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Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Page: 12491


Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (14:13): My question is to the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation. How will the government's minerals resource rent tax and superannuation guarantee benefit the economy and help all Australians prepare adequately for their future?

Mr SHORTEN (MaribyrnongAssistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation) (14:13): I thank the member for Robertson for her question because she is interested in the idea that people who work hard all their life should be able to retire with some degree of dignity and income security. That is why the legislation that went into the House this morning is so good for so many Australians. That is why the mining tax is unreservedly a very good idea, because it is going to spread the prosperity of the mining boom across all of Australia.

I have no doubt that the member for Robertson's constituents, and indeed 8.4 million Australians, will be pleased to learn that today this government has continued the work of lifting compulsory superannuation to a point where more Australians than ever before can hope that they can retire with some adequate level of replacement income in the years after retirement. Australians know that we are living longer than ever before. The evidence sits opposite me. We are living longer than ever before and in those years we need to make sure that people have enough money to live on. We need to make sure that people have enough to retire on. The current compulsory superannuation savings of nine per cent are simply not adequate. We need to lift it to 12 per cent. We are managing to do it in a staged way, which means business will be able to work with the increases. It will be of a quarter of a per cent in 2013-14, a quarter of a per cent the following year and then five instalments of half a per cent up until 2019-20. This country and this government understand that it is not fair that, in Australia, only a few very wealthy people will have sufficient to retire on. We on this side of the House say: if some Australians are getting better than nine per cent superannuation, why isn't it good enough for 8½ million people?

But the good news for Australians does not stop with that aspect of the government's measures. I am also pleased to report to the House that today we are proposing to eliminate the concessional tax paid by all Australians who go to work and earn less than $37,000 a year. That's right: we are going to remove the 15 per cent concessional tax so that 3.6 million Australians on low incomes, rather than having to pay tax on their superannuation, will receive it in their superannuation. It is worth noting that 60 per cent of these 3.6 million people, our fellow Australians who are working hard, are women. We understand that women are not paid equally to men in many sectors of the economy. We also understand that women will sometimes have to take breaks in their careers and reduce their potential earnings to raise families. We do not believe that women should miss out on the benefits of the superannuation system for this reason. That is why we are introducing the scheme.

But the good news continues further. This government today announced that we will scrap the age discrimination levels for everyone who goes to work. In other words, no longer will you have to lose your superannuation contributions when you are 70. We said at the last election—unlike those opposite—that we would raise it to 75, but courtesy of the good work of the Labor backbench and the crossbenches we have been persuaded, and today we announce that we will scrap that. So the 18,000 Australians in the workforce who are over the age of 75 will be able to get superannuation.

Opposition members interjecting

Mr SHORTEN: I hear the opposition crowing, 'That's our policy!' Well, I tell you what: if it is your policy, vote for it. And, while you are voting for it, don't keep 15 per cent just for yourselves and vote for the rest of Australia to get nine per cent. Shame on your hypocrisy!

Mr Abbott: On indulgence, can I congratulate the Assistant Treasurer for adopting the opposition's policy.

Ms Julie Bishop: Mr Speaker—

The SPEAKER: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume her seat.

Mr Albanese: Mr Speaker, I assume that you gave the call to the Leader of the Opposition on the basis that he was going to ask a question. It is not in order at all for the Leader of the Opposition to give a speech during question time.

The SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will resume his seat. I have got the point of order.

Ms Julie Bishop: Mr Speaker—

The SPEAKER: The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume her seat. The member for Denison will resume his seat as well. He is pre-empting and reading my mind but I think he has gone down a different lane to where I am going. I am pleased that some people are paying enough attention to know that they can try to make sure that they are not missed out; I understand that with the member for Denison. I simply say that the way the Leader of the House characterised events has some element of truth. The Leader of the Opposition assumed that I would give indulgence, and he took indulgence. But I will remember that he assumed I would give indulgence, and that is not necessarily going to be the case. I have got sufficient memory that I remember things, and he understands that as well, and the way this place works, so he should be very careful. But I would just urge members in general to contain their enthusiasm today. I am not sure whether there is something in the air conditioning, but there is something going on here that is not healthy.