Thursday, 14 May 2020
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Cormann. I refer to reports in The Australian Financial Review that the superannuation accounts of close to 100,000 Australians have been emptied of their retirement savings as a result of the Morrison government's early-access scheme. The Australian Financial Reviewreports that these accounts are most likely those of younger Australians. Can the minister explain what the long-term impact of reduced retirement savings and foregone earnings as a result of the government program will be for the retirement income of those Australians?
The first answer that I would provide is that these Australians are accessing their own money under arrangements that we put in place. The average withdrawal is about $8,000, and it is individual Australians, including young Australians, exercising their judgement—their own personal judgement—on how to deal in their circumstances with the implications on them of this one-in-100-year event.
That was the conclusion of your question. The minister can be directly relevant while directly addressing the subject matter of any part of the Pacific Security Maritime Program question, including the preamble. I'm listening carefully but I think, with respect, the minister is being directly relevant to the question and the preamble.
I can't remember an occasion where I would have been more directly relevant to a question than this occasion, Mr President! I'm always directly relevant, of course, but I can't remember an occasion when I was more directly relevant than on this occasion, so that was a rather spurious point of order. Just to come to the second part of the question, as the good senator of course did acknowledge, these are younger Australians and younger Australians will be in the workforce longer and will have the opportunity to catch up in terms of their retirement savings, which is a very important point. But right now they are able to use their own money through a system that we put in place to deal with an unprecedented challenge in their personal circumstances, and Australians overwhelmingly have embraced this opportunity.
Can the minister confirm that, months after the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the largest single financial support to Australians in need has been the $11 billion that struggling Australians have been forced to raid from their personal retirement savings?
No. No, I cannot confirm that. There is $130 billion in JobKeeper, for starters. And, of course—
Senator Watt interjecting—
Senator Watt seems to suggest that we should put it all out in one go. That is what Senator Watt seems to suggest. 'Let's just put $130 billion out in one go—bang!' But, of course, a lot of support has gone out. We've put the details of that on the public record. I'm prepared on notice to provide an updated detailed account of all of the support that has gone into the community.
We have not forced any Australians to do anything. We have empowered individual Australians to make their own decisions. It is up to them. They are using their own money. They're exercising their own free judgement. It is an important measure to complement the very significant support that we have put in place through an effective doubling of jobseeker support and, of course, our $130 billion JobKeeper program, providing support to six million Australians. Quite frankly, that question is completely out of touch.