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Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Page: 9540


Mr MELHAM (Banks) (11:14): The Superannuation Legislation Amendment (MySuper Core Provisions) Bill 2011, which we are debating today, represents the essence of Labor Party values—a fair go for all. The 2009 ALP platform states in its preamble:

Through the good times and through the tough times, the great mission of Australian Labor governments for more than one hundred years has been to improve the lives of ordinary Australians—giving every Australian opportunities through education and training, ensuring fairness at work and supporting Australians throughout the different stages and transitions of their lives.

The concept of the minerals resource rent tax is based on our fundamental principles of equity and of assisting all Australians now and into the future. The bill we are debating today is part of the strategy the government is employing to ensure equitable distribution of the national wealth.

MySuper is a key part of the government's broader Stronger Super reform package. Stronger Super also includes reforms to make the process of everyday transactions in the super system easier, cheaper and faster through the SuperStream package of measures; to improve the governance and integrity of the superannuation system, including the rules that apply to superannuation trustees; and to improve integrity and increase community confidence in the self-managed superannuation fund sector. Together, these reforms will reassure Australians that they can have confidence in the superannuation system that will support them into their future beyond work.

It was the Fisher Labor government that expanded and increased the old age pension, introduced a payment to mothers on the birth of a child and legislated for a national workers compensation act. The Scullin Labor government increased social service payments for people facing the Great Depression. The Curtin government introduced the first national system of widows pensions, expanded the child endowment, increased pensions for invalids and began funding hospitals for the first time. It was Ben Chifley who secured a major change in the Commonwealth Constitution to give the federal government power over social services, introduced legislation for a public health system that was to pave the way for a universal health scheme and invested in affordable housing for returned soldiers and the less fortunate. The Whitlam government introduced Medibank, legislated for free universal university education, introduced the land rights act, increased the age pension and introduced and passed the Racial Discrimination Act.

The Hawke Labor government introduced Medicare, reformed industrial relations, introduced the Sex Discrimination Act and the equal opportunity employment act and increased investment in the housing, health and education of Indigenous Australians. Prime Minister Keating promoted the causes of reconciliation and respected and protected native title through the Mabo legislation. It was the Hawke-Keating government that took the historic decision to introduce the reform of a national superannuation guarantee for all Australians. That, of course, was then opposed by the coalition, just as the initiatives that we are talking about today are being opposed by the coalition. The current Labor government abolished Work Choices; increased pensions; increased hospital funding by 50 per cent; massively invested in education infrastructure as well as roads, ports and rail infrastructure; is building the National Broadband Network; addressed climate change; and with this legislation is set to invest in the future of all Australians.

In my electorate of Banks, there are 50,500 working people who stand to benefit from the superannuation increase that will flow from the minerals resource rent tax. This will add almost $108,000 to the projected retirement incomes of an average 30-year-old worker in my electorate. This is what the Labor Party stands for and always has—taking those measures which will ensure a comfortable retirement for everyone, not just the wealthy. We are taking these measures which mean that all Australians benefit from the resource boom, not only the mining companies.

The first words of the Australian national anthem rightly state:

Our land abounds in nature's gifts.

What we in the ALP are about is sharing nature's gifts. The government appreciates the fact that many Australians do not currently reap the benefits of the resources boom. We understand that some small businesses and households are doing it tough. We have to make sure that we have a future beyond the mining boom and that we share the benefits with future generations.

This bill contains reforms for the long term that will benefit millions of our citizens through their superannuation savings and provide direct benefits to small businesses. Labor believes in this reform so all Australians can benefit from the mining boom, as I said, not just the mining companies. The direct result of this measure will be an increase in superannuation as the guarantee is lifted from nine per cent to 12 per cent for around 8.4 million working people, increasing retirement savings by $500 billion by 2035, as well as providing 3.6 million low-income earners with concessions worth $800 million a year on employer super contributions.

This bill introduces the core elements of the MySuper reforms. These will be simple, cost-effective default superannuation products that will replace existing default products. Authorised superannuation funds will be able to offer MySuper products to members from 1 January 2014. MySuper will be limited to a common set of features to make it easier for members, employers and other stakeholders to compare performance across MySuper products, placing downward pressure on fees. These reforms deliver on Labor's election commitment to provide a better deal for the many Australians who choose not to take an active role in managing their superannuation but who rely on superannuation funds to act in their best interests.

In contributing to the appropriations bills debate in 1992, I said of the achievements of the Hawke government:

Social justice is about the quality of life. It is about recognising the differences which exist in society and implementing policies and programs which will ensure a fairer and more prosperous society. The Government is rightly proud of the reforms achieved in social security and health over the last decade.

…   …   …

The Government will continue to implement policies and programs which will benefit all Australians. It will continue to address the needs of the less fortunate in our community while seeking to raise the standard of living for all Australians.

I am proud to say that, almost 20 years later, those words still ring true about a Labor government. I commend the bill to the House.

It seems to me that the difference between those on this side and those on the other side can be summarised by the fact that we in the Labor Party have a safety net. We look after those who are disadvantaged, those who are underprivileged, and Indigenous Australians. True equality requires differential treatment to try and bring people to a level of equality.

Those on the other side have a different belief. They believe in upper middle-class welfare and business welfare. That was the hallmark of the 11 years of the Howard government: a redistribution upwards to those who could afford it; and those who could least afford it were the ones who paid for it and subsidised it. That was the basis behind the regressive 10 per cent consumption tax that was applied across the board. That tax applied equally to Kerry Packer and to an Indigenous Australian. That tax added 10 per cent to the burden of providing a funeral for someone at the end of their life. It was regressive. Why? Because there is a view that the privileged should become more privileged. That is what the mineral resources tax is all about for the coalition—to give the rich more. What we on this side say is that we want to create a productive environment for business. We want productivity and this superannuation bill before the House—

Mr Billson: The House was affording the member for Banks quite a wide range there, but the member has belatedly thrown a life-saving ring towards the topic that he is supposed to be speaking about. I recognise his dexterity there and I encourage him to be more dextrous if he is going to stray off the reservation like that!

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr KJ Thomson ): Order! The member for Banks has the call.

Mr MELHAM: The importance of this measure—and let us recognise it—is that the state cannot afford in years to come for measures like this not to pass the House. We have to assist that section of our community who can make provisions for their own retirement so that the remainder who are vulnerable—women who are not in the workforce, Indigenous Australians and others—can be looked after through our pension system.

It beggars belief that those on the other side would not support a MySuper package as a trade-off in fairness and a trade-off in equity. At the same time as the conservatives sit mute, the states are increasing the cost of production for mining companies in those states—because they are Liberal states. The minister at the table, my good friend Mr Crean, is a former ACTU president. He understands this through his working experience before he came into this place and through his experience in this place.

The role of government is about measures like this bill that is before the House today. It is interesting that, historically, the conservatives have opposed this measure every time a Labor government has sought to introduce it. It is interesting that once a measure is passed, they are reluctant to tamper with it. What we are seeing here is an engagement in a political exercise. It is a lot easier for me to support the minerals resource rent tax when the trade-off is the legislation that we have got here today—fair, equable, balanced legislation that is in the national interest.