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Tuesday, 16 September 2003
Page: 15260

Senator SHERRY (2:36 PM) —My question is to the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Coonan. Does the minister agree with Senator Ian Campbell, the longest serving parliamentary secretary in the history of the Commonwealth of Australia, when he commented on the low-income earners co-contribution last week saying:

What happens to that person who is on $27,000 a year who starts saving and getting a hand from the government is that, by the end of their working life, when they are 65, they could have over $1 million in superannuation savings ...

Does the minister stand by the long-serving parliamentary secretary's comments? How many Australians will become millionaires through the low-income earners co-contribution in today's money value?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —The really important part of Senator Sherry's question is the suggestion that, somehow or other, people on low incomes are not going to benefit from the co-contribution that this government is going to introduce, by way of an agreement, with the Democrats. It is critically important that those on low incomes and those on incomes from $27,500 up to $40,000 do get a co-contribution for the voluntary savings that they are prepared to make over and above the superannuation guarantee.

This is an incredibly important measure that even the commentators that Senator Sherry follows have supported as an overwhelmingly positive measure that this government has introduced, together with the reduction in the surcharge that is so important to make sure that those who can and will save for their retirement have an incentive to do so and that those who otherwise would not have any incentive to save can actually get that benefit. Because this matter is on the Notice Paper, it is probably not appropriate to go into the details in question time but there are obviously assumptions as to behaviour, take-up and who will benefit. The co-contribution is, without doubt, an overwhelmingly important measure that deserves to be supported by every single senator in this place.

Senator SHERRY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I remind the minister of the question: how many millionaires will there be as a result of Senator Ian Campbell's prediction? Isn't this just another example of the groundless hype that this government comes up with, such as the projection of 470,000 children's superannuation accounts—with only 500 opened? There is also the $250 million hole in the revenue for the backpackers' tax and the incorrect claims about so-called portability. Why hasn't the minister disciplined this long-serving parliamentary secretary for the inaccurate and false claims he has made about millionaires resulting from her initiatives?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —I suppose that it is too late to expect that Senator Sherry is going to grow up. But with the way that he is going on with his juvenile approach to superannuation he would be able to qualify for a child account.