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Thursday, 14 February 2013
Page: 1475

Mr RIPOLL (OxleyParliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (15:30): I am quite fascinated by this MPI, because superannuation is so important to the opposition that, in the opportunity of a 15-minute contribution, not only did the member for Casey finish early but he spoke about the minerals resource rent tax, the budget, MYEFO and debt. He made lots of jokes and talked about leadership. In fact, he talked about everything and he talked quite slowly, which is fine, but he spent less than five minutes actually talking about superannuation.

This matter of public importance is so urgent that it has to be discussed right now, because the opposition have something to say. It took them less than five minutes. You can take that opportunity anytime. But, if you are going to come in here and talk about superannuation, you should talk about superannuation. Tell us what your policies are, tell us what your thoughts are and tell us what you are going to do for the Australian people.

Everyone watching the clock would have said: where was the contribution to the debate on super? There was not a lot there. This MPI is absolutely absurd. It is not only factually incorrect; it is completely wrong and it has more to do with cheap political scaremongering. That is what we get from this mob opposite. Those opposite come in here knowing that, all the way back, when the universal super guarantee—universal superannuation for all Australians—was put into place, put into the Australian economy, they opposed it all the way. They can never resile from that. The measure was opposed all the way by the opposition. They said it would be the end of the economy, that it was a massive con job and that it would never work. How wrong were they then and how wrong are they today?

Superannuation in this country represents the underpinning of our economy—$1.5 trillion in superannuation savings. People talk about the GFC and how it was a Labor government that had to come in and deal with the global financial crisis. We never predicted there was going to be a GFC, but we had put the building blocks in place. That is what good governments do, 20 years ahead. You look to the future and you say: what are the things we need to do today for the future? The universal superannuation guarantee was one of those things and we did that. It was opposed by this mob. They hated the concept. They absolutely detest the concept of universal super for ordinary people—just like they hated Medicare and just like they hate anything that gives anything to anyone. Their view is: look after the top one per cent and then it will trickle down. The top one per cent will then just throw out little bits of leftovers to the rest of the 99 per cent of those people in the economy.

You might have noticed this quite beautiful little chocolate rose, a Valentine's Day rose, that those opposite all gave each other. You might have missed it before, but they gave each other one of these roses. There is a lot of love for each other on the other side, demonstrated by the giving of roses to each other. But where is the love for superannuation? Where is the love for working people, the 99 per cent of people who actually need the support of superannuation so that they can also have a decent retirement—not an extravagant retirement but just a decent retirement, something underpinned by some of their own savings and by the wages they gave up when the deal was done? Just so people know, part of the money, the wage restraint and the things that were put into place, meant that workers forwent a wage rise. Part of the money went to their super and part of the money went to employers to ensure that they could afford it as well.

That was a good deal, a great deal, a historic deal, done by a Labor government. The reason it was done by a Labor government is that we actually believe in it. You have to start from a position where you believe in super. You want to support super and you want to build it and make it stronger so that, today, you can have $1.5 trillion in superannuation savings in this country. We have positive plans for super in this country. It does not matter whether you are in a retail fund, an industry fund, a not-for-profit or a for-profit fund. It does not matter which one you are in; you get the benefits. It does not matter whether you are in an SMSF, a self-managed super fund, or whether you are a self-funded retiree; we believe in superannuation and decent retirement savings.

But let me tell you what the policies are of those on the other side. They had 15 minutes to speak and they took less than five minutes. That was their opportunity to tell us all what they are going to do. This is the only policy they have: black and white, one policy. They will rip away the super tax concessions for 3.6 million of some of the lowest-paid Australians in this country, of which 2.1 million are women. Those are the facts. There is no question about it. So, when they see that they have a $70 billion budget black hole, they go, 'We have to fill the black hole; where are we going to get the money from?' They do not look at any fancy policy for where they are going to get the money from. No savings, no cuts—just take it straight off 3.6 million of Australia's lowest-paid workers. Take it off them. Now, $500 may not be a lot to the people on the other side of the bench who love each other so much, but let me tell you that it is a lot of money if you are a cleaner or somebody on casual wages or somebody supporting a family through a second income. That is why we are making the changes—because we believe in giving people a hand up, not a handout. This is something for their future, something for their retirement, something that they can actually rely on.

What does the coalition's policy represent? The other day I was at a conference and there was an opportunity for me to say a few things and for the other side to say a few things. They did mention they might tinker around with a bit of regulation, they might do something on industry boards and look at a whole range of fluff around the edges, but there was nothing for working Australians, nothing for 3.6 million of the lowest-paid Australians in the country.

Those opposite are the ones who put forward this MPI. They are the ones that supposedly think this is so important, the ones who have so much to say on super. Think about how much there is to discuss when you talk about super. Their contribution was less than five minutes—if they had something more to say they would say it.

Let's make a bit of a comparison. If they take away from 3.6 million people their 15 per cent concession, who are they going to give more to? Just the top one per cent. If you are lucky enough to be earning more than $300,000 a year, good on you—you are lucky. You have worked hard and you deserve that money—no objection. But they are the only people that the Liberal opposition want to see get a go at super and get the concessions and all the benefits that come with it. Their concessions are worth more than $7,000 a year, while for people on low incomes they are worth about $2,000 a year. Our proposal gives a little bit more to the majority of people at the lower end so they get a better shot at retirement. It does not take away the $7,000, but it halves it—$3,500 is still generous for the top one per cent of income earners.

