Unclaimed Money Bill 2015 No. 39 – in Committee

Read into Hansard on Tuesday 13th October 2015

UNCLAIMED MONEY BILL 2015 (No.39) – In Committee

[6.24 p.m.]

Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.

Clause 4 – Application of this Part.

Dr GOODWIN – For the general claims we are talking about here, about 10 per cent of the total claims, the database has 980 000 transactions on it and it is a voluntary compliance process.  We do not have a list of businesses that we can supply and it is not an easily identifiable thing to come up with a list of businesses.  There is not much more I can add to that.  It is not something I can produce.

Mr VALENTINE – Is it money that is being generated within Tasmania?  I am thinking of, say, theVan Diemen’s Land Company, which is owned externally in the most part, that has ex‑employees who have not taken superannuation for some reason and someone might have gone off and got married and they have lost track of where they are.  What happens in that case?  Is it for moneys only generated in the state or could it be moneys coming from interstate or internationally?

Dr GOODWIN – I am not sure whether you are only talking about superannuation because if you are, it is only the RBF that is covered.

Mr VALENTINE – That is state government, sorry.

Mr VALENTINE – Superannuation was not a sensible question to ask.  What about dividends coming, say, to somebody who used to work for someone like Van Diemen’s Land Company, which is administered from outside the state for the most part?  Does that come back to the state?

Dr GOODWIN – It depends if they are registered in this state or not.

Mr Valentine – The principal office may not be in the state.

Dr GOODWIN – No, in which case they would not be captured if the principal office is not in the state.  No.  It depends on where their principal office is.

Clause 4 agreed to.

Clauses 5 to 11 agreed to.

Clause 26 –

Treasurer not responsible for payment in certain cases

Mr VALENTINE – I want some clarity on this – under what circumstances this is likely to occur –

If any unclaimed money paid to a claimant under section 25 is afterwards claimed by any other person, the Treasurer is not responsible for the payment of that money, but that person may have recourse against the claimant to whom the Treasurer has paid the money.

Under what circumstance are we talking about?  It says, ‘in certain cases’.  Perhaps there could be some clarity provided.

Dr GOODWIN – This might be the case where there is a dispute over an estate, and the Treasurer has made a payment in good faith to someone who claims to be entitled to the unclaimed money and may have gone through the process of providing proof of identity and everything seems legitimate.  Then perhaps some unknown son comes along and disputes the person’s entitlement to the money.  This is to keep the Treasurer out of those sorts of disputes because he or she will have made the payment in good faith based upon the available information.

Clause 26 agreed to.

Clauses 27 to 35 agreed to.

Mr MULDER – Mr Chairman, I move –

That clause 23 be further postponed.

Clause 23 further postponed.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.

 

Read into Hansard on Wednesday 14th October 2015

Resumed from 13 October 2015

[2.43 p.m.]

Postponed clause 23 

Treasurer to publish

Mr VALENTINE – Mr Chairman, I move on behalf of the member for Rumney –

That clause 23, subclause (2), be amended by leaving out ‘, and the period for which,’.

The argument was prosecuted yesterday in regard to that, so I do move.

Dr GOODWIN – The Government’s position is that we prefer the flexibility as currently worded.  We have clarified that the intention is, when the database is available, to publish the information on an ongoing basis.  There will be the capacity to search for historical money or claims going back some time.  We have made that commitment.  The purpose of this provision was to provide flexibility around the publication in the Gazette.  We do not believe that the amendment is necessary but obviously, unless some other members have a different view, we will see what happens.

Mr VALENTINE – I hear the arguments being put forward but I think taking out ‘and the period for which’ is important in the future operation of any database.  The Treasurer could decide to only put it on the database for six months or 12 months or once – not that they would do it once, but they might decide that after, say, a statutory period, which I think the Taxation Office used to have, of seven years or five years, it would come off and therefore the people looking for the possibility of moneys existing that they could trace to themselves in some way, shape or form, is greatly reduced, as is the opportunity of finding that money because it is no longer on the searchable database if ‘and the period for which’ is in there.

