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Marc My Words - 15 April 2005

Marc My Words - 15 April 2005

Why discriminate on Super?

Let’s suppose that the next time you walk into a shop and try to purchase groceries the shopkeeper asks you a number of questions: “What’s your income? Are you married? Have any dependent children, any pets?” Then after adding up the cost of everything he adds GST, a surcharge based on your earnings, less compulsory repayments on a student loan; a supplementary sum due to your marital status (since absolutely everyone knows two can live cheaper than one! – why discriminate against poor singles?); and a small deduction for your under-five year old. Only then do you get the bill.

Most would be rightly outraged at such nonsense. Apart from the obvious intrusions into our private life – something the government tries desperately to defend only when you’re a fine defaulter, an absconded tenant with rent arrears or a criminal – it’s plainly unfair.

So why should there be any difference with National Super?

It is a matter of deep shame that successive governments have treated our older citizens in exactly the same way. They spend their lives paying income taxes, petrol taxes, excise duties, GST, all without any rebate for their personal living arrangements; yet when it is time to get back some of what they’ve paid for…well, let’s just deduct as little as we can. It is just so inequitable.

There are some who argue that Super should be available only to those who need it. The argument goes like this; we can target and resource those truly in need – let others fend for themselves – and therefore save a bundle. In other words discriminate in favour of those who spent rather than saved, who went with rather than without, and those who happily live off the work of others, while denying them that same right.

There are still others so wedded (excuse the pun) to the idea that we should have a separate category for married people, that to get rid of it – despite the discrimination against married people – would somehow diminish the marital state. They are dodgy thinkers who would rather talk about marriage than help support it!

The point is if we believe that everyone should be treated equally under the law, we should not show prejudice in favour of or against any particular section of the community. That goes for the entitlement to Superannuation as much as for anything else.

It may well be that the cost of living for a single person is higher than for those who are married, or are living in a shared arrangement; or, for that matter, those who choose to be vegetarians. Likewise the costs are different when one partner lives in a rest home. There are as many different circumstances in living arrangements as there are people! Do we really want the government…any government, to itemise our personal arrangements to determine the basis of the legitimate return on our contribution to society?

The following table illustrates the cumbersome superannuation categories` calculated on assumptions about living arrangements:

Superannuation Calculations

Category Weekly rate Fortnightly payment (net) Annual rate (gross)
Net Gross
Single living alone $255.81 $309.73 $511.62 $16,105.96
Single sharing $236.14 $285.02 $472.28 $14,821.04
Married person $196.78 $235.16 $393.56 $12,228.32
Married, both qualify Total $393.56 $470.32 $787.12 $24,456.64
Each $196.78 $235.16 $393.56 $12,228.32
Married, non-qualified partner included after 1 October 1991 Total $375.28 $447.00 $750.56 $23,244.00
Each $187.64 $223.50 $375.28 $11,622.00
Married, non-qualified partner included before 1 October 1991 Total $393.56 $470.32 $787.12 $24,456.64
Each $196.78 $235.16 $393.56 $12,228.32
Partner in rest home, with non-qualified partner $210.72 $252.67 $421.44 $13,138.84
Hospital rate $30.87 $36.27 $61.74 $1,886.04

As you can clearly discern, there are a range of prejudices that find their way into Super entitlements. There has to be a more simple, commonsense way that acknowledges and. rewards all superannuitants fairly I maintain that Superannuation should be a universal entitlement based on contributions over the years. Whether you are living together…apart …married…in a commune or standing on your head, all of these are irrelevant. It should not be up to the Government to carve up your entitlement according to your personal circumstances. There have been cases of married couples who have been told that in order to qualify for more assistance they should get divorced. Now that’s discrimination!

No government should ever have the temerity to dictate our private lives and it is precisely on that discriminatory basis that the level of superannuation payment is determined. In rewarding one set of living arrangements over another, the government not only shows the poverty of its deficient thinking but exhibits the worst of all traits: a surplus of government.

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