Wayne Swan lashes out at Sunrise host in defence of Treasurer’s new superannuation tax move

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Former deputy prime minister Wayne Swan has slammed Sunrise host David Koch in a heated defence of Treasurer Jim Chalmers during an interview with a rival network.

Mr Swan, who is now Labor’s national president, appeared on the Today Show on Friday morning to hit back at critics of the government’s plan to double the tax on super contributions for balances of more than $3million.

Mr Swan backed the government’s estimate that 80,000 people, or 0.5 per cent of the population, would be affected by the plan to scrap the 15 per cent concessional tax rate for Australia’s wealthiest super savers from July 1, 2025.

But the former treasurer suggested Dr Chalmers, his former senior policy adviser who like him also hails from Brisbane and Labor’s Right faction, was doing ‘what every treasurer has done’ before.

‘Well I think it’s a modest proposal. It’s been turned into the end to the world in the sorts of stories that are out there today,’ Mr Swan told Today.

‘Every other treasurer before him would have handled the announcements the way he has.

‘The difference here is hyper stupidity in the media and some of the stories that have beaten it up to the point it’s not even recognisable as the original proposal.’ 

Wayne Swan lashes out at Sunrise host in defence of Treasurer’s new superannuation tax move

Wayne Swan (pictured right) appeared on the Today Show on Friday morning to defend the Treasurer, saying there is ‘hyper stupidity in the media’  and the coverage on Sunrise was ‘disgraceful’

Mr Swan lashed out at Koch for repeatedly asking the Treasurer whether he was planning to introduce a capital gains tax on the family home in a trainwreck interview on Wednesday morning.

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Dr Chalmers, who was Mr Swan’s chief of staff when he was treasurer and deputy prime minister a decade ago, failed to rule out scrapping the capital gains tax exemption on someone’s principal place of residence – despite being asked seven times.

This exemption has been a feature of the CGT since a Labor government introduced it in September 1985 and Dr Chalmers said he was ‘not contemplating’ scrapping that, but he didn’t entirely rule it out.

That appearance resulted a slapdown from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and a mea culpa from Dr Chalmers just hours later.

But Mr Swan was scathing of the Seven Network. 

‘Some of the coverage that we have seen, particularly on one of your rival channels … that performance was disgraceful,’ the former treasurer said.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers (pictured right) was cornered by Sunrise host David Koch (pictured left) on Wednesday about the government's move to double tax on earnings in superfunds with more than $3 million

Treasurer Jim Chalmers (pictured right) was cornered by Sunrise host David Koch (pictured left) on Wednesday about the government’s move to double tax on earnings in superfunds with more than $3 million

How Jim Chalmers compares with other Labor treasurers

Jim Chalmers professes to admire Paul Keating but his record is far from being pro free market when compared with his Labor hero.

Keating in 1983 was instrumental in floating the Australian dollar, when Bob Hawke was prime minister, and as treasurer he laid the groundwork for the early 1990s privatisations of the Commonwealth Bank and Qantas.

The man Dr Chalmers worships was also the  last federal Labor treasurer to deliver to budget surplus – way back in 1989.

But Chalmers is hardly the most left-wing treasurer Australia has ever had.

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Ben Chifley, who served as both prime minister and treasurer after World War II, in 1947 sought to nationalise Australia’s banks. 

Nor would Dr Chalmers be the most disruptive with Jim Cairns, as treasurer, in 1974 voicing support in cabinet for an immediate 25 per cent cut in import tariffs during Gough Whitlam’s last year as Labor PM.

Mr Cairns was also forced to resign as treasurer in June 1975 for playing a role in the Khemlani loans affair where a rogue minerals and energy minister Rex Connor sought $4billion from a Pakistani banker Tirath Khemlani to buy back Australia’s mines. 

Mr Swan backed Julia Gillard to succeed Kevin Rudd as Labor prime minister in June 2010, following a poor reception to the mining tax, making him no stranger to a contentious tax policy.

Dr Chalmers was Mr Swan’s senior policy adviser before that in 2009 when Labor introduced $52billion worth of stimulus measures, including $900 cheques, to combat the Global Financial Crisis. 

As treasurer under two Labor prime ministers, Mr Wayne didn’t act to radically reform the 15 per cent concessional tax rate on superannuation contributions, which his Liberal predecessor  Peter Costello had introduced in 2006.

Now they are costing the Budget more than $50billion a year, with the $3million super balances cap only expected to save $2billion a year in forgone revenue. 

Mr Swan also failed to ever deliver a Budget surplus, because of the GFC, which means a federal Labor government hasn’t done so since 1989 when Paul Keating was treasurer. 

One of Mr Swan’s successors as Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles, also fronted the Today show to defend the government’s superannuation changes.

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Today host Karl Stefanovic gave Mr Marles, the Defence Minister, three chances to explain if Labor was going after unrealised capital gains.

‘How are you going to tax the increased paper value of an asset that hasn’t been sold?’ the Nine host quipped.

But Mr Marles stuck to the line about the wealthiest super savers without directly answering the question. 

‘This goes to the question of earnings, in super funds with more than $3million and the way it is put in place,’ eh said. 

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton reminded Mr Marles was a member of the Expenditure Review Committee as Deputy Prime Minister.

‘You agreed to this crazy plan,’ Mr Dutton said.

‘If you don’t understand the detail, how on earth can the Australian public understand what it is you are proposing?

‘It is a basic question.’

Mr Marles said he understood the detail, clarifying a process would be put in place to assess superannuation earnings.

‘An assessment is going to be made in relation to super funds and their earnings. So there is a tax applied to those earnings. And that is what will occur,’ he said.

‘What you’re now talking about goes to people who are in self-managed super funds and a process will occur in order to enable that assessment to be undertaken on an ongoing basis.

‘But, again, this doesn’t apply unless you have got $3 million in your super.’

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