The federal government has seized a record $360 million from
household bank accounts that have been dormant for just three
years, prompting outrage in some quarters amid complaints
that pensioners and retirees have lost deposits.
Figures from the Australian Security and Investments
Commission (ASIC) show almost $360 million was collected from
80,000 inactive accounts in the year to May under new rules
introduced by Labor.
The new rules lowered the threshold at which the government
is allowed to snatch funds from accounts that remain idle
from seven years to three years.
The rule change has delivered the government a massive
bonanza with the money collected in the year to May more than
the total collected in the past five decades combined.
Between 1959 and 2012, the total collected was $330 million.
While the purpose of the laws is actually to reunite people
with lost accounts before funds are eroded by fees and other
charges, the lower threshold has been criticised as a budget
cash-grab which affected accounts that were neither lost or
Australian Bankers' Association chief executive Steven
Munchenberg said the legislation was a "rushed"
budget-boosting exercise which had transferred money set
aside by people for their grandchildren's future to the
"We have grandparents who put money aside for their
grandkids' future and farmers who have set aside money for a
rainy day, but it was transferred to the government," Mr
Munchenberg told Fairfax Media.
Connie Franze, 68, and her son Vince, 45, told Fairfax Media
they were trying to reclaim life savings of more than $12,000
that was taken by the government last June.
Ninety per cent of the accounts seized by the government had
balances of less than $5000, although some were worth