In these debates you get all this mixing of fruits and vegetables, all these analogies about things. But the reality is that, if you are on $300,000 a year, you have choices, you have options. Super is not your only investment vehicle. It is a really good one but it is not your only one. You can choose from property, shares, cash, bonds, gold and so on. You have plenty of choice. You can choose the absolute best for your retirement. Again, good on you. Build up your wealth and contribute to the national economy. All those things can be done together. But it should not be done in a manner that is so unfair that it means 3.6 million of the lowest-paid working Australians have to pay for it—why should they?—by getting slugged an extra $500 a year. It is just not on; it is not fair. That is why the other side had nothing to say. What are they going to talk about—the fact that they are trying to skew all the benefits in one direction? I think even the top one per cent, those on $300,000 or more, would probably scratch their heads and say: 'Actually, we don't need that much help. Thanks for the concessions anyway, but we can probably do without them. We've got plenty of choices.'

If we stop there, you might ask, 'Are we doing enough for the superannuation system in this country in the long term?' I always say you have to keep doing things, you have to keep moving. It is not change for change's sake. That is not what it is about. No-one changes something for change's sake—I hear that inane argument. Where do they get this stuff from? Why do we go through all the pain and effort of negotiating and consulting with different industry groups and bodies who all have opinions, views and capacity? We do it because it is necessary. If you want a system that works in this country it must be, first of all, sustainable. It has lasted this long—more than 20 years—because it is sustainable. But it is not going to stay sustainable if you keep it the same as it was two decades or a generation ago. You have to move with the times. So you make changes because it is necessary.

Then you hear platitudes and arguments from the other side like, 'We should only have positive change, not negative change.' I would say the only negative policy is the opposition's. The Liberals' negative policy is to slug people more through their superannuation. A positive change is to change, as required, things such as concessions and caps, as we have done. There is a clear choice. When it comes to superannuation there are a number of things that you can do.

Let's be clear. We have made a number of positive changes, not just today, not just this year and not just since coming to government in 2007 but since the creation of universal superannuation, the super guarantee. We created that because we believed in it. We believed that all Australians should have a fair go and the opportunity to have a bit of a nest egg. The only people who used to get superannuation were those on very high incomes, the top public servants and people in other top-end jobs. The majority of Australians missed out and were wholly and solely reliant on pensions.

That is something else we did when we came to government. I will not speak long about this because I actually want to talk about superannuation, but it is important that we tie this in because it is related. We made the single biggest improvement and increase to pensions in this country that has ever happened, and we did that coming to government because we had made a commitment to older Australians that we would lift their rate permanently, not with one-off bonuses. The Howard government used to love doling out a little bit of cash to people just before an election. It was their common theme: 'Who do we need to placate? Let's throw a few little rags of money and a few cheques around the place and hope that that's all okay and everyone's happy.' That is one way of doing it. We thought there was a better way: to make a permanent increase, build it in and pay for it forever. Pensioners needed it and they appreciated it, and I know they have not forgotten it. The record of those on the other side stands for itself. They always believed it was a con job, and I would love to have the time to be able to tell you some of the words that were used in this place by people like Bronwyn Bishop and Tony Abbott. They were dragged kicking and screaming to do that. They hated it.

You have to think about this: where does this pathological hate come from? There is a lot of love on the other side but it is only for themselves. Where does it come from, this pathological hate of ordinary people—people who work, the backbone of the country, the people who dig things and make things, the manufacturers, welders, builders, concreters and cleaners? Where is a little bit of love for them? Where is a bit of love for farmers? Every day in here—I remember it really well; I always used to take note—you used to hear at least one of them say something about farming and agriculture. They have gone quiet. I have not heard those words for a long time. I will have to check with my colleagues, but I cannot remember the last time they spoke about a farmer. It seems they have moved on. They talk about the one per cent, the wealthiest. They talk about small business. But when it came to making it count, in here, they were quiet. When we moved legislation to reduce company tax for small business from 30 per cent to 29 per cent, guess who opposed it? You guessed it: they opposed it all the way. There was no way they were going to have a bar of reducing the burden on small business. The super guarantee sits at nine per cent—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr RIPOLL: So they admit they opposed it 'because, because, because—excuse, excuse, excuse'. The reality does not change; they still opposed it. You opposed it; it does not matter why you opposed it. Go and explain it to small business. You opposed a tax cut for small business. You opposed superannuation increases.

Let me remind you of something we did. The super guarantee sits at nine per cent but it ought to be higher; as a minimum base it is just a little bit too low. So we have already put this into place, and it starts 1 July this year: a rise in the contribution from nine to 12 per cent. That is an incredibly good thing. It is a fantastic thing. Who opposed it? Yep, you've got it: the Liberal opposition. They will oppose tooth and nail everything that comes into this place that is good for ordinary people, working people, people who contribute to the economy, people who pay their taxes, whether they are in small business or not. They will talk about farmers, but they have not for a long time; they must have forgotten about farmers; somehow farmers have just faded away, although we almost heard something about farmers today when they started talking about dams. Of course they oppose dams, they are in favour of dams—they have no damn clue! That is really where it is all at.

So when we talk about the things that are being done and have been done, who believes in super? Who builds super? Who sustains super? Who makes it something for all Australians—the wealthy, the not so wealthy and some of the lowest income earners—to share? It is this Labor government. It has been Labor governments in the past, in history, who have done this. Who opposes it every step of the way? It is the Liberal Party and the Liberal opposition. (Time expired)