House debates

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Matters of Public Importance


3:59 pm

Photo of Pat ConaghanPat Conaghan (Cowper, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

I thank my colleagues for their previous submissions. The Morrison-McCormack government is focused on ensuring that we have a superannuation system that is competitive, transparent and efficient. I'm particularly engaged with my electorate of Cowper and the more than 41,000 people of retirement age. Indeed, this is the third-largest population of this size in Australia, and it's growing. It's growing because, obviously, it's an ideal climate. It's a drawcard for retirees; it's on the coast. On a side note, I would like to acknowledge the 'We Are Here' campaign. That was started by a member of the Nambucca RSL sub branch, Mick Birtles. This campaign showcases our region to Australian Defence Force personnel leaving the service. Mick and his team wanted to show veterans and their families that the Nambucca Valley was a welcoming location for those leaving the ADF. I acknowledge the work that he does now and that he has done in the past as a serviceman. I acknowledge all the ex-service men and women.

The fact is that Labor has been talking tough on superannuation during the current health pandemic, yet the assistant minister for superannuation has said, 'Every time our government has put forward a piece of legislation to improve superannuation for the consumer, the opposition has opposed it.' It's a simple fact. Those opposite have talked tough and opposed our government's move to help people in financial stress caused by the coronavirus pandemic by allowing them access to $20,000 of their own super. It's their own money. I've had plenty of people in my electorate come and see and say: 'Pat, thank you for that. Thank you for allowing us access to that. And, by the way, we didn't buy booze. We didn't buy drugs. We didn't waste it. We actually used it for the things we needed to get through the pandemic.'

I don't often quote the Grattan Institute, but modelling by the Grattan Institute found that the impact of the early release to Australians of superannuation at retirement age was minimal. It was something in the order of $900 a year—that's all. Yet at this end, it was a godsend. It saved them. It helped them to get through the coronavirus pandemic.

Labor failed to mention any of the positives that flowed from Australians looking at their superannuation balances. I'm probably guilty of this as well. There was a silver lining in that many young people actually looked at their super profile for the very first time. They thought about their super and they realised that they had multiple accounts and were paying multiple fees. There were significant actions to consolidate superannuation—a benefit which will help young people reduce fees and keep more of their own money.

The Morrison-McCormack government has been working hard to ensure that we have a superannuation system that is competitive, transparent and efficient. That is why we passed legislation to improve the efficiency of the superannuation system by strengthening the powers of the regulator to deal with underperforming funds, by capping fees on low-balance accounts and by banning exit fees on all superannuation accounts. For the first time ever, we provided the Australian Taxation Office with the power to proactively reunite low-balance inactive accounts with active accounts, again, giving people back their own money. This measure has really helped Australians to get on top of their superannuation savings, something that has never been done before.

I want the 41,000 residents of retirement age in my electorate to have a good life, as we all do. I want them to be able to retire comfortably and to make the most of their superannuation savings, the age pension and their assets. I also want young people to have opportunities and to know that if they work hard they will get ahead. So our government, through the Treasurer and the assistant minister for superannuation, will continue to carefully consider the observations made in the independent Retirement income review. We will consider these findings alongside other important bodies of work, including the aged-care royal commission and the Productivity Commission report into superannuation.


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