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Thursday, 12 December 2002
Page: 7904


Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL (2:46 PM) —My question is to Senator Coonan, the Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer. Will the minister confirm that it is the government's intention to bring back the superannuation surcharge tax cut legislation early in the New Year and so confirm the Liberal government's tax cut Christmas present for those lucky few Australians earning more than $90,500 a year? Can the minister confirm that this tax cut will apply to only around five per cent of working Australians and that the other eight million-plus taxpayers who do not pay the surcharge will get absolutely nothing as a tax cut for Christmas from the Liberal government to boost their retirement nest eggs?


Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —Thank you, Senator George Campbell, for the question. It is a bit rich—isn't it?—for the Labor Party to be talking about opposing the surcharge when the people who are charged the surcharge, which is in fact a penalty, are the people who can make the best contribution to their own retirement. What this government has done is to offer to wind back the surcharge, a promise that we took to the last election and a promise that went through the whole budget process—and guess what? We get to the stage where it is presented in a piece of legislation that provides a very fair package with a modest cut in the surcharge, together with a very generous and necessary co-contribution for low-income earners. It is a very balanced package that delivers to those who most need some assistance to save— that is, some low-income earners—an extra incentive. The Labor Party has a very divided view on this because, in the report brought down yesterday by the Senate Select Committee on Superannuation, Senator Sherry agreed to a reduction of the surcharge. Yet, when the bill is rolled out, the surcharge is opposed.

Senator Sherry is not here today to advocate the Labor Party's view on anything, and it is left to Senator George Campbell to try and pick up the tarnished flag of the Labor Party in relation to its superannuation policy. So for the Labor Party to be talking about the superannuation surcharge is not only a bit rich but it totally ignores the policy intent that, in order to help people to save for their retirement, those who are most capable of saving for their retirement should be allowed to do so without this incentive being taken away. Those who cannot afford to save for their retirement clearly need some assistance, which is what this government has done with its co-contribution measure. It is a very balanced package, and when it is brought back I will urge those opposite to pass it.


Senator GEORGE CAMPBELL —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister confirm that, while she is happy to hold the line that you cannot cut tax for millions of working Australians, she will personally benefit from the surcharge tax cut to the tune of approximately $4,700?


Senator COONAN (Minister for Revenue and Assistant Treasurer) —What I want to say about this is that, by indicating that they will oppose the mandate granted to this government by the Australian people, the Labor Party and the Democrats are ensuring that no co-contribution will be paid to low-income earners, that the much less generous existing tax rebate will remain in force, that no surcharge reduction will occur and that the existing 15 per cent maximum surcharge rate will remain in force. This means that for both low- and high-income earners, which includes Senator George Campbell, voluntary superannuation will not be as attractive as it could have been. It is an absolute disgrace that the Labor Party opposes such an important measure for the people of Australia.