Trade Minister Craig Emerson
Trade Minister Craig Emerson Claudia Baxter

Tax concessions for high income earners may be removed

TRADE Minister Craig Emerson has given another strong indication the Federal Government is considering removing superannuation tax concessions for high income earners in the May budget.

Mr Emerson told ABC radio a debate was needed around the issue, but would not reveal any further detail.

Having spoken out on Monday, dumped cabinet minister Simon Crean was airing his concerns again on Tuesday over possible changes to the way superannuation earnings are taxed.

Mr Crean is particularly concerned about any changes being applied retrospectively.

"We should be able to have a discussion about the idea that at the very high end, people are able to take advantage of highly concessionary superannuation tax treatment where if we look at the lower end, we have lifted the superannuation contributions tax off the shoulders of low income earners, 3.6 million Australians earning up to $37,000 and the Coalition wants to put it back on. That's the sort of debate that we're having," Mr Emerson said.

He would not be drawn on what he meant when he said any changes would be targeted at the "fabulously wealthy".

"Well, I did not say that this tax will apply a cut-off in relation to fabulously wealthy people. What I said is that there is a real debate about the sustainability of a superannuation system where fabulously wealthy people get the benefit of 15% tax where everyday Australians may face a tax rate of 30%," he said.

"In relation to any proposed dividing lines, that will be a matter that will be revealed by the budget."

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said the fact Labor was even talking about changes was a "betrayal of trust".

He said Mr Crean's decision to go public with his concerns was cause for alarm.

"We know it is coming because Simon Crean who was on the Expenditure Review Committee has told us it is coming and he has warned the government against it," Mr Abbott said.

"He said hands off people's superannuation savings. It is not government money, it is the people's money and it should be safe and the question that I think millions of Australians are now posing is this - if Simon Crean and Martin Ferguson don't trust this government, why should anyone trust this government?"

But Mr Abbott would not commit to reversing any changes should the Coalition win the September 14 election.

Pressed on what changes a Coalition government would make, Mr Abbott said there would be "no unexpected adverse changes".

He also ruled out keeping the super tax refund for low income earners because it was part of the mining tax, which the Coalition plans to repeal.

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