Certainly at the moment it happens through the Gazette and it is published every so often.  If people really wanted to find that amount or whether there were any amounts, they would have to trawl through old copies of the Gazette to find out whether it was published in the past.  That would be a tremendously tedious exercise.  But because there is this expectation of an online searchable database at some point in the future, it should be quite clear under this legislation that there is no intention – if you take out ‘and the period for which’ – to remove it from that database.  That is what it hangs on. To my mind this is more about what happens in the future with a searchable database.  For that reason I moved the amendment for the member for Rumney.  I support the amendment in that regard because it clarifies that the Treasurer is not there to decide how long it will be displayed for.

Dr GOODWIN – We need to reflect on the whole point of this particular provision.  What it is about is to publish – or advertise if you like – new money received by the Treasurer.  That is the whole point of it.  That people who have unclaimed money have the opportunity to find out that some new unclaimed money has been received by the Treasurer.  A database is maintained; it is not published as such.  We are probably going round and round in circles here, but we do not see that this amendment is necessary.

As I pointed out, if we are so deeply suspicious about what a future Treasurer might do, we are still leaving the future Treasurer with the power to determine the method by which the information is to be published.  The future Treasurer could go back to the Gazette, if that still exists, or they could determine some other method of publishing.

I am not sure that this achieves what the members for Rumney and Hobart are both hoping for.  Nevertheless, we have made the commitment that there will be the database.  It will be searchable, it will be on the web.  The most important thing is the person’s right to their unclaimed money remains.

Mr VALENTINE – We are talking about someone else’s money, not the Treasurer’s, and that is an important thing to my mind.  We need to give every opportunity for people to find money that may belong to them.  It might be that someone suddenly realises they have found an unknown brother or some such thing, and there was some money where they could not find a relative.  Then this person finds out they had this individual as a brother and that brother has since deceased and has some money in the system that might amount to thousands of dollars.  Indeed it has been published in the Gazette but it was published some time ago.  That person thinks, I wonder if they had any assets that I should be seeking.

Mrs Taylor – Unclaimed super.

Mr VALENTINE – Unclaimed super, whatever it is.  If it is your brother, it would not have been, but that is fine.  It might have been a carer.  I do not know.  There are lots of reasons why people might be able to claim someone else’s assets.  The only way they are going to find this out is if they go back to the published record, which up until now is the Gazette.  They have to trawl through Gazette after Gazette right back until it is likely that this person would have left their assets behind, probably their point of death.  That is one way of doing it.

Well into the future, when we are in the year 2050, there is an online database.  That record is published in an online database.  With this clause still in there, ‘and the period for which’, the Treasurer could decide we are only going to advertise these things in the database for a period of six months.  Once that period of six months is up, those entries are taken out and they are archived.  It depends how they are archived as to whether an individual searching for assets is going to be able to find them.  That is the point.  Especially with the price of memory these days, it is so easy to leave it on the database, searchable virtually forever, until such time as it is claimed.  Then it would come off, I expect.

Leaving the clause in there allows any future Treasurer to decide, ‘Well, enough is enough.  We are going to cull this database after it has been on there for a period of 12 months, or six months.’  That is what this is about.  I understand the assurances that this present Government is giving, but we cannot see how a future Treasurer might treat this.  That is why I will support this amendment.

Dr GOODWIN – Mr President, the assumption is that the only way these people can track down their unclaimed money is by combing through Gazettes, or when the database comes online, by going to the database.  The reality is that people can, and do, ring up Treasury and say, ‘My Uncle Pete has just died.  I am the beneficiary of his will.  Has he got any unclaimed money?’  Presumably that will continue to happen.  People will take that opportunity to contact Treasury direct.

We are probably over‑thinking this issue and being overly cautious about what a future Treasurer may or may not do.  We sometimes fall into the trap of trying to legislate for every possible eventuality, and in this situation we are not really achieving much by going down this path.

The Committee divided –

AYES 3                                      NOES 11

Mrs Armitage (Teller)             Mr Armstrong (Teller)
Mr Mulder                               Mr Dean
Mr Valentine                           Mr Farrell
Mr Finch
Ms Forrest
Mr Gaffney
Dr Goodwin
Mr Hall
Mrs Hiscutt
Ms Rattray
Mrs Taylor

Amendment negatived.

Clause 23 agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to and bill taken through the remainder of the Committee stage.