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Wednesday, 13 February 2019
Page: 341


Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (17:49): I rise to speak on the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment (Supporting Retirement Incomes) Bill 2018. This bill makes a number of changes announced in the budget last year. These changes are to help support incomes for Australians in retirement.

The first change outlines how pooled lifetime income streams will be assessed for social security means testing. The new rules taking effect from 1 July from next year will mean that 60 per cent of payments for a pooled lifetime income stream will be treated as income and 60 per cent of the initial purchases amount will be assessed under the assets test. After five years, or when the person reaches the life expectancy of a 65-year-old male, currently 84—whichever is longer—the assets test will assess only 30 per cent of the initial purchase amount.

A second change this amendment will make refers to the work bonus. Currently pensioners can supplement their pension by up to $250 a fortnight without affecting their pension. This amendment raises that threshold by $50 to $300.

The third change extends the Pension Loans Scheme to all older Australians with securable real estate. The current scheme, which is effectively a type of reverse mortgage, is only available to part-rate pensioners and their partners and some self-funded retirees.

But while these are positive changes, pensioners, especially self-funded retirees, have a very uncertain future ahead of them if the government changes. That's because they would face the threat of Labor's retirement tax if Labor were to form government next year. Earlier this year, some genius in the Labor Party dreamt up a new way to steal people's money. They figured out that pensioners and self-funded retirees had it too easy, apparently. The party thought they weren't being taxed enough, so they created this special tax for older people, a retiree tax. What they've designed is blatant theft. Labor promised to raid $59 billion on imputation credits that retirees earn on their savings.

Most people are not across how imputation credits work, so Labor is trying to pull the wool over their eyes by dressing it up as something that it is not. Labor claims that the government is handing out money to retirees. They are saying we are handing out money to retirees. The truth is the government is simply returning money that it has already taken off retirees that it should not have taken off them. The truth is the government accepts that they have taken too much money off those retirees. They have taken more tax than those retirees have to pay and are liable to pay. Imputation credits are a means of avoiding double taxation. They are an acknowledgement that tax has already been paid and if too much tax has been paid, more than required by the law, then the excess amount is returned to the individual. That is what we do for all individuals who lodge a tax return and are found to have paid more tax than what they were required to. But Labor wants to put a stop to those returns going to retirees.

When you see Labor going after money like that, it should be a concern to any voter who earns a wage and pays taxes, because if your employer deducts more tax than they should, or if you claim deductions in your tax return, Labor has flagged that they don't want to give you your money back. Once they've got your money in their grubby little hands they will never give it back. It doesn't matter if are you a worker or if you are retired, Labor will find a way to steal your money. Australians will need to ask themselves a question at the next election. Retirees will need to ask themselves, 'Will my vote enable Labor to steal money from me?' Workers should ask if their vote will help Labor steal money from mum and dad's retirement incomes. Young Australians should ask themselves if their vote will help Labor steal from nanna or pop.

I hear laughter over there. The Tasmanian member laughing should know that 20,000 Tasmanians are going to be robbed of money. Twenty thousand Tasmanian retirees will be robbed from this tax. He shouldn't be laughing. He should be hanging his head in shame for trying to rob 20,000 Tasmanian retirees. If an individual robbed nanna or pop they would go to jail and they would be reviled by the community for such a disgusting, low act.

With the bill that we are debating today the government is working to support the income of retirees. We're trying to ensure that retirees have enough income to pay for the necessities of life. The Liberal-National government understands that many retirees are often on low incomes and those incomes are fixed incomes, because of retirement plans they've put themselves in. Despite presenting themselves as a party that helps people on low incomes, and they are anything but, the Labor Party is actually promising to rob low-income retirees with this retiree tax that they are proposing. They want to force our seniors below the poverty line. The Labor Party wants to see the 20,000 retirees and pensioners in the electorates in Tasmania making tough decisions like whether to pay the power bill or whether to eat every night. They are the kinds of decisions they want. They want seniors to give away their pets, because they can't afford the pet food and they can't afford the vet.

I met with a constituent in my electorate, Mr Arnold Fanning, who is very worried about how he and his wife are going to survive under a Shorten Labor government. The Fannings have worked hard all their life. They've saved for their retirement, with fixed plans. As a result of the sacrifices that they've made their entire life, they've funded their own retirement; they do not rely on government support. In fact, they pay private health insurance to avoid being a burden on the taxpayer. However, if Labor's retiree tax came into play then the only way the Fannings could make ends meet would be to dump their private health insurance. The consequences of that decision for the government and for taxpayers would be another elderly couple accessing the taxpayer-funded public health system. There would not be a net benefit to the government under that scenario—quite possibly the opposite. With their retiree and pensioner tax, Labor would rob seniors of their dignity and of their freedom to choose their health providers.

I refer to this unfair policy of Labor's as a retiree and pensioner tax because it will affect both. The initial backlash to this ill-thought-out plan caused Labor to exempt pensioners, apparently. But what they've actually done is exempt only the people who were pensioners at that moment in time, because they wanted to take away the sting. But others who began or will begin accessing the age pension after that announcement will be subject to the same robbery and theft as self-funded retirees are going to go through. So, pensioners, make no mistake, Labor will tax pensioners under this retiree tax. After exempting some pensioners from this unfair tax, Labor now tries to paint the victims, as the member for Hinkler just said, as 'typically wealthy retirees', but almost all, 97 per cent, of the elderly victims of this retiree tax will be individuals who have taxable incomes below $87,000; 84 per cent of the potential victims of this retiree tax are on taxable incomes below $37,000; and more than half of them have taxable incomes of less than $18,200.

