Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Tonight it was my great pleasure to attend the inaugural oration by the Prime Minister to celebrate 15 years of Emily's List Australia. The Prime Minister's speech tonight inspired me to continue to advocate for one of my very strong passions: ensuring that Australians, especially women, make adequate plans for their retirement.
It is all too easy in our younger years to see retirement as a distant prospect. When we are young, ensuring we can live the lifestyle we want in retirement is something that is just not on the radar. It remains a great fear of mine that we do not give enough consideration to these matters, that we do not plan for our futures or for changes in lifestyle. To this end, I was recently the keynote speaker at an event at the National Library of Australia in my electorate. My speech was entitled 'Finance is a feminist issue'. The title aside, it was not a plea for my sisters in the movement to rise up and take arms against the macroeconomic structures of society or the 'suits' in Sydney—although this, I suspect, is a discussion that some may wish to have. Rather, this was a speech designed to start a conversation with women in my community about ensuring they have the knowledge and take the time to think about and plan for their financial futures in both the short and long term.
In spite of the fact that it has been 20 years since the Keating government legislated for compulsory superannuation—which I believe to be one of the greatest reforms of that great reforming government—women are still not prepared for their retirement. According to the minister assisting the Prime Minister for the status of women, 60 per cent of Australian women are retiring with no superannuation. And, according to Women in Super, the average woman who does retire with superannuation does so on less than half that of the average man.
Sadly, in my new job as the member for Canberra I see women who are the victims of domestic violence, sleeping in their cars with their teenage children; women who are on their own, with small children, in search of social housing and financial assistance; women who are on the pension and still renting in the private market; and desperate women in their 60s who are finding it hard to get work but need to keep working because they do not have enough for their retirement. It is these women I think of when I make a speech such as this. It is these women who drive me to get the message out that we must plan our financial futures and take control of them.
In the 1920s Virginia Woolf implored her sisters to strive for a room of one's own—because 'a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction'. Today I implore my sisters to plan for a healthy financial portfolio of one's own—because a woman must have a strong superannuation account and assets if she is to have choice and if she is to avoid money worries later in her life. Fertility control gives you choice. An education gives you choice. And financial planning and independence give you choice. This is one reason why reform of superannuation is critical.
I am glad that this government will continue the reforms begun under the governments of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, and cruelly suspended during the Howard years. I am proud that it is a priority of this government. It is a great Labor value to provide the opportunity to all, not just the wealthy, to make a better life for themselves through hard work and effort. Under the resources tax, Labor plans to increase the superannuation guarantee from nine per cent to 12 per cent and to provide an annual superannuation contribution of up to $500 to people earning under $37,000, the majority of whom are women. This, combined with all the other financial and economic reforms of this government, will mean that a woman of 30 with average weekly earnings and a broken work pattern will see an extra $78,000 in her superannuation package when she retires.
Labor is providing and will continue to strive for systems and regulations to ensure all women can achieve choice and realise their full potential. I therefore implore my sisters to take up these choices, to take control and to make sure they think about their future and plan for their retirement. I encourage them to attend the seminars I am running over the next few months where they will learn how to read and understand their superannuation statements. These seminars will be available to both men and women, and I encourage all Canberrans to come to them. They are free seminars. They will not be providing financial advice. They will be about opening up for people their financial and superannuation statements so they can gain a greater understanding of the money they have now, work out what they need for their future and then develop a pattern of savings to achieve that. (Time expired)