AUSTRALIA - Small business owners are at risk of a jail sentence for inadvertently advising employees about superannuation if changes are not made to the government's new superannuation choice laws, the Opposition argues.
Tony Burke (pictured), shadow small business minister, has called for an exemption for small business from the legislation, under which business owners face a AUS$22,000 fine and two years’ jail if they advise their employees on which super fund to join. The new legislation is due to take effect on July 1.
“There is no doubt small business operators will inadvertently give advice,” Burke said. “If the Howard government thinks that won’t happen then they don’t understand how close the relationship between an employer and an employee is in small business. No one should ever go to jail for trying to be helpful.”
Federal Labor leader Kim Beazley has joined Burke in calling for an exemption for small business, describing the Bill as a “complicated and convoluted piece of legislation”.
“There are no fewer than 34 steps involved in complying with the law,” he said. “The government is implementing super choice in the most heavy-handed bureaucratic way you could imagine.”
But Fran Bailey, small business and tourism minister, accused Labor of scare tactics.
“Tony Burke is resorting to increasingly desperate tactics to build a scare campaign on the introduction of super choice,” she said. “Labor is continuing to try and mislead small business and has been opposed to Australian workers having the right to choose their superannuation fund.”
The Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia (COSBOA) has questioned the need for such harsh penalties despite predictions that three quarters of those eligible will not take up super choice.
Tony Steven, CEO of COSBOA, said: “A possible two year jail term for giving advice to an employee is a more substantial penalty than courts often impose for more serious crimes, such as shoplifting, most break and enters etc. I’m sure the community would view these types of crimes as much more serious than offering some advice to an employee/friend within a small business workplace.”
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