House debates

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Matters of Public Importance


3:24 pm

Photo of Stephen JonesStephen Jones (Whitlam, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Treasurer) Share this | Hansard source

The Morrison government has declared war on retirees. This den of thieves opposite are coming after your superannuation. They promised they wouldn't, but that's exactly what they plan to do. They've not only frozen your pension, they've not only trashed the aged-care system, but they're also coming after your house. That's how the Liberals think of the generation that has worked so hard to build this great country—robbing them of a decent retirement income and throwing them out of a house they've spent a lifetime paying off.

Shame on them for presiding over an aged-care system which is an utter disgrace—homes where the meal budget is a meagre $7 a day, where insects crawl out of open wounds, and where there just aren't enough staff to properly care for the frightened and the vulnerable. Shame on them for presiding over a healthcare system where out-of-pocket hospital expenses have gone through the roof, where two million Australians say they haven't been able to afford the prescriptions that their doctor said are essential for their healthcare, and where out-of-pocket healthcare costs, such as a joint replacement, can send you into a spiral of poverty.

I say to the retirees of Australia that this is what the Morrison government thinks you're worth—health care that you can't afford and nursing homes that put profits first and resident care a distant second. And what's their solution? Where do you think the money is going to come from to pay for the mounting medical bills and the half-decent aged care? They're cutting your super, they've frozen the pension and they're telling people, 'If you can't make ends meet, then the answer is to sell your house.' What an insult to the retirees of Australia, who were told at the last election that there was a death tax coming around—the same election where the mob opposite ran around telling Australians that they were going to stick up for retirees. Instead of sticking up for retirees, they're sticking it to them. We know that the real plan hidden in the 650 pages of a retirement income review, covered in darkness, is to tell people that they're currently getting too much and that they do not see the house as a home. They see it as something that you can sell off in retirement to pay for your medical bills and an aged-care system which is insufficiently funded by this mob.

They promised before the last election that they were going to look after super. They promised before the last election that they wouldn't cut your super, but that is exactly what they are going to do. Our superannuation system is already delivering for Australians. Today, it's ensuring that Australians retire with more money than they ever have in our nation's history. Superannuation is already contributing more to retirement incomes than the government does through the pension. Eighty billion dollars a year is contributed through the superannuation system to retirement income, in contrast with the $44 billion that the government contributes annually to the pension system. It's providing ballast to our economy during the global crisis—the economic crisis brought on by the COVID health epidemic. It's ensuring, through a feted scheme, the $35 billion that has been withdrawn out of retirement savings because the government was not providing enough support early enough and soon enough to people who lost their job—without superannuation, that money would not have been there. It's providing recapitalisation to businesses to ensure that they could get through the economic crisis as well.

When we put in place universal superannuation, the purpose was not to replace a meagre government funded pension with an equally meagre privately funded pension; it was to ensure that every Australian had the right to retire with dignity—and it is working. But these guys want to pull it apart. What sticks in the craw of ordinary Australians is that they know that, at the very same time as this mob opposite are campaigning against superannuation and saying 9.5 per cent is enough for the people who clean our offices—enough for ordinary Australians—they are taking home 15.4 per cent themselves. So the Prime Minister has left question time today and gone back to relax, patting himself on the back for what a great job he's done. He's put his feet on the desk, and in his office somebody's scurrying around, cleaning up after him. That person gets 9.5 per cent, whilst the Prime Minister, with his feet on the desk, takes home 15.4 per cent. It's not fair, it's not right, and the people of Australia know it.

This government has presided over a crisis for older Australian workers. If you look at the recently published Retirement income review, it's there in black and white. They like to think of people who are on unemployment benefits as 'dole bludgers', as 'leaners, not lifters'. What they won't tell you about is the absolute and abject failure of their management of the economy which means that one in five Australians between the ages of 55 and 65 is unemployed. We call them the forgotten Australians; they call them bludgers and they call them 'leaners, not lifters'. They won't tell you that nearly 37 per cent of those people were made redundant at some stage before they retired. These are the people to whom the government say: 'You can just deal with your 9.5 per cent. That's enough for you. I'll take my 15.4 per cent, but 9½ per cent is enough for you.' In the government's own report, the majority of these people run out of retirement savings before they hit the age of 80. But these are the people to whom the government is saying, 'You're too greedy; 9½ per cent is enough for you'—the very people they looked in the eye and promised they were going to leave superannuation as it was.

And, as if it's not enough that the government is saying to older workers, 'We're going to freeze your pension, we're going to make it tough for you on unemployment benefits and you can sell your house if you run out of money in retirement,' they're actually discriminating against them in the labour market. Policies that were put in place by this government at the height of the pandemic are making it harder for those older workers—wage assistance programs that discriminate against older workers and the undermining of the industrial relations system, which makes it easier to sack those older workers. They consider them 'leaners, not lifters'. We don't think these people should be the forgotten Australians; we think they deserve a better deal out of this government.

Since the election, we've seen members of the government's backbench running around on an authorised campaign to undermine the superannuation system and on an authorised campaign to try to build up hype. But we're going to call them out on it. If the government thinks we are going to let them get away with breaking a solemn promise that they made to the Australian people to leave superannuation alone, they've got another thing coming. They are in for a bare-knuckle fight. We will not let them get away with it. We will not let them cut superannuation. This government has visited enough upon older Australians—freezing the pension, making a mess of the aged-care system, making a mess of the healthcare system and now, to visit more indignity upon them, cutting their superannuation. We won't let them get away it, and we won't let the workers of Australia forget, either.


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