Senate debates

Tuesday, 1 December 2020



8:03 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on Australia's world-class superannuation system and how the government is trying to attack it to undermine Australian workers. There has been an incredibly important role played by superannuation in the lives of Australians. During this crisis, the Morrison government allowed people early access to their superannuation accounts and the impacts of this will be felt for decades to come. The early release scheme has been incredibly poorly administered. It has been subject to fraud and abuse, something that should be seen in the full glare of an independent audit and commission inquiry. Now 600,000 Australians have reduced their superannuation to zero, which will really hurt them in their retirement. This is accompanied by the fact that over 1.4 million Australians have accessed their super during this pandemic to the tune of $36 billion—hurting all Australians in retirement.

Our world-class superannuation scheme may not be celebrated by all members opposite, but it's recognised around the world as one of the best in class. The Mercer global pension index, an annual assessment of private pension schemes around the world, has consistently ranked Australia's superannuation system in the top two or three. Last year, it was ranked No. 3 out of nearly 40 countries, a significant achievement. We have the fourth largest pool of superannuation retirement savings anywhere in the world. Australian workers' retirement savings are equal to 140 per cent of GDP. As a proportion of GDP, this is greater than that of the United States, whose pension fund amounts to 135 per cent of GDP, and the United Kingdom, whose pension fund amounts to 104.5 per cent of GDP.

But the Morrison government wants to continue to undermine superannuation. The Prime Minister wants to cut the legislated super guarantee increase and freeze your super at 9.5 per cent. This would lead to many Australians losing up to $100,000 once they retire. Those opposite want to undermine your super, yet we all receive 14.5 per cent in super. How is that fair? We know it's in the DNA of those opposite to undermine super. Tim Wilson and Andrew Bragg now want young Australians to be able to raid their super so they can use it to put a deposit on a house. Housing affordability is a major issue in Australia and it's one that we've been facing for quite some time. In 17 of the last 25 years, Australia has been led by conservative Liberal governments. Have they tried to address the real issues around housing affordability? No, they have not. This government needs to focus on creating conditions for economic development, growth and jobs, instead of hare-brained schemes which don't add up.

The government's super reforms do not end there. The government wants to attack industry super, which would lead to the undermining of investment in job-creating infrastructure. This is why wages have flatlined over the last five years. Construction industry workers receive tailor-made life insurance as part of a construction industry super fund membership, which takes into account the dangers at work. Under the Morrison government's ill-conceived stapling changes, new entrants to the construction industry would in most cases miss out on that specific insurance. Strongly performing super funds should not be undermined, because it hurts every Australian worker.

Any supposed reform must be discussed and worked through, instead of being kept in secret and then rushed through parliament. Superannuation must be guarded and protected so it can thrive to ensure that individuals can retire with dignity and with a good quality of life. We should be encouraging more people to put their savings into superannuation, not undermining them. The fact that this government is hell-bent on attacking industry super funds just goes to show that it's so entrenched in its DNA that it's another opportunity for the government to attack Australian workers. Each and every day that we sit in this chamber, we on this side will defend Australian workers. We will always defend Australian superannuation, because it's essential for a quality retirement in this country.


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