The minister responsible for compulsory superannuation has shrugged off a scathing attack from two Labor prime ministers who accused the Coalition of destroying the system.
The super guarantee is legislated to incrementally rise from 9.5 per cent to 12 per cent, starting with a move to 10 per cent 2021.
But the Morrison government is laying the groundwork to abandon its election commitment, claiming the increases could hit wages and jobs as businesses try to bounce back from the coronavirus crisis.
Former Labor PMs Paul Keating – considered the architect of Australia’s superannuation scheme – and Kevin Rudd teamed up on Monday to accuse the Coalition of trying to destroy the system.
On Tuesday, Assistant Superannuation Minister Jane Hume tried to laugh off the joint attack.
“I find it quite extraordinary that the Labor Party feel the need to open the crypt and bring out two former PMs to essentially fight an ideological battle,” she told the Seven Network.
Senator Hume pointed out that Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe, the Grattan Institute and the Australian Council of Social Service have all warned against the legislated rise in compulsory super.
But shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers has made it clear Labor will not support delaying the legislated rise.
Dr Chalmers said it was “absolutely crucial” the super guarantee hikes went ahead, particularly given people had been granted early access to their super during the pandemic.
“We need to see those balances restored. The way to make people more secure in retirement isn’t to cut superannuation,” he said on Tuesday.
“The government is using this crisis as an excuse to thieve people’s super. That’s not good enough.”
Mr Keating, who set up compulsory superannuation in 1992, invited the media to his Sydney home on Monday to rail against the federal government’s approach.
“Superannuation is a bit like a bath,” he said.
“The water in the bath is the savings. So the government has taken the plug out of the bath – we’ve now already lost 40 billion in [early withdrawals].
“Then they’re turning the tap off at the top of the bath – to stop the actual 2.5 per cent of super coming in.”
At the same time in Brisbane, Mr Rudd fronted cameras outside his home to accuse the government of a “cruel assault” on the retirement savings of working people – saying it had forced workers to “rip out” money from their superannuation by failing to develop “an economic policy alternative”.
The federal government has indicated it will make a decision on the legislation closer to the start date in mid-2021.