House debates

Wednesday, 28 February 2024


Superannuation (Objective) Bill 2023; Second Reading

7:05 pm

Photo of James StevensJames Stevens (Sturt, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I indeed rise to speak in favour of the amendment moved by the shadow Treasurer, the member for Hume, and commend his contribution to the House as the lead speaker for the coalition on this. As he indicates, we won't be standing in the way of this bill passing through the House but are very much in favour of this going to a Senate inquiry process to look at some issues that were well canvassed by the member for Hume in his contribution.

I take the opportunity that his amendment provides in the question before the House to touch on two matters. The first is that, of course, we in the coalition very much support and are committed to a strong and robust superannuation scheme, and we absolutely want to support and encourage people to provide for their own retirement. They are doing the economy and the taxpayer a great service by providing for their own retirement. Equally, we completely support the proper, comprehensive social safety net that is in place for people who aren't in a position to finance their own retirement through the superannuation system. We thank those that can. Whenever we have legislation that comes through this parliament regarding superannuation, I always thank the great self-funded retirees who have done so much for this country through their careers and have also saved and provisioned for their retirement. They should be thanked for that, and we should support them in every way that we can.

When there are measures that come in here and do the opposite, on this side we bitterly oppose them. When people describe superannuation as a honey pot, lick their lips and start to think about how they can plunder it and get their grubby mitts on it, we in the coalition are very concerned. We will keep an eagle eye on a lot of proposals that come anywhere near the comments that were made by the Assistant Treasurer, describing super as a honey pot. Any proposals to increase the taxation burden on people who can't re-enter the workforce—they can't go back and say, 'Oh, now that I know about these new taxes, I would have saved some more, I would have worked a few more years or I would have made some different decisions,' because they made the mistake of taking the government at their word and, during an election campaign, not expecting that after it, having gone to the 2019 election and proposed all sorts of taxes and then having lost that election and ruling out ever doing anything like that again, they would say, 'We're now going to change the tax treatment on self-funded retirees,' who are completely stuck and stranded in the financial circumstance that they thought was enough to provision for their future.

As the shadow Treasurer points out, although we obviously bitterly oppose the fundamental position of ratcheting up taxes on superannuation, it is particularly appalling that we have a situation where tax treatment is going to change and not be indexed with inflation. One of the great concerns for us is bracket creep, which we've talked a lot about in this chamber with other legislation that has come through recently and is going to be dramatically affected by bracket creep. Bringing in a new tax rate on super and not having it indexed to inflation is another awful example of bracket creep that is going to affect a growing percentage of Australians. If you're a young Australian, you have a very high likelihood of ultimately being caught up in this higher taxation regime. As the shadow Treasurer points out in his amendment to the second reading, this is absolutely appalling and not something that anyone was asked to vote for or against. They'll get that opportunity at the next election. We have a very clear policy position in this regard. But we are very concerned about that and, in the process of inquiring into this bill through a Senate process that may or may not transpire, the impact of these things on younger Australians in particular will be an important thing to look at.

The other thing I want to touch on through the amendment to the second reading that the shadow Treasurer has moved is our positive plan to give people access to their own money to help them get into the housing market. That is our policy position that we took to the last election and that we are taking to the next election. We would allow people to access a portion of their superannuation to help them get into the housing market. What's the great dream for people, particularly when they reach retirement age? It's to have a healthy superannuation and to own your home. If you retire, own your home and have healthy superannuation, then you have a high degree of confidence in your economic independence going forward. Using superannuation to help people get into the housing market as early as possible—certainly earlier than they would have been able to if they didn't have access to super to support them doing that—helps provide for people's retirement and their savings for retirement.

We have a potential nightmare scenario as things stand, as people are getting into the housing market later and later, possibly in their 40s or what have you, and are reaching retirement without having paid off the mortgage on their first home. It's a perverse situation where, because we didn't let them access their super to help them get into the housing market, they're using the majority of their super when they retire to pay off the mortgage that they started so much later in life because it took them so long to build a deposit to get into the housing market in the first place. It's complete madness.

