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Wednesday, 3 March 2004
Page: 20707

Senator KIRK (3:13 PM) —I also rise to speak on the motion to take note of answers given by Senator Coonan in question time today in relation to superannuation. As we heard here in question time today, it is clear that the government wants to have Australians work longer and longer—to work until they drop. During the course of questioning, reference was made by me to recent comments in the media by the Treasurer, Mr Costello, on current access ages to superannuation. I asked Senator Coonan whether she could confirm that Mr Costello had stated, `The superannuation preservation age is 55 years.' In making that statement Mr Costello was, quite simply, wrong. He has been misleading Australians about the preservation age. Senator Coonan in fact confirmed this. She confirmed that the preservation age is 60 for 52 per cent of Australian people—those born after 1964.

This age is important. It is the age at which Australians either are forced to retire because their employer has retrenched them or voluntarily retire early. So it is very important that it is made clear to Australians exactly what the preservation age is for their age group. Mr Costello should know the super access ages because, after all, it was the Liberal government that legislated in 1998 to give effect to this scheme. We have to ask ourselves: why is Mr Costello misleading Australians in relation to this very important matter of access ages for superannuation? It seems that the reason the Treasurer is doing this is to create a false picture of some sort of retirement incomes crisis that he is trying to put across to the Australian electorate.

There seems to be some attempt to impose a radical `work until you drop' solution on the Australian people, as we heard today. This is reinforced by the comments made by the Treasurer that Senator Sherry referred to. He made these comments on ABC radio late last month. He said that there is going to be no such thing as full-time retirement. What does this mean for Australians who are approaching retirement age? We have to wonder why the government wants to sentence Australians to a lifetime of work without a well-deserved full-time retirement—to work until they drop. Why is it that the government wants to deny Australians who have worked for years the right due to them—that is, a full-time retirement? We should also ask the Assistant Treasurer whether, as part of this initiative of working until you drop, the Treasurer or the Assistant Treasurer will be encouraging the Prime Minister to forgo his right of retirement and perhaps work until he drops.

Some comments were made by Senator Ferguson in relation to Labor's policy on this matter. Labor has recognised that the real challenges that are before us today in relation to superannuation reform are four key things: simplicity, safety, adequacy and taxation. I am pleased to say that, in the policy announcement Mr Latham will be making shortly on behalf of the Labor opposition, these matters will be addressed. Labor policy will address these matters that are so critical to the future of Australians who will be retiring in the next few years. It is a very important package and something that we will be proud to release to the community.