Retirement savings reform ignites fiery debate between Karl Stefanovic and ‘comrade’ Bill Shorten

Feb 24, 2023
Bill Shorten and Karl Stefanovic get into a heated debate over retirement savings. Source: Getty/ Today

A recent Labor government consultation into retirement savings reform has sparked a fiery debate between Karl Stefanovic and Government Services Minister Bill Shorten, over claims the reform is just a “new tax”.

On Thursday, Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones addressed the government’s plan to introduce a tax concession on retirement savings of more than $3 million to reduce the number of Australians taking early withdrawals from their super. The Assistant Treasurer compared the super funds to “honey”, saying the move is what’s best for the “hive”.

“In the self-managed sector, there are over 600,000 funds holding around $870 billion in retirement savings – that’s a lot of honey. We want to make sure there’s plenty of honey to go around,” Jones said.

During an appearance on Today, Stefanovic accused Shorten and the Labor government of using a communist tactic to punish the wealthy.

“I didn’t realise that our super honey was for the collective, comrade,” he said, addressing Shorten.

“He did confirm the government is looking to impose higher taxes on funds over $3 million, just in case, anyone missed that buzz from the bee, that is a new tax, is it not?”

Currently, Australians can contribute $27,500 annually to their super at a concessional tax rate of 15 per cent and costs $53 billion a year.

High-income Australians who deposit money into their super pay a concessional rate that is considerably lower than the marginal tax rate of 45 per cent for those earning more than $180,000.

Shorten defended the government’s reform proposal, questioning the fairness for taxpayers to be subsidising the wealthy.

“There’s about one per cent of people who have over $3 million in their superannuation. The average for this group of people is $5.8 million,” he said.

“I think he was raising the question, should taxpayers be subsidising someone who’s already got nearly $6 million in their superannuation account?”

Joining the debate, 3AW host slammed Labor for trying to introduce the reform, calling it “class warfare”.

“It is a new tax, come on Bill, it is a new tax isn’t it? You’re not going to try and spin that one?” Mitchell said.

Shorten sniped back: “First of all, Neil. I’m glad you’ve stepped up to defend the people with $6 million in their superannuation account.”

“The fact of the matter is, we did say at the last election, we want to legislate the objective of superannuation,” he said.

Mitchell continued to defend high-income earners: “These awful people who have been successful enough to get money into their super account. What awful people they’re successful.”

Shorten reiterated that he was not confirming the tax concession cap would be passed, assuring everyone that the reform is simply in the discussion stage.

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