Wednesday, 2 December 2020
Statements by Senators
I want to make a contribution in this time allotted for senators' statements to complement the statement by Senator Walsh. Senator Walsh has opened up an avenue of concern that I believe is going to continue well through the next year of parliament, and that is about the ongoing battle to maintain dignity and security in the superannuation sector.
I want to put this on the record straight up: women currently retire with 47 per cent less than men; women live five years longer than men, on average; women receive only one-third of the government tax concessions on super while many men receive two-thirds; 40 per cent of older single retired women live in poverty and experience economic insecurity in retirement; 46.9 per cent of the workforce are women; 44 per cent rely on their partner's income as the main source of funds in retirement; 8.5 per cent of women between 65 and 74 still have a mortgage; the average female salary is $44,000, including part-time workers; female graduates earn $5,000 less than male graduates in the same role; and women spend, on average, five more hours per day caring for children than men do.
Consequently, a huge sector of the community—a productive, impossible-to-dispense-with sector of the community—is going to be hit by a brick wall of changes, driven by the alleged paragon of family values, the Hon. Scott Morrison, and the Hon. Josh Frydenberg, accompanied by his acolytes in Senator Hume and Senator Bragg, who come out every time opposing quite reasonable increases in the superannuation guarantee. But, worse than that, through their document, Your future, your super, they have proposed changes which are going to impact substantially more on women than on males. I suppose that's a reflection of the composition of their party in this parliament. I suppose that's a reflection of their contribution to women in the composition of their cabinet. The fundamental difference between the Labor Party and the coalition in this parliament is that we're approaching equality of representation and the other side are not—nowhere near it!
Let's think about some of the changes this crew are proposing. Trustees, in their code, are obliged to take into account the best interests of superannuation recipients in retirement. Those opposite want to change it to 'the best financial interests'. How is it in the financial interest of super members to have $36 billion taken out of their accounts? Thirty-six billion dollars less means a considerable sum less in retirement. It was an expedient measure driven by a government that sought to put some money into the economy. I don't say that those who took the money out didn't do it based on prudent advice. But there was no checking by the ATO and others that people met the criteria for taking it out. The ATO don't even check that employers put the money in properly. It's been revealed at Senate estimates and at many inquiries that the ATO don't even chase up unpaid super in people's accounts.
This government has a very low-road reputation on super. I predict that we will win most of the debate on this matter in this chamber. I think Senator Bragg has an unenviable quinella. I am a racing man; I do have a punt. He was wrong on the banking royal commission—he admits it—and he was wrong on FOFA. Don't worry, Senator Bragg, the trifecta is coming! You're wrong on super. You're wrong and you're deceitful, and your totally abhorrent views on super will not be successful. What you're doing is disenfranchising people who don't have the opportunity to make high wages, who don't have the opportunity to make significant after-tax contributions to super. You are disenfranchising people who will eke out an existence supplemented by the pension or—the other way around—who will have a small lump sum to go into retirement in some sort of comfort and then eke out an existence on the pension. You're trying to destroy something that is great about Australia—a $3 trillion pool of superannuation. You're trying to make out that that's a disgrace. You point to $30 billion worth of fees—one per cent of the entire pool that is paid out in fees. And efficiencies will be driven in that area. But you're doing it in a way that will disenfranchise women more than anybody else. Women, more than anybody else, will pay the price for your abhorrent views in this area.
That paragon of family values, right at the top of the tree, the Hon. Scott Morrison, is driving a campaign, ably assisted by the Hon. Josh Frydenberg and doubly ably assisted by Senator Hume and Senator Bragg. It is an absolute disgrace. But keep going, because we on this side believe in fairness and equity for all Australians, for those who don't earn $450 in a month and don't have any superannuation paid in. We want a taxation office that says to an employer: 'Guess what? If you don't pay your tax, there's going to be a penalty.' We want an ATO that says, 'You can't withdraw your money in an incorrect manner.' That is what we want, instead of opening a slush fund of $36 billion, which I believe will predominantly impact unfairly on the retirement incomes of women. If you're in a family and you've got two accounts and someone's got $150,000 and someone's got $20,000, which one are you going to close? Which one are you going to take the money out of? Your views in this area are going to come back and haunt you, because we will win many, many votes in this area and you will lose many, many votes in this area, because your views are abhorrent.