Political legacies and Abbott's Unfair Budget
House of Representatives
20 October 2014
There are some issues in politics in which party's legacies can tell you a lot about what they intend to do. It was Labor who fought to introduce Medicare and universal superannuation and Labor who has continued to raise the rate of contribution. It's unsurprising to anyone who knows a modicum of political history that the Abbott Government is now freezing it at 9.5% - a level that is inadequate for Australians retiring.
This is an issue that concerns many of my constituents, in a post-budget survey, more than 4,000 people responded to a tell me what they thought about the Budget and 90% of participants in the Fraser electorate told me that they believed the Abbott/Hockey Budget broke promises. Even 53% of self professed Liberal Party voters told me that the Budget broke promises.
There are some issues in politics on which parties' legacies can tell you a lot about what they intend to do. On the issue of Medicare it was Labor who fought to introduce Medicare, it was Labor who reintroduced it after the coalition had scrapped it and it was Labor who fought elections from 1969 through to 1993 against a coalition that wanted to bring down Medicare. And so too with superannuation. Universal superannuation was a Labor achievement brought in despite the opposition of coalition members. When the Hawke government took office in 1983 only 40 per cent of Australian workers had any form of superannuation. After the 1991 reforms that was up to 72 per cent.
But universal superannuation was not universally popular. Then Senator Bronwyn Bishop said in the other place:
I heard Senator McMullan said the difference between our systems on superannuation is that ours is compulsory and theirs is voluntary. That is very true. That is an essential difference. Our policy is designed to make it attractive for people to provide for themselves in later life whereas this government's policy is designed to penalise business, to regulate it out of existence.
That quote is now 22 years old. The minister at the table is describing it as a silly statement, but it was a clear statement by the then Senator Bishop. My predecessor as the member for Fraser, Senator McMullan, took an opposite view. He took the view that universal superannuation was not a penalty on business; it was an opportunity for workers to be able to retire with dignity.
The member for Griffith, in bringing forward this vital motion, has pointed out that the government's claim that if you do not get it in superannuation contributions you will receive it in wages is false. It is a false claim because of the way in which enterprise agreements are enacted. Enterprise agreements for which applications for approval were made between 7 September 2013 and 2 September 2014 were made on the basis that the superannuation guarantee rate would increase during the life of the agreement. And yet the government's broken promise—one of many—sees workers being made worse off as a result.
It was the Hawke government that brought in universal superannuation and envisaged it rising from its initial level of three per cent up to 15 per cent. The Howard government froze it at nine per cent for the best part of a decade, during the noughties. It was the Rudd and Gillard governments that ensured that superannuation would again rise from nine to 12 per cent, and it is not surprising to anyone who knows a modicum of political history that it is the Abbott government that is now freezing it at 9½ per cent, a level that is inadequate for Australians' retirement.
This is an issue that concerns many of my constituents. In a post-budget survey more than 4,000 responded to tell me what they thought about the budget, and they said they did not back the unfair budget. Ninety per cent of participants in a survey in the Fraser electorate told me that they believed the budget broke promises. When I broke that headline figure down by voting preference, even 53 per cent of self-professed Liberal Party voters told me the budget broke promises. Even your supporters on your side of the House are claiming that this budget breaks promises. Eighty-one per cent of respondents said they believed they will be personally worse off or much worse off as a result of decisions in this budget, with women being more concerned than men.
When I asked Canberrans to nominate which of the government's unfair cuts really worried them, the response was equally strong. More than 88 per cent were concerned about the Abbott government's $80 billion cuts to health and education Not far behind was the deregulation of universities and the changes to HECS, with 82 per cent of Canberrans opposing it. A majority of Canberrans rejected the GP co-payment and changes to Newstart. The survey unequivocally shows Canberrans believe the Abbott government has got it wrong in handing down an unfair budget and that no government should intentionally take the most from those who have the least.
Of course, this government does not need another survey of 4,000 Canberrans to tell it how unpopular the budget is. Australians are clamouring about that from the sidelines. Whether they are conservative premiers or backbenchers backgrounding their local newspapers, they know this budget is unfair and breaks promises.