Women at the centre of renewed Coalition pitch to tap super for housing

In an escalation of the ideological battle over superannuation, Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley is signalling an ambitious expansion of her party’s home-buyer scheme, unlocking more retirement funds for home deposits.

In a speech to the Liberal Party faithful in Perth on Friday morning, Ley will say that Labor would “run the most negative scare campaign in history” if her party took an expanded version of the Super Home Buyer Scheme to the next campaign.

Sussan Ley touts the Coalition’s superannuation policy as beneficial to financially disadvantaged women. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Labor plans to introduce a law that defines what superannuation can be used for, restricting its use to retirement income with limited exceptions.

On Thursday, Treasurer Jim Chalmers accused the opposition of “hypocritical hyperventilating” over the government’s proposed changes to superannuation and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the Coalition was undermining compulsory superannuation at every opportunity.

Both Chalmers and Albanese have indicated that while they do not intend to make any major changes to superannuation tax concessions, the financial breaks for multimillion dollar super accounts are unsustainable. Both have dismissed protests from the Coalition that this would break the prime minister’s promise just before the election not to make changes to super.

“There will be no major changes to superannuation. We’re not considering that. What we’re doing is defining properly the objective of superannuation which is noted superannuation was created to provide people with an income in retirement,” Albanese told reporters on Thursday.

According to advance notes of her speech, Ley will cite superannuation as an important policy area that could attract votes of women and people struggling to buy homes.

Ley used the example of a hypothetical 58-year-old woman who wanted to leave her violent husband. Under current settings, Ley said the woman would only be able to access her super to buy a home when she was at risk of homelessness, rather than pre-emptively.

“Imagine how many women would be economically empowered, how many would be able to secure their financial independence for life, if we took an expanded version of the last election’s Super Home Buyer Scheme, to the next one,” Ley will say.

“You can be sure Labor and the unions would run the most negative scare campaign in recent history, because they have always believed money in super accounts is theirs.

“But this is an early marker I lay today – we won’t be relying on weasel words to demonstrate to the women of Australia that we are listening and learning – we’ll rely on a set of policies that clearly shows our commitment to making their lives better.”

The Morrison government pledged before the 2022 election to allow people to use up to $50,000 of their super to buy a home.

Economist Saul Eslake said the policy would drive up prices in the inflated housing market and diminish the retirement income balances of young people, particularly women who already accrue less superannuation, on average, than men.

Ley’s comments suggest the Coalition’s future policy could make it even easier to use retirement savings for asset purchases than would have been permitted under the policy it took to the last election.

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