Category: Newspaper/Blog Articles/Hansard

Federal election 2016: Greens candidate Alex Bhathal within a whisker in Batman

Richard Willingham

State Political Correspondent for The Age

July 3, 2016 – 12:30AM

The Greens were trailing by the smallest of margins in their bid to win an historic second inner city seat, with the northern Melbourne seat of Batman sitting on a knife edge.

Late on Saturday night, the result was too close to call in the seat that was once Labor’s safest seat in the country.

Serial Greens candidate Alex Bhathal was within a whisker of seizing Batman from Labor frontbencher David Feeney after a mammoth campaign effort and a big advertising spend.

Mr Feeney’s own campaign was dogged by gaffes and controversy after Fairfax revealed the incumbent did not live in his electorate, while also not declaring a $2.3 million property in Northcote.

Despite all of this Mr Feeney had 50.34 per cent of the two party preferred vote after nearly 70 per cent of Batman ballots had been tallied.
David Feeney says Labor remains very confident he will retain Batman.

Ms Bhathal said the seat, the most progressive in Australia, deserved progressive representation and that she hoped for good news “in the coming hours”.

As widely tipped the Greens’ sole incumbent Adam Bandt was returned to Parliament for a third time, increasing his margin in Melbourne.

In neighbouring Wills, the Greens also gave first time Labor candidate, and former adviser to prime minister Kevin Rudd, Peter Khalil a push through candidate Samantha Ratnam.

Mr Khalil however looked destined for Canberra.

The main focus for the Greens on Saturday night at a packed Forum Theatre in the city was on Batman, which stretches from Clifton Hill in the south to Bundoora and Thomastown in the north.

Labor had been nervous about Batman since the start of the campaign and were facing a cashed-up party that was only focusing on a handful of seats rather than a statewide battle.

The Greens have been building in Batman and Wills for some time due to a change in the demographics, with more well-off professionals buying up homes in areas that were once the home of working class and migrant Labor-voting families.

At one time Batman was Labor’s safest seat in Australia and was the electorate held by stalwart Martin Ferguson.

The inner city battles between Labor and Greens, and Liberals and Greens in Higgins, have been hit by dirty politics with former state minister Peter Batchelor caught ripping down Greens posters at a Clifton Hill primary school and Labor operatives arrested for vandalism in Melbourne Ports.

In Higgins the Greens have made a bold bid to unseat Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer in area that has been blue-ribbon Liberal territory.

Ms O’Dwyer was set to win the seat, with the Greens’ Jason Ball enjoying a 10 per cent swing.

That campaign also turned nasty, with police investigating the alleged biting of a Greens volunteer by a backer of Ms O’Dwyer.

South of the Yarra in Melbourne Ports the Greens were part of a three-way tussle with veteran Labor Michael Danby and the Liberals’ Owen Guest. The Greens’ Stephanie Hodgins-May was in third place with 25.7 per cent of the primary vote, Mr Danby with 27.6 per cent and the Liberals 40 per cent at 9.30pm.

Before polls closed Greens Leader Richard Di Natale said he expected swings in inner-city seats.

“What you will see is these seats turn Green, if not at this election, then the next one,” Senator Di Natale said on ABC TV.

The Greens had launched an unprecedented campaign in Victoria for lower house seats, with an advertising campaign budget that appeared to rival the major parties.

The party took the rare step of advertising for individual seats: Higgins and Batman, in metropolitan wide press, including on the front page of Thursday’s The Age for Ms Bhathal in Batman.

And up until the media blackout TV commercials were screened in prime time for both Ms Bhathal in Batman and Mr Ball in Higgins.

Despite Senator Di Natale declaring before the election the party did not do polling, two Greens-commissioned polls were given to the media, which showed them in front in Batman and making ground in Higgins.

Australian federal election 2016: Worst kind of victory looms for Turnbull

July 2, 2016 – 10:49PM

Michael Gordon

Political editor, The Age

Malcolm Turnbull is facing the prospect of the worst kind of win, where the Coalition is returned with the most seats, but his authority is weakened, his internal critics are emboldened and his agenda is imperilled.

Turnbull’s warning that a protest vote would produce the chaos of a hung parliament has not deterred voters around the country from acting on their disappointment in what the Coalition has delivered since 2013.

He wanted the numbers to deliver strong, stable government and banked all on his economic plan built on company tax cuts. The best he can hope for is a wafer-thin majority and a toxic Senate: a recipe for instability if ever there was one.

The industrial legislation that was the basis for this double dissolution is now so in doubt that the joint sitting of Parliament that was intended to pass it is no certainty. Also in doubt is the prospect of Turnbull’s tax-cut legislation being passed without amendment.

