Data taken from the Election Commission shows a total of $85.5 million in non-donation and non-gift payments by 51 funds to political entities and associates over the past five years. The government has also aligned the definition of ‘related party’ with the Australian accounting standards definition, reducing the number of payments that need to be disclosed.
The requirement for funds to provide detailed information on their multi-million dollar marketing spend has also been removed, with this information now required to be presented as a single aggregate figure.
Funds now also have the option to provide contextual information in their abbreviated expenditure summary.
The government argued that moving from detailed to comprehensive disclosure would reduce compliance costs for funds and therefore improve outcomes for members.
Mr. Jones said FRG weekend the decision to exclude political donations was in response to “public concern”, adding that the prudential regulator had informed it that super funds do not make political donations.
“Nobody can say that we are trying to hide something,” he said.
Mr Jones said payments to unions and industry bodies were “payments for services” and should be treated consistently with other types of payments. If members have questions, they can attend their annual meeting of members and request additional information.
“If people are concerned about these related party transactions, they are disclosed as a whole and they can come to the meeting and say ‘what is this? ‘” Mr. Jones said.
Coalition superannuation spokesman Stuart Robert said the ‘watered down, half-pregnant reporting measures’ protected information about fund payments to unions, adding the opposition would act to overturn the settlements in the Senate.
“It’s not enough to just step back on the list of political donations, but to allow payments to unions and sponsorships to be single digits overall,” Robert said.
“The Opposition is set to reject these watered down transparency measures in their entirety and we expect every senator and member who has campaigned on transparency and integrity to join us in ensuring the highest standards for Aussies and their retirement savings.”
Any successful disallowance motion would require the support of the Greens.
“Transparency is not there”
The exclusion of political donations was backed by Super Consumers Australia, with the lobby group arguing last month that existing disclosure levels and Labor Party proposals offered inadequate scrutiny.
In its submission to the Treasury, Super Consumers said there was no “hard evidence” to back up industry complaints that compiling information in annual reports was a significant drain on funds.
The abolition of detailed spending requirements was supported by the various lobby groups representing the $3.3 trillion pension industry.
The Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees said global disclosure would boost member engagement.
“This comprehensive approach is consistent with disclosure of portfolio holdings, providing members with adequate, useful, and non-overpowering information about their interests in the fund while taking into account their best financial interests by limiting compliance costs,” writes- it in its submission to the treasury. .
But the Law Society of NSW said the government had not provided an estimate of the expected costs for super funds arising from compliance with the current regulations, which are only a year old.
“We argue that the right balance between reducing regulatory burden and accountability and transparency has not been struck with the removal of the detailed expense disclosure requirement under sub-regulation 2.10. For this reason, we do not support the proposed settlement in its current form,” he wrote.