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Wednesday, 10 October 2012
Page: 7835


Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (14:37): My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Wong. Can the minister confirm reports in the Australian Financial Review today, said to be based on advice from government sources, that the Gillard government has delayed but not shelved $30 billion a year in new taxes on Australian's superannuation savings? Given that such a super tax grab on superannuation savings would come on top of $7.8 billion in super taxes already, and would raise at least $120 billion in revenue over the forward estimates period, is that how the government plans to fill its $120 billion budget black hole?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:38): One thing I will give to Senator Cormann is that he is predictable. Yesterday he had to ask a question about his op ed that was in the paper. Today he asks a question about the front page of the Australian Financial Review, which he also tweeted about—so thank you very much for that.

In terms of the taxation of superannuation and superannuation policy, what I would say is this: those of us on this side are part of the movement which built superannuation in this country. We did that over the vehement opposition of those on the other side, who did not want superannuation to be anything other than the preserve of the wealthy. They did not want superannuation extended to working Australians—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator WONG: Go back and look at the debates! You were wrong in the nineties and you are wrong now! And the same values continue to be demonstrated today when you look at Senator Cormann and the coalition's opposition to one of the government's measures, which is a tax break for low-income workers—the low-income super contribution, one of the policies openly opposed by the opposition. Do you know who would get that, Mr President? 3.6 million low-income Australians, 2.1 million of which are women because women are overrepresented in the low-income statistics. So when you want to come in here and talk about equity, Senator, why don't you stand up and explain to people why wealthy mining companies cannot pay a tax but people on low incomes in this country should not get a tax break on their superannuation? Why don't you come into this chamber and explain to Australians why you protect wealthy mining companies but you will not stand up for low-income working Australians—3.6 million of them?

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (14:40): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Given that the minister has not been able to deny the reports in the Australian Financial Review, when will the government come clean with hardworking Australians saving to achieve a self-funded retirement as to who exactly will be expected to pay Labor's latest $30 billion tax grab on Australia's super savers?

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:41): The senator wants to come in here and talk about hardworking Australians. Well, 3.6 million low-income earners: I reckon they are hardworking Australians and I think they deserve the tax break that the government is putting in place. But the senator wants to wind that back, should he get into government. What the senator says is: 'No, we don't think low-income Australians deserve equivalent tax treatment on their super. We don't think 3.6 million Australians should get this tax break on their super. We don't think the 2.1 million women who will get this tax break deserve it. We want to wind it back. But, Senator Wong, you should tell us about fairness.' Well, really, Senator Cormann: if you want to talk about fairness, I am very happy to talk about fairness. If you want to talk about superannuation, I am happy to talk about superannuation and our record in it. But the problem is that all of a sudden the opponents of superannuation for workers have become the great defenders of superannuation, and the hypocrisy is there for all to see.

Senator CORMANN (Western Australia) (14:42): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Why does the Gillard government think it is appropriate that Australians doing the right thing by saving to achieve a self-funded retirement, taking pressure off the public purse in doing so, have to pay the price for Labor's $173 billion in accumulated budget deficits and its current $120 billion budget black hole?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence I will call the minister. I remind honourable senators that the time to debate this is after three o'clock.

Senator WONG (South AustraliaMinister for Finance and Deregulation) (14:43): When it comes to the budget and the position of the budget, I have said before in this place that the Labor government will comply with Peter Costello's Charter of Budget Honesty. We will do that. I wait for a similar commitment from the other side, and no amount of hand waving—

Senator Cormann: This is budget management by leak!

Senator WONG: Senator Cormann, no amount of hand waving gets around the fact that when you are sitting down and your very—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! On both sides!

Senator WONG: As I said, I do not believe that anybody thinks that Senator Cormann has any credibility talking about the budget if he will not come in here and say he will do what Peter Costello said everyone should do, which is to comply with the Charter of Budget Honesty. How embarrassing! The Labor Party will do what Peter Costello said is the right thing; the coalition, full of Costello acolytes, will not. They are leaving him behind. They say: 'Oh, we love Peter but we don't want to do what he said. Do you know why? Because it's a bit too hard; we'd rather use a catering company.' (Time expired)