Have the superannuation regulators gone too far?

The Government’s review process has afforded Australia’s financial services regulators unprecendented input on the shape of the superannuation industry. A Super Review roundtable examined the repercussions of this development.


  • Mike Taylor — managing editor, Super Review;
  • Phil Collins — chief executive, IUS Life;
  • Russell Mason — global partner, Mercer;
  • John Quessy — trustee, NGS Super;
  • Roslyn Ramwell — chief executive, (CSR) Harwood Superannuation Fund; and
  • Pauline Vamos — chief executive, ASFA.

Mike Taylor, Super Review: One of the things that the Government has actually done with respect to financial services, and in part superannuation, is that rather than introduce legislation, which of course requires some debate somewhere along the way in the parliament, they’ve done a lot of changing via regulation, which in its own way has empowered the regulators.

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And our regulators don’t seem to me to be terribly reluctant to give their views in a way that I’m not sure public servants or senior public servants are entirely entitled to do. I’m just wondering whether the panel has a view on that?

John Quessy, NGS Super: I don’t think it’s the exclusive prerogative of this government. I think a few aspects of Australian government have begun to change over the years, certainly it’s become more presidential.

And I think there is a real attitude to avoiding public discussion, public debate. Certainly there is a real avoidance of parliamentary scrutiny and [an attempt to do as much as it can by regulation]. I think that’s been drifting in for probably the last 15 years, but perhaps longer.

Phil Collins, IUS Life: I think regulators are always quite happy to be heard and to throw a bit of weight around, it’s a matter of how much they have to throw around, and I think that is what’s been changing.

They’ve been given more power, and to some degree multiple regulators have created a bit of competition, and I think they’re only too keen to get out there.

The more that is done by regulation rather than by legislation, the more that will happen. It’s the only way of solving that.

Pauline Vamos, ASFA: I think the big change has been that regulators have always influenced regulatory policy. The change I think we’ve seen, particularly with the number of reviews [recently], is they’ve done it in front of the house rather than inside the house.

And I question whether that’s a good or bad thing. It could possibly be a good thing, because upfront you know where their regulatory position is currently.

And their thinking often drives their regulatory approach, but I think the level is no different, it’s just different where it’s done.

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