26 May 2011 

Andrew speaks to the Abolition of Age Limit on Payment of the Superannuation Guarantee Charge Bill.

Mr WILKIE (Denison) (10:36): On 21 August last year the 150 members of this parliament were fairly elected. It is our responsibility to make this parliament work and to work well, and for it to be a place where good public policy can be developed and become law. But we do have eating at our work the lingering question over what exactly is a money bill. We are seeing that again this morning. The questions that are now arising consistently about what is or is not a money bill are breeding instability and uncertainty, and that is wrong. I do call on the government to look at this matter afresh and to put in place mechanisms or processes or definitions or whatever is needed for this uncertainty to be done away with. We had such uncertainty with the changes to the youth allowance, we have uncertainty with the superannuation charge and there is the possibility of uncertainty over increases to defence pensions, if that legislation does come down from the Senate. It has become a political weapon. It is not healthy and it is not in the public interest. I therefore call on the government to address this matter so we do not have this issue time and time again, and I call on the opposition to act responsibly in this matter and not look for areas of public policy where we brush up against this and create such instability. This parliament must last three years. We have all been elected to sit in this place for three years. It is arrogant for anyone in this place to think we have a right to destroy this parliament—to pull it down and to go to an early election. That would not be in the public interest. It is in the public interest to make this parliament work.

On this specific bill, the Abolition of Age Limit on Payment of the Superannuation Guarantee Charge Bill, I applaud the member for Mackellar for her strident and ongoing efforts to end age discrimination in Australia. I think the fact that we currently have an age limit of 70—moving to 75, in fact, if a government initiative progresses—is still a form of age discrimination. I ask the government to look afresh at whether or not 75 is the right age for people to stop receiving mandatory employer superannuation payments. Personally, I see a case—and this will be something about which to lobby and perhaps to argue in this place in the future—for mandatory employer superannuation payments to not have an age limit; they should be paid indefinitely. We should encourage greater participation of older people in the workforce. In fact, we should celebrate it. There is no reason in my mind why someone who is competent at age 76 should not be a full and productive member of the workforce and their employer should not be expected to make employer superannuation payments. That is how I approach this. So I applaud the member for Mackellar for the work she is doing and that I hope she continues to do.

There is, though, the obvious problem of lack of warning for business if such an initiative were implemented straight away. I think the government has the settings right when it says that business should be given a couple of years to prepare for changes to superannuation arrangements. But at the end of the day the reason I will not support this bill is the ambiguity of whether or not it is a money bill. I have now seen a number of pieces of advice which have given completely different perspectives on whether this is a money bill. At least one piece of advice I received contained within its judgment a certain amount of ambiguity still. Personally, where there is ambiguity about whether something is or is not a money bill I will default to inaction—to not progressing it—because I think that is in the public interest.

To bring on a constitutional crisis would be the wrong thing to do. I do not want there to be a test case to resolve this. I want the government and the opposition to act responsibly and in the public interest to address this so we do not have to have a test case, and I do not want this to be the test case.

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