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.