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Wednesday, 13 February 2013
Page: 1264


Mr FRYDENBERG (Kooyong) (19:49): There is little disagreement with the proposition that the Labor government under successive prime ministers, Rudd and Gillard, have mismanaged the economy: record budget deficits, including the four largest in Australia's history, 27 new taxes and numerous examples of waste and mismanagement comprise exhibits A, B and C.

Perhaps most damaging of all has been the government's erratic decision making processes that have lacked consultation, alienated stakeholders and produced policy outcomes inimical to the very interests they pretended to protect. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to superannuation—the retirement savings that every Australian seeks to grow. Despite promising at the 2007 election that there would be no changes to superannuation the Treasurer, Wayne Swan, has overseen successive tax increases on superannuation, thereby not just breaking his solemn promise but making it that much more difficult for millions of Australians, young and old, to save for their future.

Facing a $120 billion black hole of unfunded promises, the Treasurer has increased taxes to the tune of $8 billion on superannuation in this country. The Labor government has decreased concessional contribution caps from $100,000 and $50,000 to $25,000, with contributions above that taxed at the top marginal tax rate of 46.5 per cent. And the super co-contribution has been cut from $1,500 under the Howard Government to $500 now.

And there is more to come—the Prime Minister recently ruled out removing the tax-free superannuation payments for over-60s, but only after a public outcry. Given this government's record of broken promises over the carbon tax, private health insurance and border protection, how can we expect to believe they would stick to anything they say should they win the next election? But, significantly, unlike the coalition, which has ruled out any detrimental unexpected changes to superannuation, this government refuses to rule out further changes.

In fact, the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation and member for Maribyrnong, Bill Shorten, was reported in The Australian on 29 November 2012 as telling superannuation funds in a private meeting that: 'Nothing was off the table.' This is all a desperate attempt to protect the government's budget bottom line. This is despite senior industry figures like the Industry Funds Management chairman, Garry Weaven, saying it is 'time for a pause' on super changes and former Labor minister Nick Sherry—he was superannuation minister from 2007 to 2009—issuing a warning.

The Labor Party is desperate: a structural deficit and a $120 billion budget black hole requires the government to find savings anywhere it can. When it comes to superannuation, the union leadership is egging them on. ACTU Assistant Secretary Tim Lyons has said of the changes to superannuation:

I don't buy the argument that a slight change to tax is going to discourage people from planning for their retirement.

This is not what the majority of Australians think. They want the freedom to invest in their super and to take responsibility for their retirement without being punished with punitive tax imposts put in place by a desperate government.

Should the coalition win the federal election later this year, we have said that, when the budget is back in a healthy state, we will revisit the issue of concessional superannuation contribution caps and super co-contribution benefits for lower income earners, which are currently at levels below where they should be. We have said that we will seek to introduce genuine choice and competition into the selection of default superannuation funds, as the situation is currently dominated by industry super funds. We want any MySuper product to be able to operate freely within the default superannuation market, we want to get more independent directors onto superannuation fund boards, we want disclosure of conflicts of interests to be mandatory and we want to increase the transparency of information for people who are seeking to compare super funds.

Superannuation is a really important issue. It is about aspiration, it is about people saving for the future and it is about people taking personal responsibility. We, on this side of the House, understand their needs and we understand the needs of future generations—unlike the other side. (Time expired)