Release type: Speech


Second reading speech: The Superannuation (Excess Concessional Contributions Tax) Amendment (DisabilityCare Australia) Bill 2013


The Hon Bill Shorten MP
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Financial Services and Superannuation

15 MAY 2013

The Superannuation (Excess Concessional Contributions Tax) Amendment (DisabilityCare Australia) Bill 2013 is part of a package of measures increasing the Medicare levy by half a percentage point.

It is an honour to speak to this bill and to support it. At the outset, I should acknowledge that this is part of a team of bills, and I acknowledge the work of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, Minister Macklin and Minister McLucas and the people with disabilities and their advocates, who have worked so hard to get us to this point.

It is an honour to speak to this bill because to do so we recognise the story that so many Australians are in. It is a long twilight struggle with numbers every evening and every morning that do not come up right. It is a struggle with the limits of love—how much money we have for its expression, its gifts, its pleasures, its family occasions.

It is a struggle every day, by inches, minutes, ill-chosen words, by guilty evasions, by things not said or said too late. It is a struggle that is fought by good people who have tried so hard in circumstances that are not their fault and have never been their fault—people that have been challenged and defeated by shafts of fate that are now and have always been beyond their control.

These bills have been a long time coming, but we recognise their story now and the burden of love it represents, and the sorrow and the pity, day in, day out, that consumes the lives of more than one million of our fellow Australians.

The increase in the Medicare levy will help fund DisabilityCare Australia, which I believe is the most profound piece of social justice and civil rights policy since Medicare.

This is a watershed moment in our federation of states, our national story. It is an opportunity to alter the course of the future for millions of Australians that find difficulty in maintaining a basic level of existence that many of us take for granted.

The importance, the urgency of this, should not be underestimated.

Once DisabilityCare becomes a reality, we will never look back.

We will never go back to a time, a truly primitive time, when people with disabilities and their carers had to shoulder the burden and fill the gap while well-meaning legislators sat back and looked at their knuckles, and hoped the problem would fix itself.

This is a great cause to come before the House and the most important that I have had the privilege to work with a Labor team on.

This is our chance to turn to the more than 400,000 Australians, their families and their carers that face these daily struggles and say to them, 'Your country will not leave you to fight each day alone.'

We see you. You have worth. And with a bit of help from your people, your society, your tribe, there is a chance things can change.

A better prosthetic may give new chances of work. The help of a specialist, one that was previously unaffordable under the private system, could make a breakthrough that can turn a life around.

These bills will change lives.

Change families.

Change the dimension of hope in every community.

No longer do we fill this place with empty rhetoric on this issue. We now put our money on the table. And we ask: what is the price of an ordinary life?

Under DisabilityCare, it does not matter if you were born with an impairment, or the circumstance in which you came to be the way you are.

What seems like such a basic concept, as old as the Good Samaritan, has taken a lot of work by a lot of people to come to action, fruition, to legislation in this place, on this historic day.

This really is a moment in our parliamentary history to relish and remember.

Equality, a Labor goal, is the simple goal of this nation-changing reform. I turn now to the details of the bill.

This bill contains consequential amendments as a result of the increase in the Medicare levy, contained in the Medicare Levy Amendment (DisabilityCare Australia) Bill 2013.

Contributions to superannuation are subject to a number of different caps, which vary depending on the age and retirement status of the person making the contribution, and on whether the contribution is made out of before- or fter-tax income.

These caps exist to ensure that the amount of concessionally taxed superannuation benefits that a person may receive is sustainable and appropriately targeted, and designed for a person's longevity.

The amount of a person's pre-tax superannuation contribution that exceeds the concessional cap is currently taxed at a rate of 31.5 per cent. This is the sum of the top marginal personal tax rate of 45 per cent and the current Medicare levy of 1.5 per cent, less the general rate of 15 per cent tax paid by most superannuation funds.

This bill will increase the rate at which tax on excess concessional contributions is payable.

From 1 July 2014, this rate will increase by half a percentage point to 32 per cent, reflecting the increase in the Medicare levy.

These consequential amendments will help to ensure the integrity of the system.

Further details of the bill are set out in the explanatory memorandum for the package of bills.

I commend the bill to the House.