Scott Morrison's last-ditch election policy would overwhelmingly favour men

Scott Morrison’s last-ditch election policy would overwhelmingly favour men

Scott Morrison Liberal Party launch 2022

For a man who only last week conceded he can be “a bit of a bulldozer” and needs to change his leadership style, Scott Morrison’s last-ditch election effort focused on first home buyers doesn’t appear to feature any lessons learned.

The plan? If you can get a five per cent deposit together to buy your first home, you can access up to $50,000 of your superannuation (capped at 40% of your total fund) to get in on the property market. Live in the home for one year, and if you do later sell, just pay back the superannuation to your fund, alongside the capital gains tax. 

It could be an option for some people to get into an otherwise impossible property market.  

But it’s likely to be a no-go zone for low-income earners or those with little to no access to any kind of savings. It’s a policy that overwhelmingly favours those who can already save for a deposit and have strong superannuation balances available — typically men.

And it could bulldoze through the very purpose of the superannuation system: to give Australians direct access to financial resources during retirement through the power of compounding interest to deliver a stronger return on your cumulative balance.

Women retire with 42 per cent less superannuation than men, according to Australian Super – but there are no solid policy announcements from the Coalition to close this gender pay gap. Not even now a mention of one obvious initiative: to pay superannuation during paid parental leave (which Labor has also rejected at this point). 

Rather, there’s yet another superannuation savaging policy announced by the Prime Minister, days out from the polls. One that shows he’s failed to learn from the gender impacts of the last such policies: such as the early access super scheme, again announced by the Morrison Government, granting access to up to $10,000 in super for those experiencing hardship.

Currently, the average superannuation balance of a man aged 25 to 34 is $41,700, while for women of the same age it’s $31,600. Accessing 40 per cent of these balances won’t go particularly far, with the average 20 per cent housing deposit currently at $170,000. 

There is also a significant gender gap in the proportion of Australians who have any superannuation at all, as Leonora Risse demonstrated here.

Risse also notes that: “inequalities in capacity to accumulate super (eg. gender gap in earnings ) mean that a policy that links super to a person’s capacity to accumulate assets (housing) will further widen economic inequality.”

Those who will benefit from this policy announcement are likely to be those who already have the financial means to get close to affording a deposit and likely will rely less on their superannuation balances later on.

Morrison’s latest pitch to voters is that he’s changing. He’s learning. He said better days are ahead, if his government can just get a second term in office to finish the plans they have started. 

“As a prime minister, you pour your heart and soul into this job every single day. You don’t get everything right. I’ve never pretended that I have. But I tell you what, I never leave anything on the field,” he told the Coalition election launch in Brisbane on Sunday.

He said he’s seeking this second term to ensure he can “take this to the next level, to those better days.” 

But what we know is that Morrison is anything but a fast learner. 

He hasn’t learned the lessons on superannuation, and the lifeline this provides for those – particularly women – who are already retiring into poverty because the system has not been set up to adequately support them. 

He hasn’t learned the need to apply a gender lens to the massive policy announcements he makes – like grant schemes that largely favour male-dominated workforces, including the massive cash splash on construction during the pandemic.

He either hasn’t considered or doesn’t care about, the gender implications of this housing announcement. How it does little for those women who have nothing like $50,000 worth of superannuation savings (they would need to have closer to $100,000 to reach that 40% threshold that would grant access to the full $50,000). Nor for those who still can’t get anywhere close to raising five per cent for a deposit to buy a home.

How ultimately it will further lock those out of the housing market who are already struggling to get on the property ladder.

On making this latest announcement and pitching himself as the man to continue to lead Australia, Morrison spoke of a “better future” ahead, including one that involves the better treatment of women.

He also said he’s seeking a second term because he’s just “warming up”. 

Not many of us could spend four years in a job “warming up”. Especially if we hope to keep such a job, or get the promotion, pay rise or extra work required to save for a house, pay the rent or a mortgage, and keep up with the rising cost of living.

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