of the ground. It is something I have never witnessed before in the 17 consecutive years I have been attending this or any other industry conference.

But in hindsight, this approach was in all likelihood signalled several years ago when Labor’s Katy Gallagher held the shadow finance portfolio in opposition and also submitted a short video to address the conference crowd. And why do I remember this? Because it was filmed outside with what sounded like a lawnmower noticeably buzzing away in the background. I wondered at the time why she wouldn’t have tried to rerecord it or move to a different location where the sounds of everyday life were not so intrusive.

To me, the only conclusion was that she couldn’t care less about the exercise.

But back to this year’s conference. In contrast to Jones, shadow treasurer Angus Taylor did show up and presented in person and this made a difference just in terms of that perceived care factor. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t say anything we didn’t expect, but at least he was there.

And none of us are swallowing his criticism of the government without question as the coalition is not averse to poor policy either, dare I mention the transfer balance cap.

But Taylor’s presence exacerbated the perception Jones is not really prepared to even engage with the SMSF space, let alone seriously listen to it, and that spells trouble for all of us.

And if you need any additional evidence, the ‘consultation’ process for the proposed tax on total super balances above $3 million should provide it.

A drafting error in the bill to introduce this measure was picked up fairly early on in the process and was pointed out to the government by the SMSF Association in what was the first of several submissions it made.

The anomaly is that if you die on 30 June of any given year after 2025, the tax will be applicable to you, but if you pass away on any other day of the year, you will be exempt from the impost.

It’s an obvious error and you would think a pretty easy fix, but do you think anything has been done about it? After all, it’s not a criticism of the policy itself. But nothing has been done to correct this irregularity. It led Burgess to question if anyone on Capital Hill actually has read any of the stakeholder feedback.

To me, every episode outlined above shows a completely contemptuous governmental attitude toward the SMSF sector and that spells trouble for all of us.


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