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Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Page: 9415


Mr BOWEN (McMahon) (15:53): There is plenty of hurt being inflicted by this government's adverse changes to superannuation. There is plenty of hurt being inflicted by its changes to the age pension. There is plenty of hurt being inflicted on the Australian people because of the government's changes to family tax benefits. But, more than anything else, what we have is a government which is determined to breach its election commitments and hurt the Australian people in a way that is adverse not just to individuals and families but to the long-term economic future of this nation.

The government do not realise the importance of the policies they are dealing with. They see superannuation as their personal plaything—in which they do not believe. The Prime Minister, when he was sitting up on the opposition backbench, called superannuation a con job foisted on the Australian people by our government. We know that he does not understand superannuation because, years later, in his book, he called for retrograde steps to be made. And now, given the chance as Prime Minister of Australia, he is making retrograde steps to Australia's superannuation system.

Let me be very clear: superannuation is a proud achievement of Labor governments. We built it and we will defend it. We will defend it against Liberal and National MPs who vote consistently to downgrade it—they did so in the 1990s, they do so today and, no doubt, they will do so in this House tomorrow. They do not believe in superannuation building the future for working Australians. They do not believe it and they fight it. Well, we will fight them every step of the way. We are proud of the fact that our superannuation assets are now the fourth largest in the world. We are the 12th largest economy and we have the fourth largest pension pool in the world—achieved by Australians saving for their future, achieved by Australia's financial services industry, achieved by a framework set up by successive Labor governments. The Hawke and Keating governments invented universal superannuation, the Rudd and Gillard governments strengthened universal superannuation, and the Abbott government is trying to drag superannuation down—breaching their election commitments to the Australian people.

Well, the Australian people are awake to the conflict of disloyalties which goes to the heart of this government. We have a government that beats its chest and lectures Australians about working harder and longer, a government that says Australian should work until they are 70. Can the government name one country in the world with a pension age of 70? No. Can it name one country that is projected to have a pension age of 70 by 2035? No. Can it name one country that is projected to have a pension age of 70 by 2050? Not one! This government thinks Australian should work longer than people in any other country in the world. This government says we should have an indexation of the pension arrangements which is as onerous and as mean as any tried by any government in the world—barring not even Margaret Thatcher's government.

We are the 12th largest economy in the world and the government says that, as a nation, we cannot afford to give pensioners fair indexation. The government says to Australians that it is not going to help them save for their future if they dare to be low- or middle-income earners or one of Australia's female workers across the country—the 2.1 million female Australians who are today missing out on a modest superannuation concession at the hands of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the members who sit behind them. There are 2.1 million Australians who happen to be women working in schools, hospitals and factories—the workplaces of Australia—who today are losers at the hands of this Prime Minister and this Treasurer.

The government say to these people: 'You deserve zero tax concession on your superannuation. You deserve nothing from your government for daring to save for the future. We're going to make you work until you're 70. We don't care if you're a nurse who works the night shift. We don't care if you're a bricklayer who works your body to such a point that you can go no further. We don't care if you're a policeman or a policewoman keeping our streets safe. We don't care who you are or where you are, you'll get nothing from us.' That is what the Prime Minister and the Treasurer say, and that is what every single member opposite says. Whether they be from the Liberal Party or the National Party, whether they represent city or rural Australia, they all say to Australia's low-income earners: 'We're not on your side. We're on the side of higher income earners, who deserve ever more generous tax concessions. If you dare to be a low-income earner, you'll get nothing from us.' They have abolished the low-income superannuation contribution in their deal with the Palmer United Party in the other house and, no doubt, tomorrow they will do so in this house. We say, 'Shame on them!'

We will stand up for Australia's low-income workers. We will stand up for those workers who say: 'We deserve some assistance to save for our future. We don't mind working hard. We don't mind doing what it takes to put food on the table and to provide for our families. But is somebody looking out for us?'

Is somebody going to say there should be some modest tax concessions for low-income earners? Yes, there is somebody, but we are all on this side of the House. There is not one on that side of the House. The National Party, which once promised so much to rural Australia, says to all those low-income earners right throughout rural and regional and Australia, 'We're not on your side. We will not stand up for you.'

The Labor Party will stand up for the workers of rural and regional Australia. The Labor Party will say that those workers right up and down the coast and through Australia's great inland deserve some assistance to save for the future. They deserve some assistance to be part of that great Labor achievement of superannuation, that Labor achievement which has helped so many thousands of Australians have a dignified and comfortable retirement. That is what we believe in. We believe that regardless of your income, background, gender or where you live you deserve dignity in retirement. We believe that if you have worked hard all your working life you deserve to be able to retire before you turn 70 and you deserve to have some dignity and comfort in your retirement. We are not talking about luxury or great riches. We are talking about dignity. We are talking about giving Australians the chance to live free of being reliant on the age pension.

The Prime Minister did not even know the impact of his own policies. He could not tell the House or the Australian people how many people will now be reliant on the full age pension because of changes he has pushed through the parliament today. He does not know, and how could he know? This is policy on the run. We have had three positions from the government over the course of the past 24 hours. I wonder if the minister who will respond on behalf of the government will share with the House any Treasury modelling they may have done about the impact on low-income earners, or on the budget over the long term, or on the national savings pool. I severely doubt it. They are good people down at the Treasury. They work very hard. But they cannot provide modelling in 30 minutes when they have a dysfunctional government that does not know what it is doing. This is a dysfunctional government which treats the parliament and the people with contempt because of their arrogance. Their arrogance tells them that from Canberra they can dictate that low-income earners deserve nothing when it comes to superannuation, that low-income earners should get a tax concession which amounts to no more or no less than zero, and that low-income earners should get no assistance.

This arrogant government says to Australia's hardworking low-income earners that they do not care about them. We care about them. That is why we voted the way we did. That is why we voted the way we did in the other place. That is why we will vote the way that we will in this House, in defence of Australia's low-income earners. We will stand up for them against this arrogant government. We will stand up for fairness. We will stand up against their moves to make the age pension less fair. We will stand up against their moves to make Australians work longer than anybody else in the world—not only in the developed world but anybody else in the world.

This government says Australians should work longer than workers in any other country in the world. Did they say that before the last election? I do not recall them saying that before the last election. Did they go out with their pamphlets and say, 'Here is my policy. I reckon you should work longer than anybody else in the world'? That would be a winner, wouldn't it? No, they did not. No, they did not, because they knew the Australian people would vote differently if they were honest with the Australian people about their plans and about their prejudice. That is what we see from this government: plans to implement their prejudice, their prejudice against working people. We will fight it all away.