Editorials

Can’t help but be cynical

I’ve just come back from the SMSF Association National Conference and as is usually the case at these events, presentations and messages expressing support for the sector were delivered by a variety of politicians.

After hearing all of these messages from our elected officials in Canberra, there was one ingredient that was missing in all of it – any sense of sincerity.

Naturally one of the hot topics discussed at the conference was Labor’s proposed policy change to imputation credit refunds. To lend balance to the debate, both sides of politics provided a video message on the subject, but after seeing them I was really left wondering why the Member for Kingsford Smith, Matt Thistlethwaite, bothered.

In his message, Thistlethwaite said: “Labor strongly believes in the SMSF sector and values the relationship we have with the association and that’s why we [have] policies to ensure security and diversity into the future, like banning limited recourse borrowing.”

Could anyone who has had any involvement in the sector over the past six to 12 months truly believe that statement? Thistlethwaite mentions security and diversity and yet everything Labor is proposing that will affect the sector, most noticeably but not only via the treatment of imputation credits, is going to deliver anything but this objective.

How is significantly reducing an individual’s retirement income stream going to provide security? Noticeable disruption can achieve a lot of things, but security is probably not going to be one of them.

In addition, I’d be all ears to hear from Thistlethwaite how banning limited recourse borrowing arrangements promotes diversity.

One of the attractions of SMSFs is their ability to provide flexibility and a variety of options in superannuation not necessarily achievable via any other retirement saving structure.

So, how is restricting the activities and strategies allowable to SMSF members ensuring diversity? I know it seems obvious, but surely the more restrictions that are placed on the sector will diminish its diversity.

But let’s not limit the criticism to the current federal opposition. Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert was on hand to make a speech to delegates as well. He too expressed unequivocal support for SMSFs during his presentation.

However, there was one significant problem. Throughout his time on stage, the Assistant Treasurer repeatedly referred to SMSFs as “Smurfs”. This term is quite possibly the most derogatory reference that can be made when talking about self-managed funds.

It arose when SMSFs were in their infancy and suffering attack and derision from every other sector because at the time common wisdom suggested they would be here today and gone tomorrow – basically a joke that couldn’t be taken seriously.

Even Treasury at the time was dismissive towards the sector, openly expressing the opinion SMSFs were the tax minimisation vehicle of choice for many people.

Robert may not know the history of SMSFs and their evolution, but he should have made himself aware of how insulting the use of this term is and how it can easily get the sector offside.

So there it was, representatives from both sides of the political fence claiming to love SMSFs but doing anything they could to prove otherwise.

Performances like this only result in a complete lack of trust in our politicians and the inability to avoid being cynical about everything they say when it comes to SMSFs.

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