Economy silences free speech on super

The Australian

30 August 2016

David Crowe Political Correspondent

Liberal MPs are biding their time on their disputes with Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison over free speech and superannuation tax hikes, deciding yesterday to avoid raising the divisive issues at a meeting where the economy took priority.

The government’s $6 billion increase in taxes on super went unremarked during the Coalition partyroom meeting yesterday despite fury about the changes among some of the government’s own supporters and a backbench push to soften the final reform.

The Treasurer assured MPs they would have a chance to discuss the super package before the next partyroom meeting, scheduled for September 12, but there were no deliberations yesterday in the full meeting or in earlier committee briefings.

The issue has been referred to the backbench committee on economics and finance, which is chaired by incoming NSW Nationals MP Andrew Gee with Queenslander Scott Buchholz as its secretary.

MPs are hoping to use the committee to water down a $500,000 lifetime cap on post-tax super contributions , with Liberal National Party senator Ian Macdonald warning that he had concerns over the “retrospective” measure because it would apply to savings accrued since July 2007.

LNP MP George Christensen has threatened to cross the floor if the super package is not changed while Victorian MP Jason Wood has called for the lifetime cap to be increased to $1 million.

The overall package raises taxes by $6bn and uses half of this to fund more concessions for lowpaid workers, while the remaining $3bn boosts the budget bottom line. Heavily amending the lifetime cap would sacrifice about $550m of the new revenue but MPs are trying to find an alternative saving.

While some MPs also want amendments to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act on the agenda, arguing the law restricts free speech by putting sanctions on remarks that offend or insult, they are also waiting for another day to air their concerns.

Liberals have called 18C a fundamental problem that offends the party’s philosophy but nobody aired any concerns about the law in the partyroom yesterday.

The government’s $6 billion increase in taxes on super went unremarked during the Coalition partyroom meeting