As Australian Conservatives’ candidate Kevin Bailey prepares for this weekend, lifelong Labor voters living in the Victorian seat of Batman have called Bill Shorten’s radical tax plan the “final straw” ending their support for the ALP as the party road-tests new superannuation changes days ahead of a critical by-election there.
Pensioners and low-income retirees living in the north Melbourne electorate say the latest ALP plan to abolish cash rebates for tax credits on shares held by retirees, investors and ordinary taxpayers will hurt those who can ill afford it. “Apparently it won’t affect me that much because I only hold shares through my super fund, but it’s possible those returns will go down and that hurts,” retired marine engineer Jim Robertson told The Australian yesterday. The 78-year-old, on a full pension supplemented by a small amount of super in an industry fund, has voted Labor in every state and federal election bar one since emigrating from Scotland more than 50 years ago.
Come polling day on Saturday, he will vote for either the Australian Conservatives or the Australian Liberty Party, saying the tax plan Mr Shorten unveiled in an address to the left-wing Chifley Institute this week was more evidence of Labor ditching traditional values.
“It wasn’t looking good before, but now I’m even less inclined to vote for Labor,” he said. “It’s like Labor has lost its roots and needs to get back to what it used to stand for: the working man. I don’t think the party of old would have gone about (tax reform) like this.”
Analysis of the new tax plan conducted by Treasury revealed that more than 610,000 Australians on the lowest annual incomes stand to lose an average of $1200 a year in tax refunds under the proposal to abolish cash rebates for tax credits.
Analysis of official tax data also showed the largest group of people to be hit by the $59 billion tax grab will be those receiving annual incomes of less than $18,200, the majority of whom receive the Age Pension.
Within the Batman electorate, voters over 65 make up almost 19 per cent of the voting population. In the last federal election, Labor would have lost the seat if it had sustained a net loss of just 927 voters on the two-party-preferred vote.
Northcote-based financial planner Anthony Galle fielded calls from clients concerned about the changes. “I had one client who called it ‘political suicide’ because so many people — not just in the electorate, but around the country — are going to be affected,” he said.
Another Northcote-based planner, Jeff Yacoub, also fielded calls from concerned clients, and said he was personally concerned about how super returns would dip as a result of the policy.
“Sure, the impacts will be more visible to people with an SMSF, but people with money in super funds will also see returns go down. It might be 4.8 per cent last year and then its 4 per cent this year. It’s less obvious, but they’re still getting hit,” he said.
“And it’s a bad political stunt because it’s probably going to be supported by people who don’t understand the implications, because they’re not active or direct investors.”
At Quarries Park in Clifton Hill, self-managed super fund beneficiary Geoff Griffiths fumed at the changes which he said had the potential to drive the price of shares down across the Australian equities market.
The Clifton Hill resident, who owns a house in Batman but isn’t a resident for voting purposes, said he had been a near lifelong Labor voter, but this had turned him off the party for good.
“Now I’ll have to vote for whoever will be strongest against Labor,” he said.
Australian Conservatives’ leader Cory Bernardi told Sky News yesterday that party is the Australian Conservatives.