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Wednesday, 13 February 2019
Page: 13341


Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (10:12): Mayo is the oldest electorate in South Australia and, while the demographics vary from community to community, I'm not at all surprised that there has been great concern in our region about Labor's recently announced dividend imputation policy. This is a policy that targets self-funded retirees and would wipe off cash refunds on franked dividends from individuals and superannuation funds. There is no legislation before the parliament to examine in detail, so I have to rely on Labor's statements.

Originally, this policy was going to affect more than 300,000 low-income retirees who receive the pension or part pension. Understandably, there was a backlash to this, and so Labor amended the policy to exempt people who receive the age pension, disability support pension, carer payment, parenting payment, Newstart and sickness allowance. Labor also intends to exempt the self-managed superannuation funds of recipients of these payments. However, this still leaves 60,000 retired Australians who are likely to be affected by this policy—people who rely on the additional income from dividend imputation credits to both stay off the pension and enhance their quality of life in retirement.

Many retirees and soon-to-be retirees have structured their financial affairs for many years around the current dividend imputation arrangements—long-term financial decisions made to structure savings so that, upon leaving the workforce, people do not rely on a pension payment. I want to put on the record that I and my Centre Alliance Senate colleagues will not support any legislation that will leave retirees worse off. We also take a dim view of supporting any legislation that is retrospective. People make long-term decisions in good faith based on the laws of the day.

There are further potential consequences of this proposal that I think we must consider in this parliament, and a very important one is regional Australia. Self-funded retirees are contributing significantly to regional tourism in this country. They are known as the grey nomads. They are spending their money in our regional communities, and I thank them wholeheartedly for that. I do not want to see this opportunity for regional Australia and for regional Australian tourism to diminish.

I'd also like to make the point that such a proposal leaves my generation, generation X, quite nervous. If we have a precedent where legislation is made retrospective and changes the long-term planning of people for their retirement, I think our generation will be less inclined to invest and save very hard for our own retirements and to be self funding. This will increase people's draw on the pension from the Commonwealth as many self-funded retirees end up also needing to draw a pension. I would like to conclude: Centre Alliance will not be supporting any legislation that will make retirees worse off.