I rise to support the Unclaimed Money Bill 2008. This bill is part of the
government’s ongoing commitment to modernise and streamline Victorian statutes
and to reduce the regulatory burden placed on business in this regard. In this
case it is to do with unclaimed money. What do we mean by unclaimed money? There
are a number of categories, and they are wide-ranging — unclaimed
superannuation entitlements, unpresented cheques, share dividends, salaries and
wages, rent and bond money and money paid into the courts.
The purpose of the bill is to protect unclaimed money while at
the same time establishing a system that identifies and locates individuals so
that this money can be provided to the rightful owners. In the period 2006-07
the State Revenue Office collected over $25 million in general unclaimed money,
and to date only $15 million has been returned to the rightful owners.
The current act was introduced in 1962 and since then has been
amended time and again to streamline administration, but the bill we have before
us today provides for a more effective advertising regime. It has greater
flexibility and allows for such advertising to go onto electronic mediums,
whereas before it was primarily done through the Government
Gazette. The registrar can also place advertisements in major regional and
metropolitan newspapers much earlier in the process than is currently
prescribed. Current businesses are required to hold onto and administer
unclaimed money for two years, whereas this bill reduces this to just over one
year. This will reduce the administrative burden on businesses — whether small,
medium or large.
The bill also provides for a more modern compliance and
enforcement regime for the registrar and updates the powers of investigation to
be similar to those in other acts that relate to unclaimed money or public
money. In meeting its objectives the bill strikes a fine balance between
protecting unclaimed money while at the same time protecting the privacy of
individuals and seeking to have the money returned to the rightful owners.
In relation to superannuation, the bill gives effect to an
agreement between the Victorian and commonwealth governments whereby money is
transferred to the commonwealth. This ensures that there is no double handling
and that there is a single access point — simplifying the location and
identification of rightful owners in relation to their entitlements.
The bill is a simplification of the administration surrounding
unclaimed money. It increases the prospect of money being returned to or
received by the rightful owners in a whole range of ways. It protects privacy
and promotes good common sense in what can be an interminable maze for people
seeking out their entitlements and businesses which hold onto the unclaimed
money. I commend the bill to the house.