Super fund disclosure rules delayed yet again, as backbench campaign for transparency

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Changes which would have revealed more about the investments of superannuation funds to members have been yet again delayed, while government backbenchers campaign for more information and restrictions on the investments of industry super funds.

Portfolio Holdings Disclosure – which would require most super funds to publicly release details of their investments – have been delayed yet again. ASIC announced that the new start date for the disclosure would be 31 December 2021, out from 31 December 2020. Though this is also the fifth delay to the start date. The reason for the delay is not inaction by ASIC, but because the Government has not made the required regulations.

“ASIC’s deferral allows additional time for the Government to make the regulations,” said a statement by the regulator.

“Depending on when regulations are made, ASIC may shorten the period of the relief by a further legislative instrument. In doing so, ASIC will take into account the fact that industry will need an appropriate transition time to implement the regime.”

“ASIC supports greater transparency about funds’ portfolio holdings and welcomes the move by some funds to proactively increase transparency about their portfolio holdings in the absence of legislative obligations.”

Portfolio Holdings Disclosure was originally legislated in 2012, and was one of the Stronger Super reforms. However the required regulations weren’t made and so the reform hasn’t come into effect. Instead ASIC has been making repeated deferrals.

While the Government hasn’t made the regulations to implement Portfolio Holdings Disclosure, Government MPs and Senators are concerned with the investments of super funds. Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg has been particularly vocal of late in opposition to holdings in online newspaper The New Daily by industry super funds. Bragg recently referred to The New Daily as a “highly dubious outlet which uses workers’ super to attack critics of super and political opponents”.

“Super funds are supposed to be working for their members – not running propaganda outfits.”

This campaign has not been without results. The 2020/21 Federal Budget, released in October, included changes to make super funds “more accountable and transparent as to how they are managing the retirement savings of their members”. Late in November, Treasury released draft legislation to implement these ‘Your Future, Your Super’ changes – which casts doubt on the compatibility of indirect investments in The New Daily with the new best financial interests duty.

While the Government has the time to quickly turn Budget promises supported by backbenchers into draft legislation, regulations which would improve transparency for members are endlessly delayed, and policies from earlier Budgets are kept in limbo.

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