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Monday, 24 August 2020
Page: 5325

Mr STEPHEN JONES (Whitlam) (12:08): I move:

That this House notes:

(1) the purpose of superannuation is to enable Australians to save for a dignified retirement;

(2) superannuation has made an enormous contribution to converting Australia from a nation that borrows to a nation that lends, creating a pool of funds to invest locally and abroad;

(3) Australia is the 16th largest economy in the world, but because of universal superannuation has a pool of savings owned by Australian workers worth $2 trillion, which is the fourth largest pool of retirement savings in the world;

(4) before universal superannuation, 68 per cent of Australians and 85 per cent of all women had no retirement savings;

(5) the average superannuation balance at retirement is now approximately $160,000 for women and $280,000 for men;

(6) under current policy settings, the median balance on retirement for full-time workers will be $310,819 for women and $628,634 for men;

(7) over the past decade the average rate of return has been between 6 and 8 per cent—last year it grew by 9.2 per cent and Australia was among only a handful of countries that saw pension fund growth; and

(8) superannuation is critical to Australia's economic growth and resilience and must be strengthened so it can play a pivotal role in Australia's economic recovery from COVID-19.

Today it is 30 days since the government received its report into our retirement income system, an urgent report that those opposite said was going to provide the factual basis on which future policy would be determined. It's 30 days, and they're sitting on it and won't release it. Yet, at the very same time, we've got this sanctioned revolt from government backbenchers out there trying to pull the superannuation system down and the remarkable spectacle of the Prime Minister thinking out loud about how he might cancel the legislated arrangements for superannuation—legislated arrangements for superannuation that he went to the last election promising to keep intact. Not just once but 22 times since the last election the Prime Minister and senior government ministers have repeated that promise, and yet here we have this sanctioned revolt of the dirty dozen, those baby-faced Liberals out there, trying to pull down the superannuation system for no other reason than that it wasn't their idea in the first place.

Australia's superannuation system is the envy of the world. It consistently appears in the top three of funded pension or superannuation systems when compared to countries all around the world. It is providing us with a $3 trillion savings pool that is available for investment in Australia and overseas. And haven't we needed it over this year! Whether it's recapitalising listed companies, whether it's providing emergency relief for households or whether it's ensuring that we can be investing in the recovery or in patient care or investing for the long term, haven't we needed it and won't it be absolutely critical to the future economic development in this country as we make our way out of the COVID crisis! But those guys over there are like the Taliban in blue suits. They want to blow it up because it doesn't conform to their religion. We will resist it.

Today we saw the figures from APRA. We saw that $32 billion has been withdrawn from this problem-plagued early release scheme. A lot of that money has gone to households in desperate need, and we welcome that and we support it. But day after day, scandal after scandal, we are finding out that a lot of that money has not been properly accessed. I don't blame the individuals; I blame this hopeless government. I blame this hopeless government for the scheme that it has set up, which has led to over 600,000 Australians, most of whom are under the age of 35, completely wiping out their retirement savings. Those opposite laugh and giggle. They think it is funny. Those of them with half a brain in their head wriggle awkwardly in their chairs because they know as well as we do that we set superannuation up for a purpose.

In the 1980s, when we started on this journey, the ratio of retirees to workers was one to seven. Ten years ago, it was one to six. Today, it's one to four, and rapidly approaching one to three. Let me repeat that: for every retiree, there are three taxpaying workers in the workforce. Who's going to pay for the future pension system? The answer from that mob over there is: 'Don't worry about it; put it on the bill. The grandkids will pick that up.' Well, Australians deserve better than that—better than putting it on the bill for the grandkids to pick up. We've burdened the grandkids with so much—debt approaching $1 trillion and wiping out a generation of superannuation retirement savings. And, after that, what do those opposite say? They say, 'Let's cut the increases.'

These smug, smart backbenchers will leave this debate and go back to their offices. They'll stick their feet on their desks in the comfort and the knowledge that they'll continue to take home 15 per cent in superannuation. But the people who come in quietly and clean their offices and walk around them saying, 'I'm sorry, Sir; can I just get that bin?' get nine per cent. So when you get back to your offices, I ask you to look those cleaners in the eye and tell them, 'I am worth 15 per cent, but you're only worth nine per cent.' I dare you. The people of Australia will not cop it. We will fight to preserve our superannuation system for the good and the dignity of those people and for the future of the country. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Llew O'Brien ): Is the motion seconded?

Mr Thistlethwaite: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.