Expect those Liberal MPs who supported Tony Abbott and refrained from criticising Turnbull’s campaign to be less constrained now. Turnbull will be criticised for not campaigning hard enough on security and not fighting more resolutely for the budget savings that were blocked in the Senate.

All eyes will be on the former leader, who has already made plain that he would have run a very different campaign. How will he respond?

Bill Shorten, who maintained he was never interested in an honourable defeat, is poised to achieve one, having pushed Turnbull to the brink and defied those who never considered him a serious contender.

Most of the speculation pre-election was that Shorten would be the one whose position would be under threat after the count. Now, he is in a stronger position within his party than Turnbull is in his.

Back in February, senior ALP figures were contemplating the prospect of having to remove Shorten before the election, such was Turnbull’s ascendancy. Shorten’s response was to take risks by laying out an ambitious program, to communicate with more clarity and verve and to campaign like there was no tomorrow.

Now he has earned the opportunity to build on his success, with the expectation that he will lead Labor into the next campaign.

If, as seems likely, Labor wins more seats than the national swing would suggest, this will also be an endorsement of the Labor campaign, including what many considered the overblown claims of the threat posed by the Coalition to Medicare.

The big story, aside from the Labor resurgence, is the move to minor parties and independents, reflecting the disillusionment of voters with the major parties and the established institutions.

The big story within the protest vote is a rebellion against the Coalition’s superannuation changes, which many Liberal voters saw as both a breach of faith and contrary to the principle that retrospective changes should not be introduced.

While Turnbull insists the changes were not retrospective and only affected the most wealthy Australians, he can expect to face white anger from MPs at his first partyroom meeting, post-election.

When the campaign began I wrote that the political dangers for the Coalition were twofold: that those very rich Liberals whose votes had been taken for granted would either vote Labor or withdraw their financial support because they felt they had been betrayed; and that others would become more wary of voting Coalition because they saw the Coalition as more likely to meddle with super in the future.

The Institute of Public Affairs’ John Roskam was confident that Turnbull would change the policy rather than face repudiation at the ballot box.

He was wrong but, as Peta Credlin noted on Sky News, many Liberals enraged by this issue took out their anger on the ballot box. Those who could not bring themselves to vote Labor parked their votes with the minor parties and independents.

How this pans out depends on many variables, with many battles conducted within the main event, and some history being made along the way, like Labor’s Linda Burney becoming the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to the House of Representatives.

Tasmania has gone with Labor; Shorten is set for big gains in New South Wales, Victoria is unlikely to change and could yet produce a Liberal gain; Nick Xenophon’s party has made its mark in South Australia; and the picture is mixed in Queensland and unclear in Western Australia.

Shorten needed absolutely everything to go right to have any prospect of winning the 19 seats to form government in his own right. The unknown is what difference it would have made if he had not promised higher budget deficits over the forward estimates to pay for his promises on health and education.

The impact of the Andrews’ government’s appalling handling of the CFA dispute will also come under scrutiny when Labor strategists ponder what might have been.

Australian federal election 2016: Malcolm Turnbull faces superannuation backlash as postmortem begins

The Sunday Age

Michael Gordan

3 July 2016 12.46pm

Malcolm Turnbull is coming under massive pressure from within to recast the superannuation changes he took to the election amid widespread anger and despair in Liberal ranks over his election campaign.

My phone hasn’t stopped ringing this morning from people saying it serves them right.

Save Our Super campaign spokesman Jack Hammond.

“It’s now more obvious than ever that changes have to be made,” declared John Roskam, the executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs, who predicted early in the campaign that Mr Turnbull would soften the policy rather than suffer a backlash.

Mr Turnbull resisted the pressure, insisting that the changes only affected the most wealthy Australians and were not retrospective, as critics asserted.

“It was simply diabolical for the Liberal Party to be proposing higher taxes on people who save and work hard,” Mr Roskam told Fairfax Media.

A strong Liberal Party supporter, Mr Roskam said the superannuation debate had now morphed into a much bigger discussion about “why the Coalition was proposing higher taxes and more government spending” during the campaign.

“If you have two parties who are proposing higher taxes and higher spending, it’s most likely that people are going to vote for the party that genuinely believes in higher taxes and higher spending.”

Opponents of the Coalition’s superannuation changes insist they changed votes, reduced donations to the Coalition and diminished the Liberal Party turn-out at polling booths.

“Who knows how and why people voted, but it is certainly a view among many people that it had a major impact and that is attested to by the exit polling,” Mr Roskam told Fairfax Media.

“The debate on superannuation was reignited at 10 o’clock last night when I started getting texts and calls while I was sitting on the couch watching TV. It’s about the policy, it’s about the messaging, it’s about how was this allowed to happen, and now how do they fix it?”