Mr Brian Mitchell: Taxable incomes.

Mr CHRISTENSEN: Taxable incomes. He says 'taxable incomes'. What does he want to be on—the Labor Party's imaginary income thresholds? The member who is interjecting needs to think long and hard about the 20,000 Tasmanians that are going to be affected, and he should be talking to them. The victims of this retiree tax proposed by Labor will be pensioners, part-pensioners and self-funded retirees. They have done the right thing their whole life. They've worked hard, scrimped and saved to support themselves in retirement. They've done this nation a great service by removing some of the burden on the government and on the taxpayer. They've worked hard—they've built this country—and Labor wants to reward them by stealing their hard-earned money.

I met with one of the potential victims of Labor's retiree tax in my electorate earlier this year. Jolien is 88 years old. He and his wife, Enid, are self-funded retirees. They've worked hard their entire lives and paid all their taxes—a lot of tax. They've never relied on any support from the government. In the process, they saved for their own retirement. Saving means sacrificing. Instead of spending money having a good time, going on holidays or going out every night, Jolien and Enid chose to save money so they could support themselves in their later years. That hard work and saving enabled them to do just that. They're self-funded retirees who do not receive any pension from the government.

If you believe Labor's spin about 'typically wealthy retirees', you probably think that they're living the high life, dining on caviar and champagne every night. But Jolien told me, 'Our gross income, between the two of us, is less than the current average weekly wage'—less than the current average weekly wage. He said that, under the planned retiree tax by the Labor Party, their income would be reduced by more than $10,000 a year. He said, 'On part of my personal income, it will be 64½c in the dollar on the excess imputation credits.' Corporate fat cats and bank CEOs—banks themselves don't pay 64½c in the dollar on any part of their tax. Jolien is just one of the many retirees in my electorate who have voiced their concerns about their financial future under a Shorten Labor government. They can't believe that the lifestyle for which they have worked and saved, scrimped, for decades will be pulled out from under them with the stroke of a pen.

If we really want to support retiree incomes in Australia the most important thing we can do is to stop the shifty Leader of the Opposition from ever becoming Prime Minister. We can legislate measures like we're doing in this bill today, but all that and more will be undermined if Labor's retiree tax, their attack on seniors in this country, means that investment dividends are no longer protected from double taxation. It is hard to believe that in September 2017 the Leader of the Opposition stood up in Townsville and said:

I think Australians pay enough tax at the moment. I don't believe that another tax is going to be what Australians need or want at this stage.

It is very hard to believe that. It's very hard to believe that he said it with a straight face, because Labor is now promising to tax everything that moves and impose levies on anything that doesn't.

As well as stealing money off more than one million individuals with their retiree tax, they will also hit around 40 per cent of self-managed super funds and retirement savings that are held in about 3½ million super fund accounts. They did, however, very conveniently allow hundreds of millions of dollars in franking credits to be refunded to tax-exempt organisations, also known as trade unions, that donate to the Labor Party.

The truth is that no amount of support for retirement incomes will make up for what would lie ahead in the unfortunate circumstances of having a Shorten Labor government. They would not only impose a retiree tax; they would hit them with a housing tax, with a carbon tax, with higher electricity bills and even, as the unions want, with a death tax. They are proposing to raise more money from new taxes—more money than the actual GDP of New Zealand—because they would have to pay for their waste, for their profligate spending and for their inability to run a budget. It's like the Labor Party has employed two innovation professionals: one to dream up ways of how to throw around money and win votes, and the other as some kind of grim reaper tax officer dreaming up ways to hurt people and searching for new ways to hurt them even more. This time around it's going to be older Australians. How disgusting. How disgusting to attack people in our society who have worked hard to build up this country and some of the most vulnerable in our society.

It is no wonder there was white-hot anger in Townsville recently at the House economics committee, which was conducting a public hearing for their inquiry into the implication of removing refundable franking credits. There was quite a turnout for that meeting. Many of them drove in the rain as the floods started. They drove through the rain to get to that meeting. They wanted to have their voices heard. And didn't Labor hate it that self-funded retirees and pensioners actually had their voices heard through that platform? They tried to discredit that inquiry to sweep the problems under the carpet.

They have the audacity to come in here and tell those self-funded retirees and pensioners to just not vote for them. Actually, that's the best thing I've heard. I concur with that advice from the Labor Party. The best advice for seniors right now is to not vote for the Labor Party, because they are going to come after you. Regardless of the changes we make through this bill to support the incomes of Australians in retirement, it will all come to nought if a Shorten Labor government comes to power.

Pensioners and retirees will be taxed. Seniors will be far worse off under a Labor government. It will be a case of three steps forward under this bill, and a Bondi tram one mile back. There's one thing that we've learnt about Labor: when they run out of their own money, they come after yours, they come after mine, they come after everyone's. If you're a senior, there's one thing as sure as night follows day, and day follows night: they're coming after your hard-earned. It's absolutely disgusting that they would try to rip off and steal the hard-earned of our senior Australians—people who built this country, people who are some of the most vulnerable, people who are on fixed incomes, people who are on low incomes.

I say to the Labor Party: think again, and if you don't think again you are going to be punished at the ballot box. Those 20,000 Tasmanians who receive these funds—

Opposition members interjecting

Mr CHRISTENSEN: are going to come for you, mate; they're going to come for you. They're going to come for every single one of these Labor people. They're so smug, walking around like they've won this already. Well, I've got news for them, and so have the seniors around this country: they're going to punish Labor at the ballot box for disgracing themselves with this policy.