Meaningless, but they still do it

SMSF statistics

The regurgitating of SMSF statistics by politicians is meaningless and does not prove a familiarity with key issues, especially when they get them wrong.

When I put this newsletter together, now on a fortnightly basis, I try to include news items and information I feel you, the reader, won’t have received or read about. In doing this I figure there is no point in providing you with something you already know about.

While I’m not perfect, this modus operandi seems pretty logical to me. So why is it that our politicians can’t seem to grasp this theory when it comes to SMSF sector statistics?

At the recent SMSF Association 2020 National Conference on the Gold Coast, both Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology Jane Hume and opposition financial services spokesman Stephen Jones made presentations to delegates.

As can be expected these days, both politicians began their speeches with a bunch of statistics about the SMSF sector, such as how many billions of dollars of assets it holds and the portion of the superannuation industry for which it accounts.

The only problem is everyone else in the room already knows all of that. So what value do they actually add by reeling off these figures? I would suggest none.

It would be logical to then ask why they do it. Is it to reinforce their own knowledge of the sector? Or is it to prove somehow to the audience they know a lot about the sector? Well if they are the elements that motivate them to do this, the feedback I got from delegates is it was and will continue to be an epic fail.

Worse still, if you are going to quote a bunch of figures at least get them right. In his speech, Jones made reference to the Productivity Commission finding about the minimum asset balance required for an SMSF being an efficient retirement savings vehicle from a cost and return perspective. The commission’s threshold was $500,000, only Jones said it was $1 million.

I’m not saying everybody has to be perfect, and I’m certainly the first person to admit I’m not, but is it asking too much to do your homework before making a speech to practitioners servicing the sector? And I’m talking about preparation that will allow you to pick up a glaring error like this rather than just parroting some words someone else has written for you.

Politicians may not think this is a big deal, but it all comes back to how much credibility they hold with their audience and the public. And if you think delegates didn’t pick up on this faux pas, then guess again. Just about immediately after the presentation the error was on everybody’s lips. So how much confidence do you think the sector has in Jones now?

The bottom line is it doesn’t matter whether you’re presenting to an audience of SMSF professionals or trustees – people are there to hear something insightful from you about the sector and what you as an elected official are going to do for it.

They are not interested in information they already know and only when members of parliament understand this can they begin to work more positively with SMSF stakeholders to establish a greater deal of confidence in how the superannuation system in the country will be run.


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