Leading article Australia

Super betrayal

30 July 2016

9:00 AM

30 July 2016

9:00 AM

When asked during the election campaign to give his thoughts on Scott Morrison’s and Malcolm Turnbull’s superannuation changes – to many conservatives the most vexing issue of the campaign – former Prime Minister John Howard nailed it with one crisp aside: ‘Well, there was never anything wrong with my super policy’.

Team player that he is, Mr Howard refrained from any overt criticism of Mr Turnbull and his Coalition Team during the lengthy campaign (only coming close with his accurate observation that the Safe Schools program ‘should be tossed in the bin’). Yet it is telling that, as someone with sharper political antennae than the entire bloated new cabinet of 23 put together, Mr Howard presumably recognises that any changes to superannuation must always be viewed in their long-term context – not only of fiscal policy but, more importantly, of peoples’ working lives. This is in stark contrast to Mr Morrison, who, speaking in his usual supercilious and smug tones, informed Ray Hadley’s 2GB audience of self-funded retirees, small business-people and tradies that superannuation concessions are ‘benefits’ to be gifted to them or removed at the whim of the government of the day. This thinking is in line with his assistant Kelly O’Dwyer’s similar reflections on super being ‘a gift of the government’. To Morrison, the changes are necessary to ‘fix the budget’ and introduce ‘fairness’. Wayne Swan, with a copy of the Age in one hand and a Springsteen CD in the other, couldn’t have put it better.

This left-wing superannuation narrative, so eagerly pushed by this otherwise narrative-less and spendthrift government, is dishonest, deceitful and reprehensible. It seeks to address the irresponsible profligacy of every government since Mr Howard’s by denying people at the end of their working lives the right to enjoy their hard-earned rewards without fear of being endlessly targeted by the state: a key commitment that goes back to the beginning of many peoples’ working lives in the 80s.

As Nationals MP George Christensen – who has threatened to cross the floor – points out: ‘These are Labor-style policies which hit those who have worked hard all their lives, who have scrimped and saved… (and) penalise success.’

In one fell swoop, Messrs Turnbull and Morrison have destroyed and even reversed the entire point and purpose of superannuation – to incentivise individuals to accrue as much as possible for their own retirement in order to avoid going onto the pension. (As David Flint has repeatedly pointed out in this magazine – the so-called ‘super rorting’ was fixed up years ago). The $1.6 million cap shrinks returns to amounts barely above the pension itself (or even below when other age concessions are taken into account). That we are in a low interest rate environment of historic (and frightening) proportions makes it even more grotesque that Mr Morrison blithely reels off Treasury assumptions that any self-respecting self-funded retiree knows are highly dubious at best. Worse, the Coalition have repeatedly insulted those whose futures they are raiding (and whose dreams they are trashing) by repeatedly dismissing them as ‘only 4 per cent’ of the population – as if the positive merits of any policy is simply in inverse proportion to the number of people it is designed to harm. Many who had previously planned their superannuation carefully now are left with no choice other than to readjust their thinking towards going onto the pension – something they had always prided themselves on never doing.

Meanwhile, Mr Turnbull, Mr Morrison and their incompetent cohorts, whilst refusing to tackle government excess, can themselves look forward to luxuriating in a gold-plated taxpayer-funded pension as soon as they leave parliament worth many multiples of what the new super ‘caps’ will allow.

What hypocrites.

The bottom line of the super changes is simple: people who have worked hard all their lives, played by the rules and put their trust in successive Australian governments of both persuasion have been thoroughly deceived. Superannuation is dead. Long live blowing the lot and going straight onto the old age pension.

Thawley vision

Frustrated by what you read in the press? Worried desperately about where we are heading, in this age of decapitated French priests, kids in detention with bags on their heads, and Liberal governments that think they can act like Labor ones? Where on earth are we heading? And what will Australia be like in ten years time? That’s the visionary topic for this year’s $5,000 Spectator Thawley Essay prize. Get writing.


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