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Monday, 21 March 2011
Page: 2384

Mr FLETCHER (11:37 PM) —I second the motion. Sometimes discrimination can be so prevalent that we do not even notice it. A type of discrimination that we have tended not to notice as much as we ought is discrimination against older Australians. If it were the case that, for example, the superannuation guarantee charge were not payable to workers up to the age of 25 or 30, that would obviously be completely unacceptable to any fair-minded Australian. Why is it, then, that we have a policy today which says that we do permit discrimination against Australians over the age of 70? Under the law as it stands today the superannuation guarantee charge is not required to be paid to employees over the age of 70.

We acknowledge that it is the intention of the government to remove the discrimination in so far as it applies to workers between the ages of 70 and 75. We make this simple and obvious point, which underpins the logic of this bill that we are moving: why stop at 75? If somebody is in the workforce, if somebody is doing a job, then they are entitled to receive the superannuation guarantee charge payment just as workers of younger ages are entitled to receive it. The test as to whether you are entitled to receive the superannuation guarantee charge ought to be simply this: are you in the workforce, have you been employed or do you have a job? If yes, then you ought to receive that entitlement. There is simply no good basis to deny the payment of the superannuation guarantee charge to workers who happen to be over any particular cut-off age you may choose to nominate, be it 70 or 75. If you are in the workforce you are entitled to receive that payment. It is fundamentally an equity issue.

There are, in addition, good arguments based on efficiency, which underpin this legislation, which the coalition is putting forward, the Abolition of Age Limit on Payment of the Superannuation Guarantee Charge Bill 2011. It is well known that our workforce is ageing. It is well known that the demographic changes Australia is experiencing mean that the cohort of workers coming into the workforce at the lower end of the age band is now lower than the cohort of workers who are leaving the workforce. We have a demographic issue. It is clear that one important part of the policy response is to encourage older workers to stay in the workforce and, indeed, to encourage those who may not be in the workforce to return to the workforce, should they be minded to do so. That is an efficient thing to do. We have a stock of well-trained, capable people with many years of experience in the workforce, who today face this disincentive to return to work, the disincentive that if you are above the age of 70 today you do not receive the superannuation guarantee when the person standing next to you, doing exactly the same work, who happens to be aged 69 or 59 or 49 or 29 will be receiving that payment. Is it any wonder that people react rationally to that disincentive and say, ‘Why should I stay in the workforce if all of a sudden, simply by reason of having reached a certain age, I am no longer entitled to receive a payment which others in the workforce right alongside me are receiving?’

We say there is a strong efficiency argument in favour of the legislation we are putting forward. Let us get the best out of our nation’s workforce. Let us encourage people to come back into the workforce or to remain in the workforce. But even more fundamentally, this is about equity. This is about fairness. This is about drawing upon the potential of every Australian, no matter their age. That is why we are putting forward this legislation today.