House debates

Thursday, 10 December 2020


Superannuation, Asylum Seekers

12:28 pm

Photo of Andrew LeighAndrew Leigh (Fenner, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury) Share this | Hansard source

The Liberals never liked superannuation. Tony Abbott called it a con job. Bronwyn Bishop said it was designed to penalise business. Paul Keating got universal superannuation going. John Howard broke his promise and froze it. Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard raised it; Tony Abbott broke his promise and froze it. Australians have seen this bad sequel of a movie before. After saying that low wages were a deliberate design feature of their economic policies, and ignoring record low wage growth, the Liberals suddenly say that freezing super will boost wages. Yet their own retirement incomes review shows that a dollar less of super doesn't mean a dollar more of wages. And because returns compound, a dollar put into superannuation turns into two or three dollars at retirement.

It's the same with housing. The member for Banks once said, 'There's no structural problem with housing affordability'. The member for Deakin derisively said: 'Want a house? Get a good job.' The member for Mackellar called social housing 'a socialist plot to increase inequality'. Laughably, they're claiming that freezing super will increase home ownership, which is at a 60-year low. For a full-time worker on average earnings, 12 per cent super will mean over half a million dollars in retirement savings. Senator Bragg was right when he wrote in 2015:

... the contribution rate is not yet high enough to provide fully funded retirement incomes.

Enough with the super hypocrisy. You won't boost wages while attacking unions. You can't boost home ownership while neglecting property tax reform. They're just excuses to cover yet another broken Liberal promise.

Yesterday, I went for an early-morning run with Lachlan Arthur and Cassie Cohen from the Canberra Refugee Marathon Project, and Zaki Haidari, a refugee on a temporary visa. A member of the Hazara ethnic group, Zaki's father was taken away one night by the Taliban. That was 10 years ago and he's never seen him again. Zaki's brother was beheaded when the Taliban stopped him and found out that he was a university student. Zaki fled to Australia in fear of his life. Zaki is one of nearly 18,000 people who are on temporary protection visas and safe haven enterprise visas. Another 10,000 are in the process of renewing one of those visas. They work in the community. Zaki's SHEV lets him work at the Australian National University. But they live their lives in limbo, having to renew their visas every two to five years. Including other irregular maritime arrivals, the so-called 'legacy caseload' numbers more than 30,000. As the Refugee Advice & Casework Service points out, TPV and SHEV holders are excluded from the National Disability Insurance Scheme, HECS-HELP loans, and Commonwealth supported places at tertiary education institutions. They do not have the right to sponsor family members to live with them in Australia and their ability to travel overseas to see their family is heavily restricted.

Mohammed Hussein Jafari from Franklin has been in Australia since 2012 and is currently on a TPV. It's been two years since Mohammed saw his children, nine-year-old Haneh and four-year-old Amir, who live in Iran. Mohammed runs the barbershop next to the light rail in Gungahlin, and I'm just one of his many customers. All of those on TPVs and SHEVs should be given permanent status immediately. Keeping them on permanent temporary status prevents them from rebuilding their lives. It endangers their mental health. Because they've been admitted into Australia, the government's clearly decided they pose no risk to national security. They have no home to return to. We should make them permanent.

Finally, since this is my last speech of 2020, I thank my extraordinary staff who've worked in the office this year: Stephanie Anderson,    Nelida Contreras, Jeevan Haikerwal, Oscar Kaspi-Crutchett, Olivia Kerr, Tara Mack, Claire Osborne and Nick Terrell. Together, we've responded to thousands of constituent inquiries by telephone, email and social media; organised our Fenner Lecture with Graham Walker; helped arrange telephone town halls and deliberative democracy forums; and much more. On our wall hang our 'Ten principles of politics'. I'm pleased with the way my staff live those values every day. I also thank our volunteers, including Alison Humphries, and Lynette McKay who volunteered her counselling support skills to call vulnerable constituents during lockdown. I thank electorate office cleaners Julio and Tashi, and our Parliament House cleaner, La, for keeping our offices clean and sanitised in this most unusual year.


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