ABC NEWS RADIO
THURSDAY, 25 JULY 2019
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: It’s a pretty extraordinary suggestion that we would take people earning under $50,000 out of the superannuation system. I don’t know why it is that when the Liberals sit down to go back to their basic philosophies, they're not talking about helping low income workers, they’re not talking about dealing with wage theft or climate change. It's all about saying ‘well I'm in a job with 15 per cent super contribution, but wouldn't be beaut if the poorest Australians didn't have anything in their super at all’.
HOST: Well, why don't you think Australians - I mean, particularly those on low incomes, like you say - why shouldn't they have the freedom to decide for themselves how to save?
LEIGH: Universal superannuation ensures that all Australians get the benefits of those compounding returns. Countries around the world look to Australia as an exemplar of a country that's managed to put in place superannuation for everyone. But the Liberals think that superannuation should only be for the rich, and they think instead the poor should be shut out of the system. It's just not the way to go. And if Scott Morrison is serious when he tells backbenchers they shouldn't be freelancing, then he'll crack down on this one.
HOST: Yeah. But, I mean, aren’t compulsory superannuation payments just another way of telling workers that the government knows better than you about what you should be doing with your money?
LEIGH: Compulsory superannuation has meant that we've got workers on modest incomes who end up with decent retirement packets. That's because they enjoy those compounding returns from the sharemarket that come with having well-invested superannuation. Now of course there's tweaks we can make to the superannuation system. Labor's been driving that conversation, but the idea that we rip low income Australians out of the system is a policy that would be pernicious for vulnerable Australians, would disproportionately hurt women and would be robbing the future for the present.
HOST: As Andrew Bragg pointed out in his speech, the last intergenerational report showed that around 80 per cent of people will take a pension by 2055. Does that suggest to you though that the superannuation system is working for Australians?
LEIGH: Many people will have a part pension, which comes alongside superannuation. You look at the sustainability of Australia's pension system and it is far better than most advanced countries. Our pension is affordable because we've expanded universal superannuation. Other countries are fretting about how they'll manage to pay the pension budgets because they didn't set up universal superannuation a generation ago. At every juncture, we come across this same problem. The Liberals fought universal superannuation in the beginning, they fought increases in universal superannuation under John Howard, they paused it again under Tony Abbott. Now we've got suggestions from the Liberal backbench that the increases in universal superannuation should again be stopped and from Andrew Bragg that we ought to go backwards. It's just not the way we need to go if we're going about putting in place a proper 21st century retirement income system.
HOST: Well, your critics would point to the connection between Labor and the unions, and between the unions and industry super funds. Because it is true, isn't it, that the unions have received a lot of financial support from industry super funds over the years?
LEIGH: Industry super funds are set up by employers and unions working together. They’ve delivered far better returns than retail funds. A typical worker sitting in an industry fund end up with more in their retirement as a result. I don't understand why the Liberals are constantly fighting the best performing sector of the superannuation industry.
Authorised by Noah Carroll ALP Canberra