Tasmanian Senator Eric Abetz, who lost his cabinet position when Mr Turnbull replaced Tony Abbott as prime minister, agreed, saying: “The issue of superannuation is very dear to the core base of the Liberal Party.

“To have the certainty of that being compromised did send shock waves through that sector of the community that are our core supporters.” Another MP who declined to be named said the issue “really hurt the Liberal party base”.

The spokesman for the Melbourne-based Save Our Super campaign, Jack Hammond, says he was not surprised that the Coalition suffered losses after proposing changes he maintains were unfair and penalised those who had acted in good faith.

“My phone hasn’t stopped ringing this morning from people saying it serves them right,” Mr Hammond said.

Australian election 2016: Malcolm Turnbull says Coalition can form majority despite dramatic losses

The Guardian

Sunday 3 June 2016 01:16am

Gabrielle Chan

  • Coalition loses at least 11 seats in Australian election but expects to hang on to power
  • Final result won’t be known until Tuesday
  • Conservatives criticise PM over campaign and key policies

Malcolm Turnbull’s Coalition has been pushed to the brink in a shock election result which saw the Liberal party lose at least 11 seats, with 30% of the vote still left to be counted.

At a speech given after midnight, the prime minister claimed the Liberal and National parties would form a Coalition majority government even though he had been advised the result would not become clear until at least Tuesday.

“Based on the advice I have from the party officials, we can have every confidence that we will form a Coalition majority government in the next parliament,” he said.

On a two-party-preferred basis, Labor was leading the Coalition on 50.06% to 49.94% on a two party preferred basis at time of publication.

The prime minister left supporters and talk shows waiting late into the night for his speech as it became clear there would be no definitive result. It was 12.30am when Turnbull finally appeared.

Turnbull accused the Labor party of running “some of the most systematic, well-funded lies ever peddled in Australia” in a campaign in which Labor claimed the Coalition was planning to privatise the government funded health insurance system, Medicare.

Turnbull questioned whether there would be a police investigation over the Labor campaign and he accused Labor of sending texts to voters claiming the Coalition would sell Medicare.

After a marathon eight-week campaign, the Liberal party has lost 11 seats to Labor, including Bass, Braddon, Lindsay, Lyons, Macquarie, Eden Monaro, Longman, Macarthur, Herbert, Burt and Solomon.

Labor has lost the seat of Chisholm to the Liberal party. The National’s Damien Drum took Murray from the Liberals following the retirement of Sharman Stone.

While the make up of the Senate remains unclear, Rebekha Sharkie of the independent senator Nick Xenophon’s new party has won the seat of Mayo from the former Liberal minister Jamie Briggs, who was also her former employer.

Seats too close to call at time of publication include Cowan, Capricornia, Batman, Flynn, Hindmarsh and Forde.

The result places Turnbull under extraordinary pressure from the conservative end of his party and even before he was sighted in public, conservative members of his party were flagging changes to key policies like superannuation.

A triumphant Bill Shorten arrived at the Moonee Valley racing club in Melbourne just after 11pm on Saturday, claiming Labor was back and the Liberal party had lost his mandate.

“We will not know the outcome of this election tonight,” Shorten said. “Indeed, we may not know it for some days to come. But there is one thing for sure – the Labor party is back.”

He added: “Three years after the Liberals came to power in a landslide, they have lost their mandate.”

Shorten said the result was a clear rejection of Turnbull’s “ideological agenda” and Turnbull could no longer claim he could deliver stability.

He listed the Labor “mandate”, including Medicare policy, penalty rates, National Broadband Network and Gonski education policy.

Senior Liberals were fuming at Labor’s Medicare campaign in the final two weeks of the campaign, with the treasurer, Scott Morrison, the deputy Liberal leader, Julie Bishop, and Eric Abetz all blaming the Labor campaign for the seat loss.

But they were also forced to defend the Liberal campaign and the leadership change from Tony Abbott to Turnbull in September last year. Asked whether the leadership change made a difference, Morrison said: “Look, that is a matter we will never know.”

He added: “I think it’s highly unlikely. I think the party room made its own judgment last September.”

Bishop defended the Liberal party’s strategy as a positive campaign “of integrity”.

Asked about the effect of the change of leadership, Abetz, one of Abbott’s key supporters, said: “suffice to say a change was made for better or for worse, we move on and we’ve got to ensure Malcolm Turnbull is returned as prime minister for the sake of the nation.”

But Abetz committed to take the Coalition’s superannuation plan to the party room after the election, blaming the policy for a “haemorrhage” of votes.

“The emails coming into my office were very strident in their criticism, there was the view there was retrospectivity, there was the view they had worked hard, saved hard and doorknocking was also recurring theme,” he said.

