I rise to speak to the motion moved by the member for Goldstein. He just can't help himself! He and his coalition colleagues hate industry superannuation and, by extension, the superannuation guarantee charge, the SGC. The fact that the SGC is slated to increase gradually, from 9.5 per cent to 12 per cent starting next July, is sending him and his colleagues apoplectic. The fact that unions founded industry super and that employers, along with the unions, run the sector sends his rage into overdrive—not to mention that the average returns of industry super far outweigh those of his mates in the retail sector and probably those of Wilson Asset Management. He can't stand it!
But now the COVID pandemic has given the member for Goldstein and this government an excuse to rob workers of their SGC increases, rob them of retirement wealth and undermine industry super all at the same time. But he isn't the first to do this, I'm sorry to tell him. He's simply the last in a long line of Liberal super haters, from John Howard to Tony Abbott. Every time the coalition can, they find an excuse to defer legislated increases to super.
In this motion, the member argues that owning a house is more important than super. I for one think that having a roof over your head is important. It's crucial, especially for older, single women. Having secure housing in retirement is as fundamental to a decent standard of living as universal health care or a decent social security system. But the member for Goldstein sets up a false argument, as though owning a home and a decent retirement income are mutually exclusive. To own a home, you shouldn't have to rob your retirement to pay for it. As many commentators have pointed out, allowing workers to access super for first home ownership will simply drive up house prices. Saul Eslake, a leading independent economist, told Greg Jericho in The Guardian recently that any policy that puts more cash in the hands of Australians to buy houses means they would ultimately end up paying more for housing. So not only would homes be more expensive; those same workers who dip into their super will have hundreds of thousands less in retirement savings.
You can't separate this out from the fact that Liberals have an appalling record on housing affordability and social housing. There was the measly budget announcement of $1 billion to assist the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation to guarantee social housing projects built by community providers, allowing a small reduction in their repayments. There was no direct investment, not a single new dwelling and not a single cent for actual houses.
Mr Tim Wilson interjecting—
Thank you, member for Goldstein. Compare that to Victoria's budget announcement of 12,000 housing units at a cost of $5.3 billion. Even the Liberal Party in New South Wales committed an extra $812 million to social housing. The Morrison government should be ashamed of itself. Then there is the ludicrous argument that an increase of one per cent in SGC will see a one per cent less increase in wages. The argument is that, without the SGC rise, workers will have more money to pay off their house. I know that workers out there will be laughing their head off at this argument. Very few workers have ever come across an employer who says, 'Wow! That change to the legislation means I don't have to find an extra one per cent for super this year. I'll give you a one per cent wage rise instead.' In your gut, you know that this is laughable.
I am glad the McKell Institute has rejected this argument as well, based on economic analysis, not just a gut feeling. The McKell Institute concludes:
... we find no evidence to suggest that a one percentage point increase in the Superannuation Guarantee minimum contribution rate will lead to a ... reduction in wage growth.
In fact, they say:
... our analysis suggests that increasing the Superannuation Guarantee ... will give workers a share of productivity they have not been getting in the market—with minimal loss, if any, to their cash wages—
as if wages were skyrocketing anyway. Under this government, real wages have gone backwards and private sector wage increases struggled to make two per cent a year before the pandemic. Insecure and gig work has exploded, and the government has nothing to help 40 per cent of workers in precarious work. They can't qualify for a home loan, no matter how much extra they get in their wages, because they're in precarious work. Let's be clear: a deferral of SG increases, which is what this motion sets out, is a grubby attack by the member for Goldstein on industry super.