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Tuesday, 2 September 2014
Page: 9421


Mr FLETCHER (BradfieldParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications) (16:18): The opposition really must think that both the government and the people of Australia have ridiculously short memories when they have the temerity to put forward a motion which purports to criticise the government for 'adverse changes to superannuation'. Do they think that the Australian people have forgotten that previous Prime Minister Rudd had this to say in 2007:

Absolutely not, there will be no change to superannuation laws—not one jot, not one tittle.

A quote which should live in memory, along with the tremendous quote the House was reminded of just a few moments ago by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, 'The four years of surpluses I announce tonight,'

when he brought down a budget which delivered no such thing. The onlyexplanation I can think of is that both the former Treasurer and the former Prime Minister are enthusiastic residents of Second Life, which is a virtual world in which you create a representation of yourself called an avatar. It also has its own virtual currency. Perhaps the former Treasurer found a particular version of Second Life in which the virtual currency which is used has the amazing property to always deliver a surplus, no matter how extraordinarily economically inept you are.

Over the last six years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government we had the most extraordinary record of economic ineptitude and that is true as much of superannuation as it is in every other aspect of economic policy. The shadow Treasurer, speaking earlier, sought to cloak himself in the legacy of the Hawke and Keating years, but the legacy of this dismal side opposite is the legacy of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years, years which began with that strangely convoluted promise I have just cited, 'no change to the superannuation laws—not one jot, not one tittle', the 'Ruddbot' obviously at that point having a bit of a programming difficulty and lapsing into its own peculiar form of language.

But did the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government deliver on those promises? In fact, what we saw was a chaotic and relentless series of changes to the rules governing superannuation. And who was deeply involved in all of that? Of course, the current Leader of the Opposition who was then the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation. He was deeply involved, as was the now shadow Treasurer. From the 2008 budget onwards we saw a relentless series of tax increases, some $9 billion of increases on the tax applying to superannuation. We saw a consistent and repeated record, change after change, some 11 separate rounds of superannuation tax hikes. We saw the concessional contribution limit drop from $100,000 to $50,000 and then to $25,000; it was frozen at $25,000.

We saw the continuing uncertainty that operated across all of the policy settings in superannuation. Who can forget in 2013 the chaotic and desperate process that the then government went through as they cast around for some new measures under which they could extract additional tax out of superannuation? At one point, there was going to be a tax on the balance held in a superannuation fund above a level of $800,000. There were going to be additional contributions taxes—indeed, that was where they ultimately settled.

But the rules kept changing, and it was in response to that relentless series of changes that Australians increasingly lost confidence in the superannuation rules, because, if they continued to change, then what rational person was going to say, 'This is a wise place to be putting my retirement savings'? That is a very clear distinction between the policy approach on this side of the House and the policy approach that we saw from the other side of the House in relation to superannuation for six or seven years. We saw continued, repeated changes to the rules. When the then Labor government came to power in 2007, there was a super co-contribution of $1,500; when they left, it had gone down to $500. There was change after change after change.

We have been clear and honest and consistent with the Australian people in what we took to the election in 2013 and the measures which we are moving to implement now. We made it clear that we intended to pause the increase in the superannuation guarantee charge because it did not make sense to make a commitment to do something which could not be afforded. That is the clear position on this side of House. We want a sustainable superannuation system. We are strong believers in superannuation, and we are strong believers in an affordable system.