Straight from the Senate - Issue 16

5.00pm | April 13, 2017


Welcome to a short, Easter edition of Straight from the Senate. This week’s newsletter was a little late, so we are sharing this brief additional update before we head into the Easter break. Travel safe and go easy on the chocolate. 


1. On Monday I chaired the first Senate Hearing of the Inquiry into Gender Segregation in the Workforce in Melbourne.

Check out what workers in the social services sector had to say about low pay for women.We heard evidence from key unions and employer  organisations including the ACTU, the ASU, the SA, the National Foundation for Australian Women and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Witnesses highlighted the lack of any clear national policy objective for equal remuneration, and failure to address the historic undervaluation of jobs and industries traditionally performed by women. Check out my Huffington Post oped on this subject from Monday and also this interesting piece about the lack of flexible work available to women in the Police force.

2. On Tuesday I chaired the Senate Inquiry into the relocation of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority from Canberra to Armidale - Barnaby Joyce’s electorate. 

We heard from agricultural stakeholders that the relocation has the potential to seriously and negatively impact the agriculture sector. This deeply flawed relocation plan has the potential to strip out up to 90 per cent of the scientific personnel, who are the heart of the APVMA’s capability. Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Joel Fitzgibbon and I discussed these issues at a doorstop. 


Housing Affordability is the topic of the moment. After years of pretending there is no issue the Coalition has finally recognised that we have a problem. Unfortunately, their solutions offer little of genuine value to young people seeking to enter the market. The media are diligently reporting the deliberate leaks in the lead up to the Budget, and I was aghast to see the latest, a plan for young people and first home buyers to use their superannuation towards a property purchase.

This is short-sighted and profoundly misguided policy. It presents young people with a poisoned chalice; achieve housing security today but give up economic wellbeing in retirement. Worse, it won’t do anything to halt the dramatic rise of property prices in Sydney and Melbourne; it just adds more cash into the system.

If this generation enters their retirement with less super, their old-age incomes will suffer and their dependence on the pension system will increase. We are already seeing people being forced to dip into their super on retirement to pay off their mortgage. The compound nature of superannuation means that any raid of super in younger years will have an massive effect throughout a lifetime.

I’m concerned that young Australians are facing a lifetime of financial disadvantage as a result of the perfect storm of generous tax incentives for property investors, high property prices, insecure employment and record low wages growth. This report, that Australian millennials rank second last in global home ownership, is evidence that we already have a problem. Raiding super will make this worse.

It’s not just Labor that is critical of this plan. Economist Saul Eslake is one of the many voices critical of this proposal and in a recent report he listed three reasons why ‘tapping into super is a bad idea’.

Amongst other things he said ‘it runs counter to the principle objectives of the superannuation system, which are to enhance people’s capacity to support themselves in retirement, and to reduce the proportion of the retired population who are wholly reliant on the age pension.’ PwC have estimated that if the proposal is implemented in Australia with the same settings as a trial in Canada, the cost to the budget bottom line would be $32 billion over 35 years.

Chris Bowen is right when he says that any serious reform in this area must look at negative gearing. Labor has a plan for housing affordability; the next step is to win government so it can be implemented. 

In Labor,

Jenny McAllister