“Regrettably some wanted to punish us for that and we did fight very hard saying be careful you don’t jump out of the frying into the fire. I fear some of them may have done that and regrettably we did haemorrhage some votes in that area as well.”

Abetz said he would move in the party room to change the superannuation policy. “I for one would be advocating we reconsider some aspects of it,” he said. “Clearly it has hurt our core constituency, those people who had scrimped and saved indeed.

“I think we do need to look at it to make sure it is fair, it is targeted and we don’t scare people away from saving and looking after themselves into the future.”

The deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, held off a challenge from former independent Tony Windsor, as did the National MP for Cowper, Luke Hartsuyker, from the former independent Rob Oakeshott.

The Australian Electoral Commission estimated 10 million Australians attended 7000 polling booths to vote. The electoral commissioner, Tom Rogers, apologised for unusually long waits at polling places.


Rogers said changes to the Senate voting rules were “the most significant changes to voting in 30 years”.

“This, in combination with record nominations in some seats, appears to have resulted in voters taking greater care and more time to cast their vote,” he said.

As the result unfolded, from the first votes counted, Tasmanian seats held by Liberals showed swings towards Labor, including with Bass, Braddon and Lyons.

Morrison, on the ABC’s election panel, was visibly angry at the result – describing it as a “campaign about fright”.

“I don’t know what is more audacious, the size of the lie that has been told or the boasting on the back of it,” he said.

“We know they told the lie, they got exposed on the lie yet they continued to back it in with the phone calls and the mail and the little cards and the whispers at the booths and all of these sorts of things.

“This was the Labor party’s campaign. It wasn’t a campaign about growing the economy, it was a campaign about fright.”

Sex Party, Greens target Liberals unhappy over superannuation taxes

The Australian Financial Review

Jun 30 2016 at 6:03 PM

Minister for small business and Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer is feeling the heat from “Save Our Super” campaigners …

by Sally Rose

A backlash among Liberal Party supporters upset about a crackdown on superannuation tax breaks could help minor parties pick up Senate votes.

A slew of longstanding Liberal Party supporters have withdrawn their fundraising efforts, and some have even quit their party membership, in protest over a controversial reductions in super tax breaks for the wealthy was unveiled by the government in May’s federal budget.

The Australian Sex Party is the latest micro-party to appeal to disaffected Liberal Party members and voters.

“We would vote against the change to introduce a lifetime limit of $500,000 for non-concessional super contributions,” the Sex Party’s lead Senate candidate for Victoria, Meredith Doig, said.

“We do not support retrospective changes to super taxes that are unfair to those who saved under the existing rules.”

The Sex Party would seek to lift the new $1.6 million limit on retirement account balances rather than block it entirely.

“It is reasonable to impose some sort of limit on the amount of super the ultra wealthy can drawn down tax free in retirement, but we would push to have than limit raised to $2 million,” Ms Doig said.

Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm has seen a spike in supporters angry at the government’s plans to crimp super tax breaks for the wealthy.

The Liberal Democratic Party and the Jacqui Lambie Network are two parties that have campaigned hard on a promise to block the superannuation changes.

After the May budget LDP Senator David Leyonhjelm held breakfast forums in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane attacking the crackdown. He said they “contributed significantly” to his party raising $700,000 for its campaign.

“Some Liberal Party members have even hosted fundraisers for us,” Senator Leyonhjelm said.

“Many traditional Liberal party supporters have told us they will vote for us in the Senate this election due to the super issue.”

Senator Lambie has stuck doggedly to a slogan of “hands off our super”, while pledging to use any power in the Senate to vote against the changes.

Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer, who holds the traditionally blue-ribbon seat of Higgins in Victoria, is one Liberal MP who has been under intense pressure from constituents angered by the government’s unexpected super policy.

John McMurrick, a longstanding member of the Higgins 200 Club, the main fundraising network for Ms O’Dwyer, has quit and thrown his support behind protest group Save Our Super.

Mr McMurrick, who had been actively involved in fundraising for the Liberal Party for nearly 20 years, also quit his party membership after nearly 30 years “in disgust” over the budget changes. Mr McMurrick is a semi-retired businessman turned Hollywood film producer.

Save Our Super was founded by longtime Liberal voter Jack Hammond SC, a semi-retired lawyer. The network last week held a gathering at the Malvern Town Hall attended by roughly 250 local superannuants.

Mr Hammond said it was “arrogant” of the government to assume its supporters would stick by it despite the attack on high super balances and tipped a spike in protest votes in the Senate.

“Labor is no better as an alternative,” he said.

Over the weekend the Labor Party said it would take its time in considering whether or not to adopt the government’s super changes if elected.

