24 August 2020

During my first speech in parliament I spoke about wanting to be a good ancestor, and I rise today to keep that promise and fight against the Liberal and National parties' incessant attacks on superannuation, attacks that are incredibly short-sighted and, possibly, are one of the greatest acts of intergenerational theft that my generation will see from a federal government.

To kick off 2020, the Morrison government passed a bill that retroactively legalised the theft of superannuation payments from workers, allowing bosses who have ripped off their workers to get off scot-free. That is an actual problem that they should be addressing—not these problems that Liberal backbenchers are freelancing about in the media.

Then, they dropped the drawbridge on superannuation, allowing desperate and vulnerable people to take out up to $20,000 from their super. And what's next—talks of scrapping the legislated superannuation guarantee which would not only be an immediate pay cut for workers but would guarantee them less money in retirement. We shouldn't be surprised because a war on superannuation is in the LNP DNA, and they've been slinging around the line that people should have the right to do what they want with their money. To a point, they're right. We can't blame people for having to prioritise having to get by each day at the expense of their future financial security. People have lost jobs. People have lost benefits. And during the worst economic crisis since World War II, with record high unemployment, these losses are much more frightening. But what I cannot tolerate are a government who sit by and watch people drain their own retirement savings whilst patting themselves on the back for the support that they are giving these people when more money has been drained out of superannuation accounts than has been paid through JobKeeper to date.

The data which shows what people are spending their superannuation on is heart breaking. Fourteen per cent of men and 15 per cent of women are repaying debt, and 13 per cent of men and 15 per cent of women are buying food. Think about that—having to take money out of your super to pay for groceries. Around 2.7 million people have so far withdrawn a total of $33.3 billion, and almost 500,000 of those are people aged under 35. So after taking into account inflation and cost of living, a 25-year-old who withdraws $20,000 now will be between $80,000 and $100,000 worse off in retirement. A 35-year-old who withdraws $20,000 will be at least $65,000 worse off. Industry analysis has shown the aggregate loss of savings for Australians under the age of 35 is collectively $44 billion.

At the same time the Morrison Government were watching hundreds of thousands of young people raid their own super, they have announced that the minimum pension drawdown rates would temporarily halve for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 financial years, assisting retirees who do not wish to sell their investments, while the value of those assets is reduced. Our lowest paid and most financially vulnerable people should not have to fund themselves through a pandemic while so many handouts are going to far more wealthy people who will never have to touch their retirement savings. The decision to protect one generation at the expense of another is one of the greatest acts of intergenerational theft of our time and will leave permanent scarring once this pandemic is over.

Generational progress in living standards has been the happy dividend of Australia's strong economic performance since the Second World War. Children could expect to be substantially healthier and wealthier and better housed than their parents at the same age. But this generational progress, the covenant of trust between generations, can no longer be taken for granted. The wealth of households under 35 has barely moved since 2004. Millennials are earning about 20 per cent less than our parents did at the same age when you adjust for inflation. Younger Australians are much less likely to own a home than their parents at the same age. Poorer, younger Australians have gone even further backwards and, now, the great public bargain that ensures workers will not retire in poverty is under attack.

I have spoken to constituents who know what it's like to live in poverty in retirement because they retired without super. A 71-year-old man from Zillmere came to chat with me at a mobile office about his experience. An oil rigger and labourer for most of his life, this man did not own his own home, was living in social housing and struggling with rising electricity costs, relying solely on the aged pension. I also spoke to a nurse who lost thousands of dollars in superannuation because of the Abbott government's decision to scrap the mandated increase to superannuation back in 2014. I wonder what she will have to say about the deliberations to scrap the 2021 rise? If we do not strengthen and protect superannuation and, instead, let this government tear it to pieces, our Australian covenant of trust that one generation will look after the next stands to fall.