Page 3016 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 14 August 2013
MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (3.44): I thank Mr Doszpot for bringing on this motion today. It is very important that we take care of older Canberrans, and that means all of them—those who might be on a pension, those who might suffer from a disability, and those who are self-funded retirees. It is not enough for a government to care for some of the constituency; they must care for all of them. We do, indeed, as Mr Doszpot has said, have one of the fastest growing populations of people aged over 60 years in the country. It is disappointing that the Labor Party, at both federal and local levels, have continued to discriminate against and forget some sectors within that age group, particularly the self-funded retirees.
Within my portfolio responsibilities we have seen how increases in water and power bills and general costs for everyday items have meant self-funded retirees and seniors on fixed incomes will have to reassess how they spend their money. On the tax front we saw just last May how the ACT Treasurer’s tax reforms will, in effect, slug seniors with a death tax in addition to tripling their rates. One of the key reasons the Canberra Liberals opposed the Treasurer’s tax reforms was the impact of unreasonable general rates increases on Canberra home owners, particularly those on low or fixed incomes.
We were also concerned it will make it more difficult for retirees to continue to live independently. In this regard, it is noteworthy that changes to the Rates Act at section 46(2)(f) expand the eligibility criteria for rates deferral for households with at least one owner who is 65 years or older. It is also worth noting that these deferrals are indefinite and occur with an interest charge. This is insidious. It foretells that general rates will increase to the extent that more seniors will have problems paying them. In this light, this initiative to expand the deferrals scheme is, in fact, predatory. It allows these seniors to defer payments but with an interest charge which, in fact, amounts to a death tax.
We are opposed to Labor’s increased taxes on super at the federal level where we have already seen the federal government make huge tax increases and take large amounts of money from superannuants. And they intend to do more if re-elected. In contrast we have seen that an Abbott government would not make any detrimental, unexpected changes to super. Of course, that allows superannuants to prepare and plan for their futures.
We recognise that concessional contribution caps and super co-contribution benefits for low income earners are too low as a result of Labor’s cuts over the past five years. Over the last five years Labor has cut concessional contribution caps from $50,000 and $100,000 down to $25,000 as well as freezing indexation. Federal Labor has also cut super co-contribution benefits for low income earners from $1,500 to $500. That is despite pre-election promises that no change would occur to superannuation.
For the past three years federal Labor have been promising to re-increase concessional contribution caps to $50,000 but have continuously deferred implementation. On Friday they broke that promise as well by proposing an increase to just $35,000 instead. Federal Labor’s cuts to concessional caps and to super co-contribution benefits have reduced the incentive for people to save through their super. We should encourage as many Australians as possible to save more so that they can look after