“We will implement those measures which turn out to be workable and fair but propose alternative measures if necessary to ensure there is no detrimental impact on the budget,” Labor spokesman for superannuation Jim Chalmers said.

The Greens, which as the largest minor party stands to gain the most from protest votes, has pointedly refused to back the changes despite them being philosophically consistent with their own stated policy “to end unfair tax breaks”.

“We’ll see what the Liberals end up proposing to Parliament after the election. We won’t be at all surprised if they wilt under the campaign from the Institute of Public Affairs or internal dissent about their proposed changes to super,” Greens Treasury spokesman Senator Adam Bandt said.

Ms O’Dwyer cautioned those considering casting a protest vote that it could lead to “another disastrous alliance” between the Greens and Labor.

An Open Letter from Eugenia Mitrakas to Malcolm Turnbull

Budget Superannuation Proposals


Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. PHOTO: AAP/LUKAS COCH

22 Jun 2016


Dear Mr Turnbull,

I am a Greek born solicitor in private practice in South Melbourne. I migrated to Australia as a young child with my family in the mid 1950s. I attended all the local primary schools. I have lived and practiced in the South Melbourne/Albert Park area for most of my life. I currently live in Albert Park. I have been in private practice (since 1972) running a small legal business for all my working life employing from time to time 2-5 persons.

I have worked extremely hard for more than four decades and I carefully planned for my retirement. I have, to date, used Superannuation as the main vehicle to fund my retirement. My family was brought up on a hard working ethic and having a government funded retirement benefits or pension in my family was looked upon as an indication of failure in your chosen profession and in small business.

I worked in the family businesses (running boarding houses and running the family fish and chips shops in my younger years during my student years and for a few years, as a young lawyer. I was brought up to believe that any hard work, no matter how menial was honourable and where hard work was considered an asset and, that one is always rewarded by their hard work. I continued to work in my parents’ fish and chips shop for the first few years of running my legal practice. My parents instilled in me a pride in hard work so long as it was honest work. This modest work moulded and helped in building my hard work ethic.

I have worried a lot in recent years about the fate of my county of birth, Greece and the desperate and sad financial position that Greece and the Greek people are faced with.

I have been a proud Australian and considered myself lucky to have had the opportunity to grow up in Australia and have an excellent education. I have indeed been very grateful for the many opportunities that Australia has given me, and in return, I have endeavoured to give back to the general community in Australia in order to repay my “debt” to Australia and to the community at large for giving me this great opportunity. At the same time, I have retained my Greek identity and pride in my Greek background, history and culture. I have an immense passion for the Glory of Classical Greece and its contribution to law health and justice of the modern day. I am a product of a multicultural Australia. I married an Australian who became a multicultural Greek. He read widely on modern and classical Greece and on the glory of Greece. He was the “Australian Skippy”. I brought up two Australian step children who are also proud of their Greek connections. This is a success story in Australia’s multicultural policies.

I do not have any sense of entitlement and have worked extremely hard to reach and achieve my goals. Australia is a country that rewards people who are prepared to work hard to achieve their goals, no matter how ambitious or modest.

I have at all times planned for my retirement and have used Superannuation as a vehicle in achieving this. I do not want to, nor do I expect the Australian people or the Australian government to fund my retirement.

I am currently on a transition to retirement. I have been very interested in the current debate about the changes to the policies about our superannuation.
I have, in the last few years, preached to my friends and relatives in Greece about their attitude and views to their retirement and to their sense of entitlement, which I believe has been a major contributing factor to the current financial crisis in Greece. I informed them of our policies and how our government planned to eliminate old age pensions and promote a community of self­ funded retirees.

I am, accordingly very disappointed with the proposed changes and the effect that these will have on hard working responsible Australians. I invested funds after tax into my self-managed super funds (SMSF) to fund my retirement and ensure that I was able to maintain my same lifestyle in retirement. I have worked in the family businesses since the age of nine and deserve to be able to enjoy my retirement. I came from a very humble background, encountered all the known and well documented prejudices but through hard work and determination, I was able to overcome them.

The proposals that were announced in the Budget Papers in May of 2016 are, in my view, very unfair to people who, like me, have worked hard to fund their own retirement.

In recent weeks, I have been forced to review my plans to retire and have taken active steps to continue working for an additional 5-10 years to enable me to fund my retirement goal.

The persons who will be caught by the new proposals are innocent hard working members of the community who have worked very hard to grow assets in super strictly within the confines of the law. They should not be penalised for saving in accordance with such laws. These people were actively encouraged by the government to plan and fund their retirement in order to reduce the welfare burden of the government in the future. They have done so with the encouragement and support of the law of past and present governments, both Labour and Liberal/National Parties.

