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Tuesday, 12 June 1984
Page: 2866


Senator WALTERS(9.36) —I wish to speak for only a few minutes, on behalf of the Opposition, in protest at one more broken promise of the Hawke Government. The Prime Minister, Mr Hawke, made it very clear before the election that he would not touch superannuation payments. Indeed, we have been sent copies of letters that Mr Hawke sent to various groups promising that there would be no introduction of increased tax on lump sum superannuation payments, as had been rumoured prior to the election. But, of course, here we have a very clear broken promise. This is indeed retrospective legislation. It is no use the Government saying it is only from the night of announcement that this tax will be introduced; indeed it is. But people have planned for many years, not realising that a government, without any commitment before its election, would introduce legislation to tax their lump sum superannuation payments. People have planned for their retirement knowing that when the time came they would have a sum which they could use at their discretion.

We have heard nothing from the Government, or indeed from the Australian Democrats, apart from a mention of tall poppies. We have had that description before. We heard it when the Minister for Social Security, Senator Grimes, was debating the assets test. He referred then to the tall poppies and the modified tall poppies. This Government, which is supposed to be bringing the people together, is making divisions with those sorts of statements. It does not seem to be a very telling way to say to the community: 'Let us all work together for the good of Australia'. We now hear of the tall poppies-that is, those with lump sum payments over $50,000-who will be taxed at 30 per cent. The modified tall poppies, those with lump sum payments under $50,000, will be taxed at 15 per cent.

As Senator Watson indicated earlier, the average income of Australians after tax is, according to the figures I have before me, about $10,000 or $11,000. That is the average taxable income in many electorates, apart from those in the Australian Capital Territory, where we find that the average income after tax is a couple of thousand dollars more. It is quite an interesting group of figures that I have here. It indicates that salaries in the two electorates of Canberra and Fraser in the Australian Capital Territory are well above those of the rest of the electorates. They obviously represent a wealthier community, but they too will be hit by this legislation.

Senator Jack Evans, when he was speaking tonight on behalf of the Australian Democrats, referred to airline pilots and people of that ilk, the tall poppies, who would be setting themselves up in some sort of business after having taken their lump sum superanuation payments. What absolute rot! It shows how much out of touch he is with the people of Australia. They are not setting themselves up with lump sums. Indeed, the majority of them use the lump sum to pay off their home mortgages, to enable them to retire with at least a degree of comfort and without a great debt hanging over their heads. But the Government, of course, is denying people the ability to do that. The Government would, indeed, destroy all incentive for the people of Australia to look after themselves in their retirement. People are willing to contribute to give themselves a little extra luxury in their retirement. But the Government, with its socialist policies, is naturally ideologically opposed to that sort of thing, socialism meaning everyone being on the same level and no tall poppies, or modified tall poppies as the Government calls them. This legislation is just part of the Government's philosophy. It is natural for this Government to be following such a course.

We have made it clear as an opposition that when we return to government we will abolish this tax on lump sum superannuation payments. It is part of our philosophy that people be encouraged to look after themselves in their retirement, to put something away for that purpose. Indeed, incentive is what Australia is all about. If the Government continues to stop people preparing for their retirement, people will resort to using their savings prior to their retirement for the purpose of overseas trips and all the fripperies that have been suggested tonight.

We have heard Senator Grimes talk about the assets test. We have seen already the destruction of all incentive by that legislation which is to come before us later. This evening we have before us legislation which will provide for the taxation of lump sum superannuation payments. I will not take up the time of the Senate any longer. As I say, I am just voicing a protest, a protest that falls in the wilderness because we have not the numbers on this side of the House to be able to do anything about it. The Bill is part of the Budget propositions of the Government and is a money Bill. Therefore, we will not be opposing it. It is a shame that the people of Australia were not aware and had not been given the information before the election that this is the sort of thing the Government intended to do. But perhaps the Government will have learned the lesson the hard way and will know what to expect after the next election when Mr Hawke goes to the people which will be, we presume, about December.