Paul Keating has compared those campaigning against an increase to the super guarantee with “anti-vaxxers”.
In an interview with the ABC’s 7:30 he also urged Labor to cut the top marginal tax rate to 39 per cent, blaming the election loss on Bill Shorten’s failure to understand the middle class.
The architect of the modern superannuation scheme in Australia hailed super with contributing to the looming first current account surplus since 1975.
“You can see it in today’s current account – today’s trade figures and the current account deficit. In the ’80s, the current account deficit was around 5 per cent of GDP – very big. In other words, we had our begging bowl out to the rest of the world saying, please provide us the capital, because we were capital-poor,” he said.
“Now the current account deficit is under 1 per cent of GDP. It has gone from 5 to under 1 and the trade surplus is appearing for the first time in a long time.
“And that’s because the pool of Australian retirement savings in super, at three trillion, are now bigger than the free reserves of China.
“The current account deficit is improving structurally. This could not happen without superannuation.”
Some Liberal MPs have recently proposed delaying or scrapping the planned increase in the super guarantee to 12 per cent by 2025.
Asked why super was under such assault on a regular basis, Mr Keating said the Liberal Party simply hated superannuation.
“Because it’s like climate deniers. We’ve got a bunch of people in the Liberal Party who have always hated superannuation and they are super deniers,” he said
“They are superannuation deniers. Someone said yesterday, pithily, they are like anti-vaxxers, they are against vaccine, you know?”
Mr Keating said denying workers a super increase was denying them a legislated pay rise.
“That’s 2.5% of income, whether you take it as savings or super or you get it as cash, it is 2.5% of income. If this is refused, what a Liberal government would be doing would be pilfering, stealing, robbing, the workforce of 2.5% of income.”
Mr Keating was also asked to reflect on Labor’s shock election loss and whether the lesson was not to be brave.
“No, I don’t think it is one of the lessons at all. If you’re talking about the Labor Party and why it lost the election, it failed to understand the middle-class economy that Bob Hawke and I created for Australia,” he said.
“And so much of Labor Party’s policies were devoted to the bottom end of the workforce and the community paid for by cuts in tax expenditures. If the cuts in tax expenditures had of been a ploy, it would have been a tax reform and a much more successful outcome, but the Labor Party was increasing the top rate of tax from 45% to 47% which, of course, you know, in public, I opposed.”
“I cut the top marginal rate from 60% under John Howard, to 47%. It is still at 45%, 35 years later. How pathetic is that? The top marginal rate in Australia shouldn’t be a jot over 39%.”