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Monday, 2 December 2002
Page: 6827

Senator SHERRY (2:08 PM) —My question is to Senator Coonan, the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer. Can the minister confirm that the leaked Department of Finance and Administration paper revealed in the media yesterday was prepared in April this year as part of the policy development for the Intergenerational Report? Can the minister confirm that, in addition to containing a number of measures already adopted by the Liberal government, the paper includes a proposal to increase the preservation age at which people can access their superannuation? Will the minister rule out an increase in the preservation age for accessing superannuation?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —Thank you, Senator Sherry. I gather that what Senator Sherry is really asking is whether the government is planning any increase in the age at which superannuation benefits can be accessed. As honourable senators would know, the government provides substantial tax concessions for superannuation in order to promote self-provision in retirement. Appropriate restrictions on the release of superannuation moneys are required. The government recently increased the preservation age from 55 to 60 on a phased basis between the years 2015 and 2025. This means that for somebody born before 1 July 1960 the preservation age will remain at 55 years, while for someone born after 30 June 1964 the preservation age will rise to 60. This change aims to reduce the opportunities for people to double-dip— that is, to use their concessionally taxed superannuation benefits for non-retirement income purposes and then access the age pension. I am aware that a report was apparently prepared by a temporary employee of the Department of Finance and Administration which raised the prospect of increasing the age pension age. This paper has no official status.

Senator SHERRY —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I note the minister did not rule out a further increase in the preservation age. Is the minister aware that on 7 August 2002 the Treasurer stated:

More flexible working arrangements, training and re-training, and raising the preservation age for superannuation would all be positive moves to address this issue.

In light of this, when will you disclose your secret agenda to increase the preservation age for Australian superannuation?

Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —The leaked Department of Finance and Administration report canvasses the issue, but it was prepared by somebody who was engaged temporarily, who is no longer with the department, and it represents the author's personal views. It is an internal working document only. It was prepared as a basis for internal discussion. The department does not endorse the views or proposals in the document. It has not undertaken work to develop the proposals. I do not know how much clearer I can be.

Senator Sherry —Rule it out! You won't rule it out!

The PRESIDENT —Senator Sherry, I remind you again that shouting across the chamber is disorderly.