Category: Newspaper/Blog Articles/Hansard

I’ll have what’s she’s having: Labor’s superannuation policy

Posted on by Judith Sloan

download (10)For many people, superannuation is a key issue in terms of determining how to vote.  The Coalition clearly broke a clear and solemn promise not to increase taxation on superannuation and has come up with an over-engineered, unworkable dog’s breakfast, most of which will never be enacted.

For some, this is a line in the sand that has been crossed and we should expect the Liberal’s primary vote to be affected significantly in some electorates.

Most of thought that Labor’s superannuation policy was done and dusted but it now seems that all the net savings of the budget in relation to superannuation have been taken on board by Labor and the party is simply refusing to say which of the changes (and there were many) will be its policy and those that won’t.

There is just this reference in the Labor’s costings document:

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.

So who knows?  If super is your thing, hang on to your hat.

Morrison has developed a very unpleasant inflexibility when it comes to discussing superannuation – he knows that he has stuffed up (thanks Martin Parkinson) but it is just too hard to admit it.

My guess is that Morrison will never lead the Liberal Party after this misstep.


A plucked superannuation goose will not yield tax reform

  • Terry McCrann
  • The Australian

Separated by three centuries, the timeless quotes of Jean-Baptiste Colbert and Willie Sutton capture in the first the essence of true tax reform and in the second the inevitability of tax reality.

They therefore identify what should be the ambition of Joe Hockey’s ‘conversation’ on tax; but also the likely outcome of what he has unleashed with the release of the Treasury tax paper: in brief, a replay on a bigger and likely more permanent scale of his disastrous first budget.

Colbert, a finance minister to the 17th century’s ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV, elegantly advised that: “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.”

Generally considered to highlight only the ‘efficiency’ objective of tax collection, when considered more holistically, it really also encapsulates what should be the parallel objective of an optimum tax system — equity. For a loudly hissing goose — geese — would suggest an absence of both.

While the quote from Sutton — who in the early decades of the 20th century was embarked on a less formally acceptable form of ‘plucking’ than Colbert and all his successors in all the countries around the world — might have lacked in elegance, it more than compensated in powerful logic.

Asked why he robbed banks, Sutton replied: “Because that’s where the money is.” Ah, the inevitability of tax: reformed or otherwise. And “where the money is” in 21st century Australia is in the near $2 trillion superannuation pool.

That is to say, it’s the last big pool of lightly taxed money, the ‘plucking’ from which — especially if you are targeting that amorphous category of ‘the rich’ — will likely cause the least amount of not so much audible but acceptable (to the chattering classes) hissing.

Who could possibly deny the ‘equity’ of ending the ‘rich’s’ super tax rorts; and for that matter, let’s throw in the dividend imputation rort, negative gearing and the capital gains discount.

Well the case is actually nowhere near as self-evidently clear-cut as claimed. At core it rests on the casual assumption that the neutral rate of tax is 100 per cent and anything less is a tax concession or expenditure.

Superannuation is taxed at two levels: at contribution and subsequently in earnings. Yes, both are taxed at lower levels than other forms of income; but there is a very huge price to be paid for that — you lose access to the money for decades.

Lost in Joe’s ‘conversation’ this week was also the fact that the super contributions of ‘the rich’ are already taxed at a higher rate. Introduced by Treasurer Wayne Swan in 2012, anyone earning more than $300,000 now pays 30 per cent tax, everyone else is still at 15 per cent.

Yes, that’s less than the 47 per cent — ‘temporarily’ hiked to 49 per cent by Joe last year — to be paid if the money was paid as salary. And yes, the earnings on the 70c in every dollar left will then only be taxed at 15 per cent.

But to repeat, the taxpayer cannot access that money, as against the 53c (51c) in the dollar of ordinary earnings. Further, the taxpayer can redirect money coming directly to him or her into low tax or no tax or even tax-loss generating alternatives. Or more simply be spent, with an eye to a taxpayer-funded pension in retirement.

Simply and clearly, superannuation should be taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income on both equity and efficiency grounds. Equity, as a fair trade off for the inflexibility it imposes; efficiency, otherwise no money other than mandated would flow into super.

With both equity and efficiency served by the central objective of our universal super scheme — that in time the tax concessions will be effectively repaid by a retiree not getting the old-age pension or at least not a full pension.

