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Monday, 2 December 2002
Page: 6843


Senator SHERRY (3:26 PM) —Today when I posed a question to Senator Coonan, who is the minister responsible for superannuation policy in the Liberal government, I asked her quite directly not on one but on two occasions whether she would rule out on behalf of the Liberal government a further increase in the preservation access age for superannuation. The preservation access age for superannuation is the age at which Australians when they retire, either forced or voluntary, can access their superannuation for retirement purposes.

I asked the minister—I challenged her twice—to rule out a further increase in the preservation access age for superannuation. She declined to rule it out. All she did was point out that the Liberal government has already on one occasion increased the access age for superannuation for retirement purposes, from 55 to 60 years. We had a revelation of this government's secret agenda with the leaking of a finance committee document that outlays a range of policy initiatives that it wants to pursue in tackling issues that surround the ageing population. This report by the Department of Finance and Administration was prepared in conjunction with the Intergenerational Report that the Treasurer, Mr Costello, handed down in the last budget. This government has just discovered that we have an ageing population.

What is very important about the preservation age is that Australians who are coming up for retirement do need some certainty. Australians need to know well in advance at what age they can access their superannuation if either they are forced into retirement or they voluntarily wish to go into retirement. The minister declined to rule it out not once but twice. I would have been surprised, in light of the leaked document from the finance department, if the minister had ruled it out. But if we look at statements made by ministers in this government in very recent times, we get a good idea about where the Liberal government are headed on retirement incomes policy. Because they do not have a decent retirement incomes policy, the Liberal Party answer in large part to resolving the problems of the ageing population is to make people work longer.

The Liberal government effectively want to force many Australians to stay in the work force at least to the age of 65 in respect of superannuation and probably to the age of 70. Their solution to the challenge of the ageing population and of providing decent retirement incomes for Australians is to make everyone work longer: force people to work to the age of 70. The Liberal Party want to force many Australians to work until they literally drop. Many Australians will not live far beyond the age of 70, and the Liberal government want them to work to that age. The Liberal government want Australians to work until they have got one foot in the grave. That is their retirement incomes policy: force everyone to work longer, to work to the age of 70. Never mind the dreams of Australians who want to spend 10 or 15 years in retirement, buying a caravan or participating in community activities. The government just want to force them to work longer. In fact, the Treasurer, Mr Costello, as recently as 7 August 2002—and I asked the minister about this—said:

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

The Treasurer has quite directly flagged a further increase in the preservation age or access age for Australian superannuation. No wonder Senator Coonan, in respect of superannuation policy, not once but twice refused to rule out a further increase in the preservation age. The Liberal government want Australians to work until they drop, until they have got one foot in the grave. That is their retirement incomes policy: to force them to work until age 70.

Question agreed to.