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A slew of longstanding Liberal Party supporters have withdrawn their fundraising efforts, and some have even quit their party membership, in protest over a controversial reductions in super tax breaks for the wealthy was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