The “super wars” Treasurer Jim Chalmers promised to end are just heating up, as the opposition accuses Labor of breaking election promises.
Last week, Dr Chalmers announced a plan to legislate an objective of superannuation, an announcement that soon turned the conversation towards tax concessions.
The government is adamant that no decisions have been made, but the Coalition have accused Labor – who during last year’s election campaign promised “no changes” to the super system – of breaking their promise.
Dr Chalmers has once again sought to downplay the claim on Sunday morning, saying no “major” changes were being considered, and the government was simply starting a conversation about the future.
He said the government had to consider whether the country could afford the “incredible tax concession” arrangements for the wealthiest Australians when there was so much strain on the budget.
“I think it’s important that we engage people. This is a big pressure on the Commonwealth budget at a time when we’ve got to fund the cost of servicing all of this debt,” he told Sky News.
“We’ve got to fund the NDIS and aged care and hospitals and defence.
“So we should be capable of a conversation that says ‘we’re not proposing major changes to superannuation, we haven’t taken any decisions yet, but this is an area of concern to us’.”
The treasurer said less than one per cent of Australians had a balance of at least $6 million in their super funds, but were enjoying “incredible concessional tax arrangements”, which could be a good place to start in looking to alleviate the budget.
He would not be drawn on whether he was looking specifically at a cap on super fund balances, but said the government was welcoming suggestions from third-parties, like the Grattan Institute, in “good faith”.
Dr Chalmers also hit out at the Coalition for “hyperventilating” when they had been the last party to make major changes to superannuation in 2016, when they raised taxes.
“I don’t remember all of the hyperventilating from the usual suspects when a Liberal government did it,” he said.
“It shouldn’t be beyond a responsible government of either political persuasion to consider these sorts of things.”
Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor didn’t deny it, but said the situation was different.
“Well, the reality is that we didn’t make the election promise that they did before this election. I mean, there’s no ambiguity about this,” he told Sky News.
“This will just be the beginning for Labor. They’re coming after your money, they love to tax … We’ll see more as we approach the May budget.”
He said at the end of the day, the “reality” was that “it’s a broken election promise”.
“Another broken election promise, alongside electricity prices and cheaper mortgages and so on. It’s a long list,” he said.
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