Standing up for Canberra

Broken promise on superannuation

I would like to begin by thanking the member for Griffith for this motion on a subject that is very close and dear to my heart. Superannuation is important for all Australians but I am here to tell you why it is particularly important for women. Women live longer than men but earn less; they take more time out of the workforce and they retire with less superannuation. Significant and increasing numbers of Australian women are ending their working life facing financial hardship even poverty and, in some cases, homelessness. Their future is bleak and I meet them in my electorate office almost every week.

Australian women are earning less today than they were ever before when compared with their male colleagues. According to ABS data from August, the gender pay gap has soared to above 18 per cent. The data shows that male salaries have increased by 2.9 per cent while, alarmingly, women's salaries have only gone up by 1.9 per cent. Men, on average, earn a full-time weekly wage of $1,559.10; women, on average, earn $1,275.90.

Women need more support. The Prime Minister's broken promise on the superannuation guarantee means women will retire with thousands of dollars less in their super accounts. This broken promise would leave people worse off, it will hurt young people and it will hurt women.

Let me tell you about how superannuation could have helped my family. When I was 11, my father walked out on my mother, two sisters and me leaving $30 in the bank. My mother was a determined stay-at-home mum having been a victim of the marriage ban and two generations of poverty. Her father had also walked out on her own mother just six months after she was born. She was brought up in a housing commission home and her mother worked three jobs as a domestic to keep food on the table. My grandmother had done it tough all her life. Her own father had also disappeared during the course of her childhood leaving her mother, my great-grandmother, with 13 children to bring up on her own.

I was the first person in my family to go to university. My middle sister was the first scientist, and my little sister was the first doctor. My mother was determined for us to have the choices that were denied her, which education provided, and she dedicated all her spare cash—and in the end a comfortable retirement—to make it happen. Because of my mother's part-time work and then late entry into full-time work and superannuation, she retired with just $20,000. And because she was involved in the early days of superannuation, a lot of that tiny sum of money was eaten away by fees. So, now my mum is on the pension, and until last year she was cleaning houses and house sitting for extra cash—at 75. My mum is too proud to take money from my sisters and me, so we support her by paying for her holidays, her private health insurance, and her theatre tickets, airfares and dinners out.

As the member for Canberra I see women with similar stories to that of my mother and similar financial situations every day—women who are the victims of domestic violence, sleeping in their cars with their teenage children; women who are on their own, with small children, in search of social housing and financial assistance; women who are on the pension and still renting in the private market, which I see all the time; and desperate women in their 60s who are finding it hard to get work but need to keep working because they do not have enough for their retirement. I am calling on the Prime Minister to set up a system that gives these women—women like my mum, women like the women in my electorate, and their daughters—some financial security. The decision to delay the superannuation guarantee until 2025 will have the biggest impact on those who can least afford it: the low- and middle-income earners, and mostly women. The abolition of the low-income superannuation contribution will rip up to $500 a year from 2.1 million women on low incomes.

The Prime Minister claims that the money will be in people's pockets, not locked away in super. But are these workers going to see an increase in their pay now that they are not getting an increase in super? Of course they are not. The Prime Minister promised no adverse changes to superannuation, and he lied. The Prime Minister said that no-one will go backwards, and he lied. Australian women should not have to pay the price for the government's poor choices and should not have to face a bleak retirement future because of the Prime Minister's broken promises.

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