Staffing levels at the prudential regulator will rise and consumer advocates will be given more cash under new measures outlined in Tuesday’s budget.
As outlined in the federal budget papers, the government has committed $11.2 million over four years from 2021-22, as well as $3.1 million per year ongoing, to support stronger consumer outcomes in superannuation.
It has built on a prior allocation of $159.6 million over four years from the 2020 budget, to implement super reforms for boosted member outcomes.
The new package includes $9.6 million for APRA to supervise and enforce increased transparency and accountability measures as part of the Your Future, Your Super reforms, which if passed, will take effect from July.
The super regulation initiative will be partially funded through an increase in industry levies, for regulated financial institutions.
Treasury has allocated $679 million in agency resourcing to APRA for the coming financial year, an increase from the $638.4 million it expects to spend for 2020/21.
The budget papers also report average staffing levels, which count full-time employees and adjust part-timers and casuals to show the full-time equivalent. Levels at the prudential regulator are expected to slightly increase in the 2021/22 year, with the estimated total shifting to 829 from 785 in the 2020/21 financial year.
Further, $1.6 million in the super reforms commitment has been designated to consumer advocate body Super Consumers Australia, after the CHOICE-aligned body expressed fears that its funding was set to run out.
In last year’s budget, the government declared that it would be establishing a consumer advocate body, to produce independent research and inform future policy decisions.
Super Consumers Australia has welcomed the direct funding, with director Xavier O'Halloran commenting it is a step towards the Productivity Commission’s recommendation for an independent body focused purely on member interests.
“A consumer advocate needs permanent funding to balance the powerful industry lobby. The main industry lobby groups alone (not including what the funds spend directly) use more than $50 million in Australians’ retirement savings to fund their lobbying work, employing approximately 110 staff,” Mr O'Halloran said.
“In Super Consumers Australia’s short existence we’ve been the voice of the consumer in a lopsided policy debate.
“Too often the superannuation policy debate is overrun with self-interest. Superannuation belongs to consumers. It is their money.”
Martin Fahy, chief executive of the Association of Super Funds of Australia (ASFA) noted the funding boost for APRA and Super Consumers Australia, commenting it should come with increased accountability.
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