The federal government has failed to deliver a promised $3.3 million scheme that would have stopped domestic abuse perpetrators hiding their superannuation during Family Court disputes.
The scheme, announced in November 2018 and due to begin on July 1 this year, was designed to give women a greater chance of accessing their share of superannuation after separation. The federal government’s failure to deliver the scheme, weeks after its promised date, leaves many women, especially those experiencing family violence, worse off.
Tania Clarke, Manager of Policy and Campaigns at Women’s Legal Service Victoria, says the scheme would have bypassed perpetrators of abuse and allowed the family courts to get superannuation information directly from the ATO.
“Many of our clients have been in abusive relationships and their partners are hiding their superannuation assets and getting away with it because family law judgements can only be made on visible assets,” Clarke said.
“This is a real issue because superannuation is often the biggest – or only – asset of these relationships.”
The deliberate non-disclosure of financial assets, including superannuation, by perpetrators of domestic abuse, can lead to many women to walk away from their entitlements, or to protracted and expensive legal battles.
The government scheme would save a lot of time, money and heartache, according to Clarke.
Eva Scheerlinck, CEO of the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, says there is an urgent need for the scheme.
“The current process of uncovering non-disclosed super in a family law dispute needs an overhaul,” she said.
“In many cases, enquiries need to be made to a multitude of funds leading to many women simply giving up the search.
“Allowing the courts to access ATO data is a simple measure that will make the process far more efficient, fair and cost-effective both for the individuals concerned and the super industry.”
Two weeks ago, Women’s Legal Service Victoria, Women in Super (WIS) and the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST), wrote a joint letter to the Attorney-General, the Minister for Women and the Assistant Treasurer, asking about the scheme. There has been no response.
According to the ABC’s RN Breakfast program, Assistant Superannuation Minister Jane Hume declined to be interviewed about the scheme but provided a statement.
“The Government has commenced engagement with relevant parties, including the Family Court and the ATO … for the Improving Visibility of Superannuation in Family Law Proceedings measure,” she said.
“The exact timing of the introduction of the relevant bill into the Parliament is yet to be determined due to changes in the legislative agenda as a result of COVID-19.”
If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au.