Superannuation changes to turn Liberals’ friends into enemies

The Australian

July 23 2016

Grace Collier Columnist Melbourne @MsGraceCollier

The times necessitate it but, still, this observation is regretfully made. The Liberal Party has a consistent and notable failing: it does not look after its friends. And because of this, it doesn’t have many. The Labor Party, though, is great at looking after its friends. This is why it has lots and lots. The link between how well you treat your friends and how many you have is obvious to all except the people who run the Liberal Party today.

They just can’t see it and, if they do, they can’t adjust their arrogant and self-destructive behaviour. The next three years are going to be hideous.

To be honest, the problem with the Liberal Party has gone beyond it not looking after its friends. At present, the party is going out of its way to harm its friends, via an illogical imposition of life-changing, financial disadvantage. Coalition politicians keep defending their superannuation policy as fair and good for women. What rubbish. With their dog of a policy, their inability to explain it and their vacuous and insulting responses, one wonders how any of these people sleep at night.

This week, I spoke with four women like me, all part of the Liberal base, all around the age of 50, who are low-income earners or have a long history of self-employment, and therefore small superannuation balances. All of us, long ago, purchased investment property and the plan was always to sell close to retirement, top up superannuation and avoid going on the old age pension.

This is a noble aim, and Australia needs more people with this aim, and you would think a Liberal government would encourage and support us, but no; just the opposite.

If the Coalition’s changes are passed, it will not be possible for any of us to put enough money into our superannuation accounts so we can have a sufficient income in retirement. We will not be allowed to put more than $500,000 of our after-tax money in and will be prevented from making more than $25,000 a year in pre-tax contributions.

Because of these limits, even if all of us start contributing right now, none of us will be able to amass more than $875,000 into superannuation before age 65. Current interest rate returns for term deposits sit on less than 3 per cent. For women such as us, a balance of $875,000 will produce a tax-exempt income of about $26,000 a year.

The government intends to tax the proceeds of superannuation funds over the amount of $1.6 million. This is a tax grab by a government too incompetent to cut obscene amounts of wasteful spending in other areas. However, putting that argument aside, if we must have a cap, then we must let people reach the cap, in whatever way they can, with money from wherever they can get, and at a time that suits them. To do otherwise is grossly unfair.

Going back to our example, if my women friends and I were allowed to put in up to $1.6m of our own money into our superannuation, we could achieve a yearly income of about $48,000.

So why does the Liberal Party want to punish women like us to the tune of $22,000 a year, and why does it want to prevent people from providing for themselves in retirement?

Nationals MP George Christensen gave us a much needed display of courage. If only we had more who would do the same. Christensen vowed to vote against the policy and spoke the truth: “These policies are Labor-style policies which hit those people who have worked hard all of their lives; those who have scrimped and saved and done the right thing. These policies penalise success. Principally, these policies hit small business owners and farmers who have retired, sold their assets and transferred their wealth into superannuation.”

Malcolm Turnbull and his team underestimate the anger out there. This superannuation issue is the last straw. The base is in despair, on the verge of abandoning the party for good. This is not a “we want Tony Abbott back” thing. This is a “sick of the poor performance — including under Abbott — of not knowing what the Liberals stand for, and tired of being slapped in the face” thing.

The base is tired of the weak leadership, lack of fiscal probity, refusal to practise small government, inability to promote the virtues of self-reliance and personal responsibility, and failure to reframe the Labor Party’s mantra of “fairness”.

The base is sick of being taken for granted, pushed around and punished by the people they vote for, give money to and volunteer their time to assist. The base does not care if the superannuation policy affects 4 per cent, 0.04 per cent or 40 per cent. The point is that the policy is disgraceful, unfair and cruel.

If something doesn’t change, come the next election the base will dig the Liberals’ grave, push them in, then dance on top with gay abandon.

This superannuation policy is a measure of how foolish the Liberal Party is now; a senseless decision, made after swallowing the Labor agenda, is turning its greatest friends and advocates into bitter enemies.

In the previous term, not long before Abbott was overthrown, I was in the office of one of his cabinet members. The man kept shaking his head and groaning, repetitively, “We are so f..ked, we are so f..ked.” At the time, despite everything, I didn’t agree.

Now I do.