If the government persists with their proposals to change the policies relating to our super, then there must be a grandfathering clause to ensure that persons who have worked hard to fund their retirement in accordance with the law, are not unjustly penalised.

I have followed closely the debate in the media about the new proposals of the Liberal National government. I have read the article which appeared in The Australian Newspaper on 8 June 2016 on page 7, outlining an interview with Mr Jack Hammond QC who has spoken against these proposals.

I fully agree and support the Proposals of Save Our Super that are set out on their web-site: which calls for bipartisan superannuation policies from Australian major political parties. They call for the following actions; which will grandfather the following Budget 2016 superannuation proposals:
– the introduction of a transfer balance cap of $1.6 million on amounts into the tax­ free retirement (pension) phase from 1 July 2017.
– after commencement, if individuals already in retirement as at 1 July 2017 retain balances in excess of the $1.6 million cap and do not transfer the excess out of the retirement phase account, a similar tax treatment that applies to excess non­-concessional contributions will be applied to that excess at the top marginal rate of tax (ie: 49 per cent for the 2014 to 2016 income years);
– establishment from 3 May 2016 of a life-time non-concessional contributions cap of $500,000 on all non-concessional contributions made since 1 July 2007.
– after commencement, if individuals make contributions that cause them to exceed their life-time non-concessional contributions cap do not withdraw their excess after notification by the Australian Tax Office, the tax treatment that applies to excess non-concessional contributions will be applied to that excess at the top marginal rate (ie: 49 per cent for the 2014 to 2016 income years);
– introduction of commensurate measures to defined benefit arrangements;
– removal of the tax exemption on earnings which support Transition to Retirement Income (pension) streams; which will grandfather the following

Opposition’s superannuation policies;
– reduction of the tax-free concession available to people with annual superannuation (pension) incomes from earnings of more than $75,000. From 1 July 2017, future earnings on assets supporting (pension) income streams will be tax-free up to $75,000 a year for each individual. Earnings above the $75,000 threshold will be taxed at 15 per cent. Note: under the proposal, capital gains are to be grandfathered;
– similar concessions reduced for defined benefit superannuation schemes by removal of the 10 per cent tax offset for defined benefit income above $75,000; which will protect all Australians against any legislation which changes the rules of the game for existing superannuation savings and actions taken in reliance on those rules and savings, by including appropriate grandfather clauses.

I am fully cognisant that the government has to “balance the budget” in order to reduce our ever growing debt, but we should not punish innocent persons along the way.

Penalising hard working and responsible members of our community is an unfair way of trying to ‘balance our books’ and encourages people to live on welfare. These persons who have accumulated assets in super are also running a small business and employ a small number of employees. This policy, if implemented, will have a detrimental effect on small business.

I have sent a copy of this letter to the press for publication.

Please let me have your response on or before 27 June 2016 to assist me and my family in making our decision on how to vote at the General Election on 2 July 2016.

Yours faithfully,
Eugenia Mitrakas BA. LLB. OAM”

Federal election 2016: Liberal Curtin members’ super revolt

The Australian
12.00am June 29 2016
Andrew Burrell – WA Chief Reporter Perth

The Curtin division of the Liberal Party — the wealthiest and most powerful in Western Australia — has passed a motion condemning the Turnbull government’s controversial changes to superannuation which will hit the retirement savings of many in the blue-ribbon electorate.

The motion means the issue will be debated at the Liberal Party’s state conference in August and will put pressure on Curtin MP and Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop to defend the unpopular changes against claims by party members that they are unfair.

Liberal members in Curtin hope the motion will form part of a backlash against the moves that will ultimately force the Turnbull government to back down before the changes come into effect in July next year.

It is understood that Ms Bishop and other Liberal candidates are regularly receiving complaints on the campaign trail from traditional Liberal voters about the issue.

Some supporters are so angered by the measures — including a $1.6 million cap on accounts — they are refusing to donate to the Coalition’s re-election campaign.

Ms Bishop told The Australian yesterday that the superannuation changes had been raised at an “ideas night” for the Curtin division.

She said only 4 per cent of super account holders across Australia would be affected.

“I look forward to reassuring branch members that the Coalition’s proposed changes to superannuation will mean 96 per cent of Australians will be unaffected or better off as a result,” she said.

The Foreign Minister struggled to explain the detail of the plans when she appeared on Melbourne radio earlier this month.

The Institute of Public Affairs think tank has claimed the number of people affected would be far higher than 4 per cent of the population and has criticised the government for being unable to explain its policy.

Liberal members who attended the Curtin meeting this month said superannuation was nominated as the most important of three issues the division decided to take to the state conference.

They said the division included scores of members who were nearing retirement and now faced a changed financial landscape.

