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Thursday, 12 November 2015
Page: 8462

Superannuation


Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:16): My question is to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, representing the Treasurer. Today there are reports that the government is looking to adopt the Greens' policy for a more progressive superannuation system. Given that superannuation has become a tax—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! We will reset the clocks. I need to be able to hear Senator Di Natale. As he is further away from me, the interjections between him and me make it nigh on impossible.

Senator DI NATALE: That makes both of us. Thank you, Mr President. Today there are reports that the government is looking to adopt the Greens' policy for a more progressive superannuation system. Given that superannuation has become a tax haven for the wealthy and, only a few hours ago, the Turnbull government, when it came to multinational tax avoidance, decided to protect the big end of town, can the minister inform the chamber if this government is genuinely committed to making superannuation more progressive or whether it will continue with its approach to balance the budget on the back of the most vulnerable Australians?




Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:17): Thank you, Senator Di Natale. That is a very important question, and I thank you for asking it. As I said to Senator Urquhart in answer to her question a few moments ago, we are having an important national conversation in Australia today about jobs and growth and about how to set the Australian economy up to make it as agile, as nimble and as future focused as we possibly can. The tax and superannuation policies are a very important part of that conversation, naturally.

The Turnbull government have not made any proposals because we want to listen to what people have to say. We want to listen to what state premiers, past and present, have to say. As you know, there is a variety of views among them—a variety of views between Labor premiers and Liberal premiers on both sides of the question. There is a variety of views from stakeholders. There is a variety of views from academic commentators. There is a variety of views across the community. The views of the Greens are views that should be part of this debate. Of course they should be part of this debate. Just as we will listen to what the Labor Party has to say, just as we will listen to what crossbench senators have to say, so will we listen, carefully and respectfully, to what your party has to say, Senator Di Natale. That does not mean that we are going to agree with you. Do not get too far ahead of the game here. At the moment, there is a national discussion going on, and we welcome every constructive contribution.


Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:20): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I thank the minister for his answer, and there is a sprig of wattle coming his way. The Parliamentary Budget Office costed the Greens' progressive superannuation policy, which broadly offers a 15 per cent deduction below marginal tax rates, as bringing in $8.7 billion over the estimates period. I seek leave to table that costing.

Leave granted.

Senator DI NATALE: Is the government prepared to fix these unfair tax breaks and work with the Greens before these tax breaks cost the budget more than the entire pension expenditure combined? (Time expired)



Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:20): Senator Di Natale, before we decide, we will listen, which is why the answer to your question about superannuation is essentially the same as the answer to Senator Urquhart's question about the GST rate. We have made no proposal because at this stage of the discussion we are in the business of listening. When this debate has run its course and all the various contributors to the debate have had their opportunity to participate, we will be making some decisions, and they will be guided by certain fundamental principles. One of those principles, as the Prime Minister has said time beyond number, is fairness. Whatever decisions the government ultimately makes will be influenced by, among other things, considerations of fairness.


Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:21): Mr President, I ask a final supplementary question. Last year, the government abolished the low-income super contribution scheme that overwhelmingly benefited women, casual workers and low-income earners to enable them to set themselves up for retirement. Will the government consider reinstating this measure so that they no longer get taxed more on their super than on their income, while those on more than $180,000 a year enjoy a 30 per cent benefit for contributions?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Can senators on both sides of the chamber keep quiet.



Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:22): Senator Di Natale, I do not know that I can go much beyond what I said in my previous answer to you. There is an important national conversation going on, and those who want to participate—and you obviously do, Senator Di Natale—will be listened to. Those who want merely to be naysayers, like the Labor Party here in Canberra, can hardly blame the government if their views are not recorded if they have no useful views to express, though some of the state Labor premiers have expressed views. I am not going to anatomise particular proposals, Senator Di Natale. I will not be doing that. What I will tell you, as I said in my previous answer, is that we are going to listen to the contribution that each participant, each stakeholder and each leader of the variety of points of view have to make before we make any decisions in relation to this important national discussion.