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Senator proposes regulation to shut down superannuation lobby groups to save fees

Senator Bragg is a member of the Senate Economics Legislation Committee, which held the first of two consecutive days of public hearings about the superannuation Bill on Wednesday.

FSC deputy chief executive Blake Briggs, who appeared at the hearing, said rationalisation among some of the lobby groups could help reduce costs for the sector.

“The new best financial interest duty will require trustees to confirm that they have received value for money from their industry associations,” he said, adding he “has no concerns demonstrating the value we deliver our member companies”. The FSC receives about $6 million a year in funding.

AIST’s total membership fees for 2020 totalled $1.67 million, with total revenue worth $7 million. AIST chief executive Eva Scheerlinck said the group helped profit-to-member funds stay abreast of policy and regulatory changes and was “cost-effective” and “high value”.

Several experts, including the superannuation funds and lobbyists, told the committee the additional powers and the range of ways they could be used to limit decisions made by the funds could damage member returns.

Senator Bragg previously said publishing outlet The New Daily, which is backed by Industry Super Holdings, is the “sort of largesse [that] will be illegal” if the bill passes the Senate.

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A submission from employer group Ai Group said it “makes no sense that trustees could be required to go to extraordinary lengths to ensure they are in a position to prove their actions are in the best financial interests of members while at the same time creating a power for these actions to be circumvented by regulations”.

QSuper, which has 600,000 members, recommended dropping the provision allowi

ng additional regulations to block payments and investments or to put parameters in place specifying how the powers might be used.

“The provision may call such long-term investments into question for fear that at some stage decisions may be reversed by regulation with no consultation,” the submission said. “Our concern is that the provision casts doubt over whether long-term decisions of trustees, and the commitment of material sums of members’ monies, will stand in the future.”

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