Tuesday, 8 December 2020
Matters of Public Importance
We've got to a pretty bad place in this country when a government can move so shamelessly from one broken promise to another. Really, as the member for Whitlam said at the outset of this debate, this government was elected on a promise not to touch people's super and that really should be the end of it. So we've got to a very, very bad place in politics and in public debate if people become inured to seeing their government just go blithely from one broken promise to the next.
And with this government, it's not just the broken promises but it's who they affect, who they hurt and how it's done. Unfortunately, the broken promises are usually perpetrated by a con and they almost always hurt the people who can bear it least. We've seen that over and over again, and we may well see that in relation to superannuation. The member for Mackellar would have people believe that, by having less super, they'll somehow find it easier to own their own home. We have a government which has done nothing for housing affordability and nothing to help people in all the many ways that that problem might be addressed. We've been told multiple times that, by chopping people's super and by preventing the payment of the super guarantee, or the increase to the super guarantee, that's going to magically improve people's wages.
This is from a government that is literally the master of wage stagnation. We've got to the point where wages as a part of national income are at a 50-year low. We've seen a fall in real wages and we've seen wages become completely disconnected from profit and from productivity, and yet the government would have the Australian public buy the con that, somehow, by now denying them the scheduled super guarantee—which the government promised it wouldn't interfere with—this will magically turn into increased wages which the government has not yet delivered after seven years.
Then we turn to who it's going to hurt. It hurts everyone. It hurts all of us; superannuation is good for each of us and it's good for all of us. It gives people a dignified and secure retirement and it's the basis of our national savings and our capacity to invest in important national infrastructure. It is good for each of us and it is good for all of us. The impact of the changes that this government made the first time they broke this promise in 2014—this is a promise which they're going to break many times, if they get the chance—and the failure to deliver an increase in the super guarantee have echoed to where we are now after the six years from 2014 to 2020. And it will echo more seriously into the future. An average 30-year-old worker who was denied the increase in 2014 is going to be $70,000 worse off at retirement, and it has prevented $38 billion flowing into our national savings and into our capacity to invest in infrastructure. That's the change from this one harmful, blithe broken promise—this tossing of the rock into the pond. The ripples spread out for years and years; they affect individuals, they affect families and they affect our nation and economy as a whole.
When we think about the people this affects, who does it affect most? Right now, it affects young people, but it also affects women who, on average, retire with less than half the superannuation savings of their male counterparts. And, particularly, it affects single women. Single women often don't accumulate much super during the period in which they're looking after children and then they have a limited period of time in which they can accumulate super. What are we seeing for single women in this country at the moment? In a survey which tracked the proportion of single-parent households—which are, in the majority, single-woman households—in poverty between 2016 and 2018, they went from 15 per cent in 2016 to 25 per cent in 2018. One in four single-parent households, which are generally single-mum households, were in poverty. This is the kind of change which pulls the rug out from under their ability to live securely in retirement. And that's what this government is about; it's always punching down. Every time we talk about fairness, every time we focus on addressing disadvantage, they start to bleat about class warfare, they start rolling out the smokescreen slogans of 'class 'warfare and 'politics of envy'. Let me give you a tip. Every time you hear those senseless slogans from the government, look out because they are coming for you; they are going to make another change to the social compact in this country that will make life harder for those who have the least. That is the form of this government. They will do that every chance they get.