The Curtin division is the most influential in WA and boasts about 1000 members across Perth’s wealthy western suburbs, including Claremont, Cottesloe, Dalkeith, Nedlands, Peppermint Grove and Subiaco.

Under the super changes, the government will cap tax-free retirement accounts at $1.6m and introduce a $500,000 lifetime cap on non-concessional contributions as well as cutbacks to the Transition to Retirement Scheme.

Ms Bishop holds Curtin with a margin of 18.2 per cent, making it the state’s safest seat.

Federal election 2016: Treasury may frown on ALP booking Lib savings

The Australian

12.00am June 29 2016

David Uren – Economics Editor

Labor’s plan to shelve its own superannuation policy while booking savings from the ­Coalition’s proposal would face difficulties with Treasury if it were elected, and might also be rejected by the Parliamentary Budget ­Office.

Costing guidelines and budget practice require policy be spelt out in detail before it is included in budget estimates.

Former deputy secretary in the Department of Finance, Stephen Bartos, said Treasury and Finance would have difficulty incorporating savings from the Coalition’s superannuation plan if a newly elected Labor government put it up for review.

“Unless they have a plan they haven’t revealed to do something equivalent, I think that they are in a difficult spot,” he said. “If things are put up for review and not formal policy decisions, then they have to be taken out of the estimates and that would make the ­estimates worse.”

At the National Press Club yesterday, Bill Shorten emphasised his concern with the claimed retrospectivity in the Coalition’s plan to cap non-concessional contributions to superannuation at $500,000, backdated to 2007, but was unable to say how a Labor government would deal with a funding shortfall if it decided not to go ahead with that.

“I think that the mess that this government’s thrown the whole superannuation system into can be best resolved when Labor forms a government and we talk to ­people.”

Labor Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen and superannuation spokesman Jim Chalmers have said a Labor government would conduct a review in the second half of this year to report in early 2017, for next year’s budget preparation.

However, Mr Bowen has also promised to bring forward the traditional end of year budget review to September, which would force Labor to crystallise its budget position on the Coalition’s budget proposals.

An added difficulty is that the proposal to which Labor objects most strongly — the cap on non-concessional contributions — ­actually took effect on budget night, May 3. Excess contributions after that date have to be withdrawn or incur penalty tax.

Deferring the measure would invite wealthy superannuation fund members to maximise contributions before it took effect.

The uncertainty left by Labor’s superannuation retreat is drawing fire from self-managed superannuation funds, with a lobby group saying people needs to know how Labor would affect retirement savings before voting.

“The government estimated its superannuation measures in the budget would result in a net gain to revenue of $2.9 billion. Labor is now proposing to tax superannuation savings to the same extent but is not saying how this will be done,” said executive director of the SMSF Owners ­Alliance, Duncan Fairweather.

Mr Bowen said he believed the superannuation sector would sit down with a Labor government to come up with a solution “quickly”, to ease the uncertainty.

Whether Labor wins or not, the Parliamentary Budget Office must conduct a review of all party policy costings within 30 days of the election. It might reject Labor’s claim to the budget savings on superannuation but not the policy that ­delivered them.

Federal election 2016: $3bn dodge dismantles credibility

The Australian

12.00am June 28 2016

Judith Sloan -Contributing Economics Editor Melbourne

Superannuation is one policy area that means a lot to certain people, particularly those in retirement and those heading for retirement. It is a potential vote-changer.

Until Labor’s release of its costings on Sunday, many people would have taken the view that Labor’s superannuation policy had more to commend itself than the government’s raft of superannuation changes announced in this year’s budget.

After all, Labor’s policy, which was released some 18 months ago, had fewer moving parts and there was no intention to make any change to the annual concessional cap or to introduce a backdated, lifetime non-concessional cap.

To be sure, there was the 15 per cent tax on retirement superannuation earnings over $75,000 a year, although there are serious question marks over the workability of this proposal. But it is not too different from the government’s policy of limiting tax-free superannuation accounts to $1.6 million.

After Sunday, however, Labor’s superannuation policy is completely up in the air. It wants to take the budget savings of the government’s superannuation changes — close to $3 billion a year — but won’t be bothering to release any details of its policy before the election.

Opposition Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen could only make this weak statement: “Given Labor’s concerns about the government’s superannuation changes, including retrospective elements, Labor would consult with stakeholders and take a broader examination of all these measures on coming to government.”

This is as clear as mud. Labor won’t be telling anyone what the superannuation measures will be, leaving it to some vague examination and stakeholder consultation, were Labor to win government. So much for the positive policy on superannuation released more than 18 months ago — voters are being told to ignore that and just hang on to their hats.