A casual assumption of utter stupidity hung over much of the ‘conversation’ in the idea that a super balance of more than $2 million was ‘more than enough’; that it would finance a ‘high income’ in lifetime perpetuity.

Yes it might, in the context of the 10 per cent-plus income returns of the last two decades. But not if we are entering a future of 2-3 per cent returns — especially in fixed interest securities which should form the bulk of super balances in retirement pension mode.

While a $2 million ‘balanced’ portfolio is vulnerable to being cut 20-30 per cent in another GFC. Suddenly a ‘rich’ self-funded retiree might be struggling to live on $45,000 a year.

While that might sound reasonable right now, what of a return of inflation? Even modest 5 per cent inflation cuts the value of a super balance in half after 14 years.

By then an income of effectively $22,500 a year would no longer sound quite so ‘rich’. It would also almost certainly see such a ‘rich retiree’ back on the pension — somewhat defeating the purpose of the exercise.

Perhaps our good treasurer would have been best advised to have had a ‘conversation’ with himself before unleashing his ‘good idea’, which will inevitably turn ‘tax reform’ into tax increase, neatly replicating last year’s budget. Back then Hockey had the ‘good idea’ of the ‘temporary’ high income levy as the sop to the ABC, Fairfax et al for the other budget cuts.

Apart from earning exactly zero credit — indeed he was flayed for breaking the ‘no new taxes’ promise — what did we get? The high income levy and precious little of the rest.

His tax ‘conversation’ is headed the same way. We are likely to see increased taxes on the rich/ high income earner super and precious little of any real tax reform. Thus does a Liberal treasurer become the instrument of a higher tax ‘consensus’.

Election 2016: Chill winds blow for Kelly O’Dwyer in the once-safe seat of Higgins

Click here for the original article in the Sydney Morning Herald on June 25 2016
Election 2016: Chill winds blow for Kelly O’Dwyer in the once-safe seat of Higgins

June 25, 2016

Tony Wright
National affairs editor of The Age


Kelly O’Dwyer, Jason Ball and Carl Katter. Photo: Jason South

A keen breeze slices down Glenferrie Road and skirls around the cold bluestone of St George’s Anglican Church in Malvern.

Colour-coded knots of earnestly smiling greeters huddle on the church centre’s driveway, stamping their feet, grasping sheafs of how-to-vote flyers in gloved hands and looking sideways at each other.

The T-shirts of an enthusiastic little army supporting the Greens’ candidate, Jason Ball, dominate the entrance to the church grounds.

Further up the path is a corp in red: Labor Party believers seeking votes for the ALP’s candidate, Carl Katter.

Here and there are volunteers in the orange of Nick Xenophon party’s offering the cards of candidate Nancy Basset.

Blue seems everywhere, but is concentrated around a coated and booted figure so familiar around here that she does not need to wear her party’s colour. It’s Kelly O’Dwyer, Liberal member for Higgins, federal Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer.

Here is the pre-poll centre for Higgins and several other electorates in Melbourne’s inner south-east.

In a federal election judged by most commentators to have failed to engage the public, the pre-poll centre at the St George’s Church hall is busier than anyone can remember.

There is something close to a sense of urgency, as if it were not the blue-ribbon Liberal seat that it has always been since it was established in 1949, but a marginal, out on the edge.

Cars nose in and out of the drive, dodging the massed spruikers, and a steady stream of pedestrians files in, despite the chill.

The political candidates and their volunteer teams radiate welcome to those planning to vote, but there is a discernible iciness between the camps.

Labor’s Carl Katter – estranged half-brother of the maverick north Queensland independent Bob Katter – says he was overwhelmed with happiness and pride at the start of the campaign when he discovered there would be two openly gay candidates in this one seat: him and the Greens’ Jason Ball, who in 2012 became the first Australian rules footballer to come out as homosexual.

Katter says he and his half-brother don’t talk any more because of Bob Katter’s homophobic attitudes, and Higgins, about as far as he could be from his Mount Isa childhood, has become his comfort zone.

“On my research only 5 per cent of this electorate identifies as LGBTI, but here were two of us standing in Higgins – I thought how wonderful.”