Now we even have the crazy situation where the superannuation companies are talking about building homes with our own money to rent to us. I put my money into superannuation, and I can't access it to help me buy my own home, but my super fund will buy a home using my money and rent it to me. In the coalition, we think our money is our money, and we absolutely believe in the importance of having a system where people save and provide for their retirement. Dare I say that some of the strongest supporters of the coalition are those exact people. Self-funded retirees are some of the strongest supporters of coalition governments, and we support super, but the proposal and policy position that we will take to the next election is about helping people leverage their super to get into the housing market earlier.

By getting into the housing market earlier, they will obviously have a much stronger equity position—hopefully a 100 per cent equity position—in their home much sooner. We also know that, through our policy, when you sell that home that you purchase with any support from your super fund, you have to put the money back into your super fund. We also know that the property market—and we hope this is the case fairly consistently into the future—is a very strong, safe, stable investment in Australia. In fact, it's almost too good in some circumstances, and that's part of the problem at the moment. The market is growing very strongly, and that along with high interest rates contributes to making it a much higher challenge for people to get into that market.

We have young people with a lot of money in superannuation, which is excellent, and that's their money. It's coming out of their pay packets and going into a fund to be held in trust for them, to provide for their future. There's absolutely nothing better for providing for your financial future than investing in your own home. We have a situation where people can't access that to help them get into the property market, and they're therefore getting in much later and bearing a much higher burden at one of the most difficult times for them financially. That's probably when they also have high costs around raising a family and meeting all the costs of that. They also, quite reasonably, want to have a degree of quality, enjoyable leisure time with that family. That includes things that might seem like luxuries but which are pretty reasonably part of the Australian dream, like going on nice holidays, spending time with the ones you love and enjoying yourself when you're with the ones you love. We don't think people should have the burden of disproportionate sacrifice because the ideological blinkers say, 'Super, which is our own money, can't be used to do anything like provide for your financial future by helping to get in the housing market sooner.' So I particularly look forward to talking to the young people in my electorate and to the—regrettably ever-growing—cohort of people in my electorate that are not yet in the housing market, about this policy position in the lead-up to the next election.

Housing and housing affordability will be one of the most significant deciding factors of the next election. I'm very proud that already we can say we have announced policies that we can communicate to people and explain how it is going to help them use their own money to get into the housing market. I have to say, it runs at about a 100 per cent success rate, when you talk to young people who say they can't get into the housing market and are struggling to save for a deposit. When you say, 'Wouldn't it be great if you could use part of your superannuation to help you buy a home?' No-one says, 'Are you kidding? I'd hate to do that. I'd rather scrimp and save and pay rent for another 10 years to get to the point where I have a deposit. Then, when I've paid all that dead rent money for 10 years, I'll be getting into the housing market 10 years late and find that, by the time I retire, the super I couldn't use to get into the housing market 10 years earlier I now have to use to pay off the mortgage that I haven't been repaying for the 10 years that I would have been if I'd got in 10 years earlier.' It's a threshold question as to whether we want to back people to make their own money to make their own decisions about their financial future, and provide for their retirement by using their retirement savings to ensure that, by the time they are drawing on those savings, the first thing they are doing with them isn't paying off debts because they got into the housing market so late.

This is the party of Robert Menzies, the party that prides itself on homeownership and supporting people to get that economic independence for them and their families of owning a home. This is an issue that is not only vitally important for us to prosecute at the next election; it's also vitally important if you believe in Australia and in the Australian dream that everyone should have a fair and reasonable ambition to own a home. It's heartbreaking that there are so many Australians who are just saying in growing numbers: 'We've essentially given up thinking that we will ever be able to buy a home. And we will be renting, essentially, for life.' We've failed in this place if we just throw our hands up and say, 'Well, so be it. That's just life.' If we're getting excited about super funds building homes to rent to people with their own money, there is something seriously perverse going on with the policy settings in housing and retirement savings.

So I look forward to prosecuting those arguments in the context of this bill and the shadow Treasurer 's second reading, which talks about the objectives of superannuation. There has never been a more important time for this debate. Superannuation is about provisioning for our future and saving for our future. One of the best things that it can be used to support is people saving through homeownership and owning their own home outright by the time they enter retirement. I commend the shadow Treasurer's amendment to the second reading to the House.


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