House debates

Tuesday, 23 July 2019



7:30 pm

Photo of Jim ChalmersJim Chalmers (Rankin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

The party of wage stagnation and rampant wage theft is now gearing up to rob workers of their superannuation savings as well. We are told that at least a dozen Liberals want to strip Australians of the super increases that they need and deserve and were promised. I gave the Prime Minister multiple opportunities in this House to rule out any changes to increasing the super guarantee to 12 per cent and he couldn't or wouldn't do it. The Treasurer was given five opportunities on the Insiders program. The trade minister would only say that they won't change it 'at this point in time'. The finance minister did say that they'd leave it alone, but now we hear that there was a barney about it in their party room today. The weasel words and the sly language give the game away. Here we go again. They've got form and not just on super.

It always begins with backbench extremists putting pressure on the Treasurer and it always ends up with him folding under that pressure. It happened on energy and it will happen again on superannuation. At a time when company profits are remarkably strong and when wages are worryingly stagnant, those opposite are looking to thieve the 2.5 per cent increase to super which will help more people save for their retirement. That 2½ per cent could go to super or to wages, and the government want it to go to neither. They want that 2½ per cent ploughed back into company profits, which are already steadily rising at the expense of workers and wages. They say that they want workers to have the freedom to choose wages or super. When they say that, what they really mean is they want people to have the freedom to be broke during their working years and then afterwards as well. This, you see, is just the thin end of the wedge.

If those opposite succeed on this, they won't stop there. They pretend that they support the superannuation guarantee, while at the same time they do their best to undermine it and ultimately kill it by making it voluntary, by taking the 'compulsory' out of compulsory super. Some of those opposite talk openly about this, but we didn't hear a peep about it at the election—not from the PM, not from the Treasurer. From none of those opposite did we hear of these plans. Instead, we got crocodile tears for retirees during the election, and then afterwards the sword. A government which has banged on about mandates and retiree taxes is ambushing workers with a retiree tax of their own—a real retiree tax of 2½ per cent on the living standards in retirement of almost 13 million Australian workers. According to one estimate, a 30-year-old earning $80,000 a year would be denied close to $90,000 in super by the time they reach retirement if the super guarantee remains frozen at 9½ per cent, and this would not be an accident; it would be a deliberate policy objective of those opposite.

The Liberals have never believed in super. They opposed universal compulsory super. They voted against increasing the SG above three per cent. They froze it multiple times. They tried to abolish the low-income super contribution scheme. They tried to weaken penalties for employers who didn't pay the right amount. The reason they do all this is that their ideology is far more important to them than the financial security of Australian workers in retirement.

Labor giant Paul Keating created our world-leading super system so workers could have dignity in retirement and the nation could draw on a big source of home-grown savings to invest in its own future. What a remarkable game-changing, nation-changing creation super has been, with $2.8 trillion in assets—bigger than our country's gross domestic product. If that savings pool was a country in its own right, it would be the eighth largest economy in the world, just behind India and ahead of Italy. I mention all of this not just out of pride but to show what needs to be protected from the dishonest and disastrous agenda of those opposite. If this government wants a fight on the superannuation guarantee, they will get one. If they want to steal the retirement incomes from ordinary Australian workers, they'll have to go through the Labor Party first.