Wednesday, 12 March 2008
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Superannuation and Corporate Law, Senator Sherry. Can the minister guarantee that the government will not cave in to union demands to lift the compulsory superannuation levy from nine per cent to 12 per cent?
including the matter the shadow minister has raised. As I mentioned yesterday, the Australian Labor Party when in government until 1996 had a proud record with respect to introduction of superannuation in this country. The former Labor government under Mr Hawke and Mr Keating introduced compulsory superannuation, with the initial contribution level at some three per cent back in 1987. That was done for good reason. Up until that time, the retirement income system had a significant element of unfairness. Those who had superannuation over and above the age pension were obviously more advantaged in terms of retirement income than those who did not have superannuation. So the then Labor government took the very long-term and very important economic and social policy decision to introduce compulsory superannuation, initially at three per cent. It is often forgotten that that first three per cent, which is now part of the nine per cent superannuation guarantee, was a direct wages trade-off with employees through the then centralised wage bargaining system. That is often forgotten in the context of this debate.
I do not forget that the then Liberal opposition vehemently opposed the introduction of compulsory superannuation in Australia. The then Labor government saw this as a very important fairness measure to ensure that low- and middle-income earners, workers in retail, hospitality and trucking, did have some extra superannuation to provide additional retirement income. The far-sighted Labor government, under the leadership—
The difficulty is, Senator Minchin, that you do not like superannuation. You do not like your pathetic record of opposition to compulsory superannuation and its development in this country. I know that is a significant difficulty for the Liberal Party today even to come to grips with: the fact that they opposed compulsory superannuation and its introduction in Australia.
The nine per cent superannuation guarantee is directly relevant to the issue that Senator Coonan is raising. The decision was taken to introduce the nine per cent superannuation guarantee, and of course that was phased in by 1 July 2002. The nine per cent superannuation guarantee is seen as representing a contribution from the employer. I have reminded the Senate that three per cent of the nine per cent was effectively—
So we had nine per cent paid for from and by employers in this country. The question of the Assistant Treasurer went to whether or not we are going to increase the super guarantee, which is paid directly by the employer. As I, and I know the current Treasurer, indicated during the election campaign—we will—(Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. We have all really enjoyed the wander down memory lane with Senator Sherry, even to the point where he still thinks I am the Assistant Treasurer. Will the minister now guarantee that business will not be slugged in an increase in the superannuation levy to 12 per cent?
I do enjoy questions on superannuation and I am very pleased to receive questions on superannuation from the current opposition. But, before I get to the critical point that I was about to get to, I want to remind the Senate that it is a very serious issue, because contributions should have been lifted to 15 per cent—three per cent from the employee and three per cent from the employer. That was the Labor promise in 1995 and the then Liberal opposition, led by Mr Howard, promised to support the delivery of that. Of course, when they were elected in 1996, they refused, in the 1997 budget, to deliver on that particular promise, which they had actually signed up to. In terms of increasing the nine per cent superannuation guarantee, as I was about to say, I and the Treasurer on a number of occasions, including in the election campaign, indicated that we will not be increasing the nine per cent super guarantee.