Paul Keating has accused the government of using the release of the bombshell report on Australian soldiers’ alleged murders in Afghanistan to hide Treasury report findings that he said backed increasing superannuation payments.
The former prime minister also dismissed suggestions that scheduled rises to the minimum contribution employers have to make to employees’ super accounts would slow a recovery from the pandemic.
Speaking to the ABC’s 7.30 program, Keating read from the Treasury’s retirement income review that was released on Friday, a day before the release of Maj Gen Justice Paul Brereton’s devastating report into the conduct of a small group within the elite Special Air Service regiment.
Keating said: “The government released the report on the day they released the Afghan revelations. The point was to not have people focus on the central finding.”
Days earlier, the government released selected excerpts from the Treasury report in a move interpreted as laying the groundwork to scrap the planned increases in the superannuation guarantee.
The Australian Taxation Office will raise the superannuation guarantee from 9.5% to 10% in July 2021. Five further 0.5% increases are scheduled each year until the rate goes up to 12% in July 2025.
Keating said the rise from 9.5% to 10% was equal to about $8 a week for a person on an average wage.
“You are talking about small amounts,” he said. “You think that $8 is going to upset the employment equation of Australia. 0.5% is worth $8 a week … two coffees!”
Keating, a champion since the 1990s of raising the minimum amount employers had to pay employees, rubbished concerns that the scheduled rises in the superannuation guarantee would impact on wages growth or slow recovery from the pandemic.
In September Keating attacked Reserve Bank of Australia governor, Philip Lowe, who had suggested raising superannuation would hit wages growth.
Weeks earlier he slammed “little bitchy Liberals” for trying to undermine his superannuation scheme.
Keating said at the time that wages growth had been stagnant since 2012, a point he repeated on on the ABC late on Monday.
Reading from parts of the Treasury document, Keating said: “[The government] wanted the report to say super was in trouble.”
“So the idea is this … You can just keep 9.5%, you don’t get 12%, but you have got to eat your own house by reverse mortgaging your house.” – fmr prime minister Paul Keating on the prospect of the super guarantee remaining at 9.5%. #abc730 #auspol pic.twitter.com/AZRyqdMuzx
— abc730 (@abc730) November 23, 2020
Running his finger along lines of the report, Keating read that Treasury had found superannuation was effective and its costs were sustainable.
“The second line says, ‘Without compulsory superannuation, middle income earners would not save enough for retirement.’
“Here is the report. There it is. Point one, in other words, the report, the review has confirmed the universality of superannuation.”
Keating said the rise in the superannuation guarantee to 12% would be paid for by employers, and people had earned the rise because productivity had gone up.
He said if the superannuation scheme didn’t exist and people were instead left to manage their own investments, people would stop saving for their retirements.
“That’s what the [Treasury] report says. Middle income earners would not save enough for retirement. This is not just Australians, this is true around the world. Unless you’re compulsorily required to do it, they don’t do it.”