But there’s more. Under pressure from public sector unions, Labor has also ditched the government’s efficiency dividend announced in the budget. But again, it wants to count the savings, which are around $1.4bn over the forward estimates.

Evidently, removing public sector waste and reducing the use of outside consultants will get Labor there without the loss of a single public sector job. Again, pull the other one. Counting the savings and making vague references about how you might get there just doesn’t cut it.

Labor is really plumbing new depths when it comes to putting up policies for voters’ consideration — assume the same budget savings but don’t worry about outlining any of the details.

For those with a keen interest in superannuation, it really now boils down to the devil and the deep blue sea when it comes to choosing between the Coalition and Labor.

Federal election 2016: no plan but Shorten takes super savings

The Australian

12.00am June 28 2016

David Crowe – Political Correspondent

Bill Shorten has sparked a furious brawl over budget repair by banking $4.9 billion in Coalition ­savings on superannuation and public service cuts without revealing how he will achieve the gains, while admitting he cannot restore all the “brutal and cruel” hospital cuts he has railed against for two years.

Australians will go to the polls without any certainty over the Opposition Leader’s plans for superannuation, as he claims the $3bn saving included in last month’s budget, but at the same time vows to “revisit” the changes by consulting experts after the election.

The cloud over retirement savings deepened the dispute over election policy costings after Labor also claimed a $1.9bn saving from Coalition cuts to the public service, while rejecting the specific “efficiency dividend” meant to produce the gain.

With only four days until the election, Labor and the Coalition are in an escalating dispute over the budget as Mr Shorten prom­ises to reduce the deficit without “smashing household budgets”, while Scott Morrison warns of higher deficits, debt and taxes if Labor takes power on Saturday.

The row has extended to health as Mr Shorten fends off questions about whether Labor would restore all the state hospital funding that was removed in the Coalition’s 2014 budget — a cut he has campaigned against ever since. While the Opposition Leader denounced the Abbott government’s $57bn cut to state hospital funding over a decade as “brutal and cruel” when it was unveiled, he conceded yesterday he could not return the spending to its old trajectory. This was despite Labor Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen telling the ABC in November 2014: “We want to see the $80bn cut to health and education scrapped.”

Labor’s election costings confirm it will offer about $2bn in hospital funding over four years on top of the $2.9bn boost outlined by Malcolm Turnbull in last month’s budget, making it clear that Mr Shorten’s commitment falls short of restoring all the lost funding over a decade.

“I can go to every hospital in Australia and say vote Labor ­because we’ll provide for more funding for hospitals,” Mr Shorten said yesterday.

“I can go to every Australian who is currently on an elective surgery waiting list for hip ­replacements, for knee reconstructions and say vote Labor because we’re actually going to make it more possible for you to have your surgery more quickly.”

Labor financial services spokesman Jim Chalmers vowed on May 26 to reveal the opposition’s policy on super before July 2 in response to the budget changes, which raise $6bn but use about half of this by funding more generous rules while using the ­remainder to improve the budget bottom line. “People will know by the time they go into the polling booth where we stand on superannuation,” Dr Chalmers said four weeks ago.

Mr Shorten stared down ­requests for detail yesterday, ­arguing Labor would need to consult industry experts and senior officials before deciding which of the Coalition’s policies it would adopt. “When we form a government, if we win the election, we will revisit these measures to see their workability, to fully understand if they can actually be done,” he said. “There’s plenty of people who are saying that these changes will be very hard to implement.”

The Labor stance throws doubt over changes including a $1.6 million transfer cap that imposes an earnings tax on super accounts over that limit, a cut in the concessional contribution cap to $25,000 and controversial changes to the Transition to Retirement Income Stream rules.

Mr Bowen said he had “grave concerns” about another change, a $500,000 “lifetime cap” that is backdated to 2007 and is at the centre of a dispute about whether it is retrospective, while Labor ­assistant Treasury spokesman ­Andrew Leigh said the Coalition’s policies were a “dog’s breakfast” and needed to be fixed.

“We’ve committed, if we win office, to using the resources of Treasury, consulting quickly on that, coming up with a measure which achieves the same impact on the budget bottom line, but ­ideally without the retrospectivity of the government’s changes,” Mr Leigh told Sky News.

Labor’s approach has frustrated industry experts who want certainty over the competing policies before polling day, particularly after Mr Shorten and Mr Bowen had launched a broadside against the Coalition earlier in the election campaign.

“We have urged Labor to adopt the same or similar measures as the government, which would achieve the same savings or more,” said Ian Yates, chief executive of the Council of the Ageing.

“There are other measures that you could take to make super more effective.”

Others said voters deserved to know the detail of Labor’s changes to super rather than being told they would be decided after the election.

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