Malcolm Turnbull and the Coalition have reportedly been improving in polling on who is best to look after the interests of older Australians, despite vocal anger over recent weeks over the government’s planned changes to superannuation.
There has been a widely-canvassed backlash against the government’s capping of tax-free retirement income accounts at $1.6 million and the controversial limiting of concessional top-ups to superannuation at $500,000 over a lifetime, as well as changes to the tax concession on transition-to-retirement schemes.
Some commentators have warned the row could cost the Turnbull government the election, while Peta Credlin, Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff, has described it as a big “sleeper issue” among Coalition voters and argued that Turnbull and treasurer Scott Morrison will be forced to revise the policy. Last week there were reports of a potential backbench revolt from Coalition MPs over the changes.
However, the issue is not registering as being of any political significance in the Coalition’s polling.
Laurie Oakes wrote in his weekly News Corp column (emphasis added):
According to a Liberal strategist, over Wednesday and Thursday — when the debate was raging — the Coalition improved by seven points on the question of which party was best for older Australians on matters such as superannuation.
The private Liberal polling also shows that only about 2 per cent of voters see superannuation as a top-of-mind election issue compared with more than 40 per cent who think it’s about the economy.
So Turnbull can ignore the wealthy whingers. Clearly, his election prospects are not being damaged by super.
There has been a lot of debate about how far-reaching the effects of the superannuation changes really are. Some estimates say it will have an impact on more than a million people.
Perhaps what’s at play here is there is a chasm between the number of people who are affected and then the number of people who are exercised by it enough to change their vote. If superannuation is registering as a 2 per cent issue in polling, then it is nowhere near enough to shift the kinds of vote that would make a material difference to Turnbull’s prospects on July 2.
Certainly, the backlash has not been moving the published national polls, with the Newspoll out today showing the major parties tied 50-50 on the two-party-preferred measure, a similar finding to most polls over the past month.
The prime minister last week said “we’ve got to get real about this” when he insisted there would be no changes to the super policy, arguing the system remained very generous.
“If you have someone who has $10 million in their superannuation account in retirement, currently they are not paying any tax at all on the earnings from that. No tax at all,” Turnbull said. “Under our changes, they will have no tax on the earnings of $1.6 million and on the balance they will pay 15 per cent right? 15 per cent remains a very concessional tax rate. That is less tax than a kid pays on his marginal income stacking shelves at Woollies.”