Simon Porter's Nymboida property was destroyed by fire in November.
Simon Porter's Nymboida property was destroyed by fire in November.

Losing everything is not enough

ON NOVEMBER 8 it was business as usual for Simon Porter, who hopped in his car and headed out to work a night shift.

When he next came home he was walking through a blackened mess and staring down the barrel of financial ruin.

The Nymboida resident lost everything except his car that night and had made up his mind to sell up and leave the Glens Creek Rd property he bought nearly a decade ago.

As if the emotional toll wasn’t hard enough, Mr Porter said he was struggling financially to keep up payments on a personal loan for a tractor that was destroyed in the fire.

When he applied to access some of his superannuation under compassionate grounds, he was shocked to find he was ineligible.

Now Mr Porter wants the Federal Government to make it easier for people affected by natural disasters to be able to draw on their superannuation.

“I’ve got the mortgage and I’ve got the loan and adding rent on top of that just doesn’t make it feasible,” he said.

“If people can take super out to pay for IVF treatment or to pay for surgery or to pay for a funeral, I am pretty sure that (my situation) meets the compassionate grounds.”

Simon Porter's Nymboida property was destroyed by fire in November.
Simon Porter's Nymboida property was destroyed by fire in November.

There are very limited ways to access superannuation early, with medical treatment, palliative care, loan payment to prevent losing your home or permanent disability among the reasons included on the ATO website under compassionate grounds.

Allowing those affected by natural disasters to access their super was an idea shared by ­financial advisory firm Infocus managing director Darren Steinhardt.

Mr Steinhardt said while there were – and should be – strict rules around accessing super early, after every disaster there were people looking to draw on their super.

“It absolutely happens everywhere and every time,” he said.

“There are a lot of people who don’t have or can’t afford the level of insurance they may need so they are going to be disadvantaged.

“The bushfires are awful and that has raised this subject to the fore but it is not just these bushfires where accessed super, in my view, would be ­appropriate.

“Our view is another form of severe financial hardship could actually be put in place into superannuation legislation, which would allow ­people to access a specific amount of money out of their superannuation if they are suffering hardship after a natural disaster.”