Questions Without Notice: Take Note Of Answers

March 8 2023

I can tell you that, unfortunately, what is broken is that the Coalition continue in their persistence of undermining the working people of this country. They are a broken record. That is what is broken—those opposite—and the reason that they don’t want to talk about the benefits of the superannuation scheme is that those opposite are embarrassed about the $1 trillion that they racked up in debt when they were last in government, not too long ago. They racked up $1 trillion in debt and did not put forward any solutions about how this government will fix the structural deficit that we have inherited and we are now trying to fix. But yet they come into this place and, instead of defending the workers of the country, are defending the 0.5 per cent of people who are very well off and who can afford to pay a bit more tax in order for us to fix the budget’s structural deficit that we have inherited. Before you come in here and accuse us of trying to break any promises, I think you should look at yourselves and think about the mess that they have left us, and us cleaning up that mess, which the majority of Australians have actually said yes to. Two-thirds of Australians, in the latest news poll, agreed with the government’s position of fixing the budget bottom line. In fact, the majority of coalition voters have agreed with the policy that the Labor Party has recently announced.

So it is extraordinary to see the Coalition continue to attack the government’s steps to repair the budget. The government is making modest changes. But as for allowing the very wealthy to still receive a tax concession, the only difference is that instead of paying 15 per cent they’ll pay 30 per cent, and these are people who would be paying around 45 per cent tax on their income, so they are still much better off. But unfortunately governments have to make these tough decisions to fix the budget bottom line.

It was Labor that built this system of superannuation, back in the 1980s, under Bob Hawke and Paul Keating. And we’ll always continue to make sure we protect it so that it is stronger and it is sustainable into the future for working people so that when they retire the workers and the families of these workers can have a retirement that is comfortable and they are not reliant on government in the future. That was the whole point of setting up the superannuation scheme as part of the accord with the industry, with business, with government and with the unions.

But it’s also important to remember that it was those opposite, in the last government—many backbenchers, some of them in this place today—who were opposed to the super guarantee increasing from 9½ per cent. There was further opposition around those 0.5 per cent incremental increases.

Senator Rennick: That’ll be me!

Yes, hello, Senator Rennick. I do know about your opposition to that. But it was a number of Liberal and Nationals senators and members in the other place who were opposed to super guarantee increases and today remain opposed to superannuation even existing.

Since coming to government, we have been upfront about the challenges in the economy and the budget. We’ve inherited $1 trillion in debt and the $50 billion structural deficit that we are now trying to fix. This is about responsible budget management, and the government has to make these choices so that we can continue to invest in defence, in health and aged care and in the NDIS. But something about the coalition’s priorities has really got me today, and I want to place on the record, in the last minute I have, a speech that former Assistant Treasurer, Senator Rod Kemp gave in Brisbane on 28 May 1999, titled ‘The government’s approach to super’. In his speech he said:

“On coming to Government, it was clear that the existing tax concessions for superannuation were unfairly skewed to high income earners. To address this inequity, the Government—

that is, the Howard government—

introduced the superannuation surcharge. While this measure has been criticised by some people, there is no question that it meets its equity objective. Nor have I heard any justification of why high income earners should have continued to receive the disproportionately large tax advantages that were available before the introduction of the surcharge.”