It’s rather nice when people queue up to give me money. Of course, the money isn’t for me – it’s for the Liberal Democrats – but the warm inner glow is still just as satisfying.
In the last week, we’ve received a touch over six figures in donations, many of them tied to a single issue: superannuation.
The IPA’s John Roskam has pointed out repeatedly that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and his Treasurer Scott Morrison do not appreciate the depth of disquiet over this issue, and Turnbull’s intransigence on Alan Jones’s radio program in which he simply ruled out any change to the budget announcement of a $1.6 million cap on tax free super savings in retirement, or the $500,000 lifetime cap on after-tax contributions, only served to drive more ‘rusted on’ Liberal voters in our direction.
I’ve appeared at multiple fundraisers all over Australia, many arranged by Liberal Party members, and my office has been besieged with calls from grumpy superannuants offering assistance. In truth, I don’t think the people coming to the Liberal Democrats have become libertarians overnight. Nor is superannuation their only concern. Rather, it is the proverbial straw that is breaking the camel’s back. They are furious with their own party’s abandonment of liberal values and looking to vote strategically. That is, they’ll vote Liberal Democrats in the Senate and preference the Coalition, while sticking with the Liberal Party in the House of Representatives in order to ensure Labor does not have the numbers to govern.
Why are they furious? Since 1992, Australians have been compelled to park money in superannuation so they can fund their own retirement, justified on the basis that it would be taxed a lot less than other savings to compensate for the fact that it cannot be used until retirement.
Raising super taxes is shirking on the deal. The changes suggest the government is less serious about reducing the number of people receiving the pension than it is about increasing taxes.
Furthermore, the fact that the increase in taxes applies once a superannuation fund reaches $1.6 million, and that contributions from after-tax income are now limited retrospectively, suggests the government believes we are not entitled to a particularly prosperous retirement. For those on middle incomes who look to wealthy retirees for inspiration, this is deeply discouraging.
Moreover, no matter how often Mr Turnbull says his superannuation policy will only affect a small number of individuals, the door is now open to raiding the super honey-pot. If the Liberals get away with it this time, the temptation for future governments of either persuasion to once again stick their greedy paws in all that lovely honey will be irresistible.
If the government was to ever get serious about reducing the numbers receiving the age pension, it would cease taxing contributions and earnings in superannuation funds entirely. This would provide a huge incentive to all wage and salary earners to maximise their savings. It would also rid us of triple taxation, where money is taxed when we work for it, when we save it, and then when we use it for consumption. Once in retirement, withdrawals of previously-untaxed savings could be taxed as income.
However, the proposed changes to superannuation are only part of the wider concerns of traditional Liberal voters. They are concerned that the budget increased discretionary spending, despite Mr Morrison’s acknowledgment we have a spending problem. It increased tax on multinationals and smokers, despite various Coalition spokespeople ridiculing Labor when it earlier made similar suggestions. And it dropped the limp commitment to deliver a budget surplus equal to 1 per cent of GDP by 2023-24, despite rhetoric that government must ‘live within its means’.
Then there have been numerous blocks on foreign investment, new spending programs renamed as ‘initiatives’ or ‘investments’, and constant sneaky attempts at revenue-raising, all in the context of a chronic budget deficit of around $40 billion which the Liberal government apparently regards as no more urgent to correct than Labor.
I recognise many of the people now donating to and supporting the Liberal Democrats disagree with us on other issues. That’s all right. Perfect political congruence doesn’t exist, which is probably a good thing.
However, I am confident that a vote for the Liberal Democrats in the Senate is an appropriate response for disaffected Liberal voters. We are Australia’s only classical liberal (libertarian) political party. Our policies are based on small government, low taxes and individual liberty. We are both economically and socially liberal. Irrespective of who wins government, neither the Liberals nor Labor will have a majority in the Senate. Indeed, because of the double dissolution, a crossbench of between 6 and 12 is almost certain. The election of a sensible crossbench comprising several Liberal Democrats would help drag the Liberal Party away from its addiction to spending other people’s money.
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David Leyonhjelm is a Senator for the Liberal Democrats
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