Senate debates

Tuesday, 25 August 2020


Treasury Laws Amendment (Your Superannuation, Your Choice) Bill 2019; In Committee

1:13 pm

Photo of Larissa WatersLarissa Waters (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

Yes. With your indulgence, Chair, I seek leave of the chamber to speak for a few moments on the substance of the amendment. I acknowledge that it has already been voted on, but unfortunately the link crashed so I didn't get to give the justification for the amendment nor was I aware that it was being voted on until after the link was restored.

Leave granted.

I thank folk there in the chamber for their indulgence. As I was saying earlier, the amendment I moved would abolish the $450 superannuation threshold at which nobody gets paid super if they get paid less than $450 a month. This disproportionately affects women, who are 60 per cent of the people who earn less than $450 a month; it disproportionately affects young people, who often hold multiple jobs; and it disproportionately affects people in casual work. For all of these reasons, we think it's a very outdated and discriminatory threshold. Sadly, we know that women retire with, on average, half the superannuation of men, and this is one of the reasons for that. There are so many, but this is one of them.

This is an easily fixable situation. I acknowledge that the vote on this amendment has, sadly, already gone down, but I am informed that the government indicated that they are considering this issue as part of the Treasurer's response to the retirement income review. Certainly we would love to see some movement on this, and I'm informed that the Labor Party indicated that they would also consider this issue in the lead-up to the next election. So there's perhaps some cause for hope that the two big parties are taking this issue on. There's no longer a justification for making that superannuation retirement gap worse for low-income earners, who are disproportionately women.

On that point, in the context of the COVID crisis that has beset us all this year and the somewhat unfortunate decision by government to allow people to access their super, I've got some statistics here that I would like to put on the record, and this has a gendered element as well. I understand that, whilst more men than women have accessed their super through the early-release scheme, women are taking out a higher proportion of their savings from super, and that's probably also a result of the fact that their account balances are lower and therefore the amount they can withdraw is a larger proportion. Long story short: the existing super inequities have been exacerbated by the early-release scheme, and they have been exacerbated for the past few decades by this threshold of a $450 contribution. Women in Super estimates that 220,000 women and 145,000 men are missing out on about $125 million in superannuation each year because they're not meeting that $450 threshold.

I thank the members of the crossbench who supported us on this amendment to remove that threshold. I'm disappointed that the big parties didn't vote for it but acknowledge that they've made some statements that indicate that perhaps this issue is under review, and we really hope to see some progress on it in the coming months. Thank you very much for your indulgence, Chair.


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