But Katter’s mood darkens when he speaks of the Greens publicising a poll that purported to show that Jason Ball would gain more votes than him. Labor’s candidate at the last election gained 24.1 per cent of the Higgins vote, while the Greens got only 16.8 per cent.
Carl Katter, Labor candidate and estranged half-brother of Bob Katter.

Carl Katter, Labor candidate and estranged half-brother of Bob Katter. Photo: Ten Network

“To be fair, that poll the Greens put out … well, it was just too much,” says Katter. He professes to know more than most about campaigning. He says that when he and Bob were children, their father Bob Katter snr – a Country Party MP for 23 years – would put the two boys in the back of his ute with a big sound system and park outside the roughest pub in Mount Isa.

“We’d have to dodge all the beer cans being thrown at us,” he says.

Now, he claims, he has suffered something worse in Higgins: homophobic attacks from people he claims are Greens supporters. He will offer no detail, saying he doesn’t want to give the matter oxygen.

About the only cause that now appears shared between Katter and Ball is opposition to a plebiscite on gay marriage. They both insist it should be settled by Parliament.

The poll Katter is referring to was undertaken for the Greens by Lonergan Research.

Its published findings throw assumed wisdom about Higgins on its ear.

Most glaringly, it found Kelly O’Dwyer’s primary vote collapsing by 10 points since the last election – down to 44.1 per cent from 54.37 per cent.

Should this prove to be accurate – and the Liberal camp doesn’t accept it – O’Dwyer would be the first Liberal member for Higgins forced to preferences.

The poll also found that Ball would get almost one-quarter of the Higgins’ first-preference vote – well ahead of Labor – and on stated preference flows, the Greens would receive 47 per cent to O’Dwyer’s 53 per cent.

Unsurprisingly, Ball and his supporters have taken much heart from the figures, claiming they have time to build on them.
Jason Ball poses for a selfie while campaigning for Higgins.

Jason Ball poses for a selfie while campaigning for Higgins. Photo: Eddie Jim

Ball and his young tech-savvy team have been busily outplaying all the other candidates on social media – Ball’s Facebook site has almost 23,000 followers, compared with O’Dwyer’s 9000 and Katter’s 1900 – and he has taken direct mailing campaigning to the cutting edge, too.

He has been sending letters addressed to the younger members of each Higgins household in the hope they might influence their parents and grandparents to vote Green – something Ball says he has anecdotal evidence is happening.

His letter cheekily declares that “unlike most seats, which are a choice between Labor and Liberal, here in Higgins, the contest is between the Greens and the Liberals”.

He ends it by offering his email address and his personal mobile phone number (something most politicians keep confidential), saying “it would be my pleasure to have a chat”. He spends much of his time with the phone glued to his ear.

Ball claims O’Dwyer has been dodging the media and public meetings since the poll came out and attracted the interest of The Age, which pondered in print the unthinkable: could O’Dwyer become the new Sophie Mirabella, who sensationally lost her safe seat of Indi to independent Cathy McGowan at the last election?

In fact, O’Dwyer does not appear to be dodging anyone on the day The Age visits the pre-poll centre.

“I’m out and about doing what I’m normally doing,” she says cheerily, grasping the hands of well-wishers, chatting and handing out her Liberal how-to-vote cards.

She is assisted by her sister Kate and her mother Karen in a sort of echo of what is happening at the other end of the pathway, where Jason Ball’s mother Helen and his sister Melissa are working the voters, too.

O’Dwyer is, however, not simply battling the Greens and Labor and several smaller parties.

Her biggest danger could be from friendly fire: Liberals infuriated by proposed changes to superannuation.

On Monday a new organisation called Save Our Super established by Melbourne QC Jack Hammond held a rally at the Malvern Town Hall, just down the street from the pre-polling centre.

The meeting, calling on the government to “grandfather” the impact of proposed changes on existing superannuation accounts, was attended by more than 200 people, many of them from O’Dwyer’s natural constituency: well-heeled Liberals looking at retirement or already in it.

O’Dwyer was invited to attend, but did not. Hammond left a seat vacant to underline her absence. Paraphrasing Menzies’ “forgotten people”, Hammond – who once advised prime minister Malcolm Fraser, declared self-funded retirees were now “the disposable people”.

