Memo Liberals: Making enemies of friends is deeply foolish

The Australian

July 26 2016

Grace Collier Columnist @MsGraceCollier

Before the recent federal election, those campaigning against the government’s superannuation policy were begged by the party ­hierarchy to back off, to keep a lid on it all, until the election was won.

Well the election is won, the lid is off and the pot is boiling over. In Queensland, there is open revolt. The anger is palpable and Liberal National Party members are organising a campaign against the changes, beginning with a formal motion to demand their demise.

“The Labor Party wouldn’t even do this,” says my long-time friend Graham Haycroft, a party policy committee chairman in the Queensland LNP.

“With what they have done, people’s superannuation is now just like fish in the barrel; any future government can come along and shoot whatever they like. The Liberals have broken the seal; after this, it will just be open slather.”

Haycroft is not speaking as a party spokesman, merely passing on the sentiment among the 15,000 party members. “The anger is palpable” he says.

With its foolish superannuation changes, the Liberal Party is hitting the people who do everything for them; it is taking money out of the pockets of its own support base.

Small business people, the wealthy and the non-wealthy but aspirational are all going to be unfairly penalised by the nonsensical changes the Turnbull government has planned.

The government is hopelessly addicted to spending, and when a government addicted to spending can’t break its habit, it robs the piggy banks of those closest.

It abuses the rights of those within the family; it takes advantage of the close relationship, banking on the hope there will be reluctance to retaliate.

In Queensland, though, things are different. Here, the structure of conservative politics differs to all the other states. The Liberal party is the Liberal National Party, with a different constitution. This party is run from the middle, not from the top, and individual leaders do not have the power they have in the other states.

All decisions are subject to ratification by state council and at the next state council, next month, a motion is being put up to quash the superannuation policy. Party insiders expect it to pass, easily. Even if it does, and the policy is dumped, or significantly amended, the Liberals have already paid a terrible price for their folly.

“The way the decision was made leads you to think, how can you trust these people?” says Haycroft. “Even if they fix this, it will take at least a decade to get that back.”

At the weekend, various MPs and party insiders rang to chat. Many are livid at the changes. The policy is seen as an injudicious move. The view is Treasury has had the policy, in some form or other, in the bottom drawer for many years, and has just been waiting for a treasurer mug enough to swallow it.

It is not just Scott Morrison in the firing line — the guns are out for the small clique around him, too. The attitude coming from this group is that superannuation tax treatment is a form of middle-class welfare. It was put to me that it makes no sense to tax people less just because they are older.

The attitude coming from the Liberals is that retirees should be grateful the government lets them keep some of their own money, and should not begrudge the end of the government’s generosity, because after all they need the money to pay for everything else, including the incredible cost of saving Christopher Pyne’s seat.