ALL AUSTRALIANS DESERVE A RETIREMENT OF DIGNITY AND QUALITY

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (4:15):  I thank the member for Whitlam for putting this very important matter of public importance on superannuation and retirement incomes before the chamber. I acknowledge the previous speaker, the member for Chisholm, has indicated that she believes her government will always put improving the retirement income of Australians first. I look forward to her crossing the floor when the government attempts to freeze the superannuation increase that's coming up—an increase that will clearly improve the retirement incomes of Australians. I was pleased to hear her make that commitment, and I look forward to her following through on that.

The reality for ordinary Australians is that this is a critically important issue. For older Australians, the great Australian dream of having a retirement that is one of dignity and a pleasurable life—enjoying the simple things like an annual holiday, being able to buy presents for the grandkids, going out for dinner, joining social and sporting clubs—is something they aspire to. It is a great part of the Australian story.

The superannuation system put in place under the Keating government was particularly important in creating quality retirement lifestyles in Australia, and it is something people feel very strongly about securing for themselves in the future. This matter of public importance is important to older Australians, to those who are retired, to those of working age and approaching retirement, to working age people with parents and grandparents living in retirement. This matter is fundamentally important to just about to everybody, including, let's be honest, the grandkids, who look forward to a holiday with the grandparents or a nice present for birthdays and Christmases. This is a matter of public importance to all Australians.

The member for Whitlam has put this forward because the government is breaking a promise it made to the electorate at the last election. It made a promise that it would not interfere in the superannuation scheme, and now it is trying to freeze the increase that is due to flow through to people to a higher level of superannuation as we move towards the 12 per cent. The member for Whitlam quite rightly made the point that, while average Australians are on a 9.5 per cent compulsory super guarantee, members of parliament—those who sit on the front bench, putting forward these proposals, and those who sit on the government backbench, consistently railing against anything that's public or not-for-profit or, heaven forbid, has a union connection in some way—are getting 15.4 per cent. That is the reality for all of us. We are going to fight to ensure that all Australians see their superannuation guarantee continues to increase as it should so that they can achieve that great Australian dream of a retirement of dignity and quality.

It's already tough enough for older Australians. We already know the problems in the aged-care sector. We all have families coming to us all the time, worried about putting their parents into residential care.

Just today I received an email from a family who were frustrated about the fact that their father needed a home-care package 11 months ago. He's been in and out of hospital since, but he still can't get the home-care package. Older Australians are frustrated by the fact that the health system doesn't always meet their needs, they're frustrated by the fact that the cost of living is going up and they're frustrated by the fact that the deeming rates have not been adjusted in a way that reflects the reality of the market. There are so many things that older Australians are constantly contacting their local members about, and I can only assume they're also contacting those opposite.

We know that an important part of creating a retirement that has both dignity and quality is the superannuation system. The superannuation guarantee increases that are legislated and that are part of building that for future generations are important. When those opposite say, 'It's your own money,' what they really mean is that the government is not going to give you anything—you have to draw on your savings—and that's not good enough. (Time expired)

Watch Sharon’s speech here.