The mood among attendees, he says, was “white-hot rage”. As for O’Dwyer – she’d stopped taking his telephone calls.

O’Dwyer avoids the matter of superannuation when The Age inquires.

“Oh, there’s a lot of talk about superannuation, but most people are concerned about the economy,” she says, and hastens to build on the government’s wider economic narrative.

Australians had become accustomed to 25 years of uninterrupted economic growth, but were concerned that conditions were growing difficult.

They wanted to be reassured that their children and grandchildren would have the opportunities they had, but that could only be achieved through a growing economy, which only the Coalition could offer.

Meanwhile, O’Dwyer dismisses other groups opposing her.

GetUp, an organisation professing to be an independent movement to build a progressive Australia, is distributing material urging voters in Higgins to put her last on their ballot papers.

“GetUp always advocates for the Greens,” O’Dwyer says.

And the Animal Justice Party, which is fielding in Higgins a psychologist and academic Eleonora Gullone, “boasted that they got the Greens elected in [the state seat] of Prahran”, O’Dwyer’s sister chips in.

As Australia heads to its first winter federal election since Bob Hawke took the nation to the polls in July 1984, the air seems likely to become even frostier in Higgins, where it once seemed so easy for Liberal candidates.

Here once stood two prime ministers, Harold Holt and John Gorton, the urbane long-termer, Roger Shipton, and the longest-serving treasurer in Australian history, Peter Costello. O’Dwyer was once Costello’s chief of staff. Happier days.

Federal Election 2016: Shock poll result for Kelly O’Dwyer

Click here for the original article in The Age


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Federal Election 2016: Kelly O’Dwyer facing super pressure

Click here to see the original article in The Australian

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Letters To The Editor – The Australian – Superannuation Change… no longer trust governments

Click here to see the original article in The Australian


superannuation change means savers can no longer trust governments

The Australian – Federal Election 2016: QC’s group lobbies for super changes

Click here for The Australian article – QC’s group lobbies for super changes


Federal election 2016: QC’s group lobbies for super changes

By Glenda Korporaal, Associate Editor (Business) Sydney

Leading Melbourne QC Jack Hammond is expected to launch a lobby group today to campaign against the Coalition government’s proposed superannuation law changes.

Mr Hammond will speak at a Melbourne meeting of lawyers and judges tonight and is expected to announce the formation of a group called Save Our Super which will call on the government to “grandfather” the impact of proposed superannuation changes on existing superannuation account holders.

The changes announced on budget night include imposition of a $1.6 million cap on the amount of money that can be moved into a tax-free super account, an immediate lifetime cap of $500,000 for post-tax contributions to superannuation, cutbacks in the attractiveness of transition to ­retirement schemes, higher taxes on super contributions for people earning more than $250,000 and higher taxes on payouts under ­defined benefit superannuation schemes above $100,000 a year.

In an interview with The Australian yesterday, Mr Hammond said the proposed changes were “manifestly unfair and unreasonable to individuals who now, or will, rely on their superannuation savings for retirement income”.

He said the government should not “make new rules which significantly affected” holders of existing super accounts “by penalising their actions taken in good faith, encouraged by the government, under then existing rules”.

Mr Hammond said changes to superannuation by either political party should have “appropriate grandfathering provisions to protect all affected Australians”.

However, grandfathering the budget changes would substantially reduce the expected $6 billion savings the government expects to reap over the next four years.

“A number of barristers and others share with me their concern, anger and dismay that the government proposes to make such changes,” Mr Hammond said. “The government gave no notice of the changes to superannuation which has caused people to lose faith in superannuation as a long-term investment vehicle and lose faith in the government.”

Mr Hammond, a barrister in Victoria for more than three decades, said he was in the process of retiring from his practice and would be “significantly affected” by several of the government’s proposed changes.

He said the proposed changes to superannuation rules would cause “millions of Australians who are effectively compelled by the Australian compulsory superannuation scheme to place their trust in the government” to lose faith in the system.

People who had not yet started superannuation needed to be “reassured that they can trust governments to always treat them fairly and reasonably” before they committed their savings to the ­system.

Mr Hammond’s new group is expected to call on all major political parties to grandfather their proposed super changes.

The NSW, Victorian and Australian bar associations said yesterday they did not have a policy on the Coalition’s proposed superannuation changes.

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