Dissenting report draws battlelines on AFCA

Australian Labor Party members of a Senate Committee reviewing the Government’s legislation setting up the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) has strongly rejected the need for the body and criticised the manner in which it is being set up.

In dissenting comments suggesting the Government may struggle to have the necessary numbers for the legislation to pass both houses of Parliament, the Labor Senators have attributed the attempted formation of the AFCA to being part of the Government’s attempts to avoid holding a Royal Commission into the Banking and Financial Services sectors.

For their part, the Government Senators on the committee have urged the passage of the bill, but the make-up of the Senate makes this far from a certain proposition. At the very least, the Labor Party has signalled it will fight hard to retain the role of the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT).

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The dissenting comments from the Labor senators said the inquiry had “clearly shown that the Government’s new ‘one-stop-shop’ complaints authority will not have any new or additional powers that existing disputes resolution bodies don’t already have” and labelled it “largely a rebranding exercise”.

However, it said that in relation to superannuation disputes, which are currently dealt with by the statutory Superannuation Complaints Tribunal, “the bill is much worse than a rebranding exercise and will weaken outcomes and protections for consumers”.

“Superannuation complaints should continue to be dealt with by the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal, which should not be abolished,” the dissenting report said.

The dissenting report concluded on the note: “This bill appears to be more about politics than policy. This bill is no substitute for a royal commission and is not the tribunal that the Prime Minister promised”.

“Labor senators are of the view that the new AFCA should not include the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal's jurisdiction in relation to superannuation disputes. No persuasive case has been made that the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal should be abolished; in fact evidence received by the committee demonstrates the opposite. The Superannuation Complaints Tribunal should be retained.”

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