Monday, 24 June 2013
Questions without Notice
My question is to Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Wong. Can the minister outline to the Senate what steps the government has taken to enhance the superannuation system and what this will mean for the retirement savings of working Australians?
Thank you to Senator Marshall for the question. Like other Labor senators he is a strong supporter of Australia's superannuation system. Of course, remember that the superannuation system, the superannuation guarantee for working people, was built by the Labor Party and the labour movement, and it is only the Labor Party and the labour movement that will ensure it will be built upon and grown.
What we will see next week is the start of the gradual increase in the SGC rate from nine to 12 per cent. This will be the first step in a significant increase over a number of years to the superannuation savings of working people. From 1 July, 8.4 million Australians will have the contributions paid into their superannuation accounts increased to 9.25 per cent, and the rate will continue to increase each year until it reaches 12 per cent on 1 July 2019. This will mean a substantial increase to the retirement savings of working people. There are few things more steeped in Labor values than the superannuation system. Labor built it over the opposition of those opposite and those who preceded them, and it is only Labor that will deliver the strengthening of the superannuation system for working Australians.
Let us remember what the position of the opposition is. The opposition leader is on record as describing his position on superannuation as: 'We have always as a coalition been against compulsory superannuation increases.' That is very clear articulation of the values of Mr Abbott and the coalition, who are opposed to increases in superannuation and opposed to increases in the retirement savings of working Australians. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for that answer. Can the minister provide the Senate with information on the gains for workers across different industries from the increase to the superannuation guarantee?
I thank Senator Marshall for his supplementary question. As I said before, millions of Australians will benefit from the government's superannuation reforms. We have new analysis, which was recently released by the Treasurer and Mr Shorten, which shows the significant gains from the increase to the superannuation guarantee across various sectors. I will go through some of them as requested. For example, the increase in superannuation savings for a 30-year-old employee who retires at age 67 and earns average full-time wages for their occupation will be around $75,000 for childcare employees, around $124,000 for construction and mining labourers and electricians, around $82,000 for hospitality workers, around $66,000 for hairdressers and around $79,000 for receptionists. Of course, the pool of national savings will increase by more than half a billion dollars by 2037 under the government's policies.
Mr President, I ask a second supplementary question. I thank the minister for her answer. Can the minister outline to the Senate the benefits of the superannuation tax cut provided by the government's low-income superannuation contribution, and could the minister break this down by sector?
The government's low-income superannuation contribution will remove the tax paid on contributions for low-income Australians. As from 1 July last year it will provide 3.6 million workers, including 2.1 million women, with a tax cut on their superannuation. I will give some analysis of the effect of the tax cut on people's compulsory contributions for 2012-13: around $338 for checkout operators, around $457 for childcare employees workings four days a week, around $450 for midwifery and nursing professionals working two days a week, around $360 for receptionists working three days a week, and I could go on. All of these people would face a tax increase were the coalition to win government; every low-income Australian would get a tax increase on their super. It shows what a risk to working Australians the opposition would be.
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Conroy. Why is the Gillard government not prepared to have a proper debate in the Senate about the Superannuation Legislation Amendment (Service Providers and Other Governance Measures) Bill 2013? In particular, why is the Gillard government so scared to have a proper debate on the merits of our constructive proposal to ensure that at least one third of the directors on union dominated industry super fund boards are independent—a proposal which was of course supported at first in the House of Representatives, and which is completely in line with Labor's own Cooper review recommendations and in line with our coalition policy to improve corporate governance for people's superannuation savings so that their retirement savings are both maximised and safe? Why is the government so scared to have a proper debate about this bill?
It is always good to see that, at the end of the day, those opposite have form on the issue of superannuation. For those who have long memories, and possibly only Senator Faulkner or Senator Boswell were here when it was first debated—I could be being unkind to both of them when I say that—those opposite opposed superannuation lock, stock and barrel. At every possible turn, they have sought to strip back the benefits for ordinary Australians in their superannuation accounts. In the lead-up to the 1996 election, those opposite promised to keep the increase in superannuation that had been promised by the Keating government and quickly, after the election, they abandoned that promise. It became one of those fabled non-core promises. We all know that the opposition leader is again intent, when it comes to superannuation—
Mr President, I rise on a point of order in relation to the requirement for the minister to be directly relevant. He has been going for more than a minute and he has not got anywhere near the question, which was about why the government is not prepared to have a proper debate in relation to a specific bill that is before the Senate and, more specifically, in relation to the corporate governance arrangements for superannuation funds. That was a very specific question.
The government is not afraid to debate this bill. I am not sure I can debate the merits of the bill in question time right now as it is before the chamber, but I am more than happy to stand here and expose those opposite for their hypocrisy when it comes to superannuation, because the Treasurer and the minister for superannuation recently released new analysis which shows how much workers in particular occupations stand to lose under Tony Abbott. I would happily debate this—
My apologies—Mr Abbott. I will happily debate this now and every day between now and the election. Every Australian worker with superannuation knows those opposite have form. They are not just about delaying the increase; they are going to scrap it completely— (Time expired)
Mr President, given the minister did not go anywhere near answering the question, I have a supplementary question. Given the bill lingered in the House of Representatives for nearly six months before the House spent 54 minutes to deal with just one set of constructive amendments to improve corporate governance for super, with the House supporting our amendment at first before Labor forced a backdown at the behest of the unions, why does the government think it is appropriate to give the Senate less than an hour to deal with this and another three super bills it has attached to it?
We are ensuring that this bill will not linger in this chamber, because a 30-year-old childcare worker stands to lose around $75,000, a hairdresser will lose around $66,000, a hospitality worker will lose around $82,000, and an electrician will lose around $124,000 under the superannuation policy of those opposite. Mr Abbott and the Liberal Party cannot be trusted, because this is what Mr Abbott has said about superannuation in the past. He said:
Compulsory superannuation is one of the biggest con jobs ever foisted by government on the Australian people.
He said that on 25 September 1995 in the parliament, and those opposite still hold that position. (Time expired)
Mr President, given the minister again did not go anywhere near the question, I will ask a further supplementary question. Given Labor's complex MySuper measures are due to come into effect in just a week from now, why has the Gillard government let things drift in the House of Representatives for months only to now ram things through without the proper scrutiny that they deserve here in the Senate?
I reiterate what I said before. We have no intention of letting this bill drift. We intend to pass this bill by the end of the week. It just goes to show what a glass jaw those opposite have on this issue, because just last year Mr Abbott said the coalition has always been against compulsory superannuation. My apologies—it was actually on 23 March 2012, in a press conference, when Mr Abbott said:
We have always as a Coalition been against compulsory superannuation increases …
You could hear in the tenor of the question the completely fabricated claim: the union dominated super fund. I remember that Mr Robb wrote a column in the Bulletin many years ago where he belled the cat about those opposite's— (Time expired