A left-wing think tank run by Greens advisers demanded a crackdown on superannuation tax concessions only weeks before the Labor government made an announcement.
Ben Oquist, who was former Greens leader Bob Brown’s chief of staff, was the executive director of The Australia Institute for seven years until July.
He is also married to Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
Mr Oquist’s successor Richard Denniss was a senior strategic adviser to Mr Brown before being appointed executive director.
The Australia Institute on February 3 argued the 15 per cent concessional tax rate for super contributions cost $52.6billion a year and was set to surpass the annual aged pension bill.
‘New research shows the cost to the federal budget of generous superannuation tax concessions is now on par with the cost of the entire aged pension, and greater than the total cost of the entire NDIS in 2022-2023,’ it said.
‘The annual cost of super tax concessions ($52.6b) is on par with the value of the entire age pension program ($55.3b).’
A left-wing think tank once run by a former Greens adviser demanded a crackdown on superannuation tax concessions only weeks before the Labor government made an announcement (former Australia Institute executive director Ben Oquist is pictured with his wife, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young)
The Australia Institute unsurprisingly welcomed Labor’s announcement on Tuesday, even though Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (pictured) promised no changes to superannuation ahead of the May 2022 election
Treasurer Jim Chalmers and his assistant Stephen Jones on Tuesday released a Tax Expenditures and Insights Statement with very similar lines.
‘The revenue foregone from superannuation tax concessions amounts to about $50 billion a year,’ they said.
‘The cost of these concessions is projected to exceed the cost of the Age Pension by 2050.’
The government statement also addressed the cost of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
‘Since coming to government, we’ve been upfront about the challenges facing the economy and the budget,’ it said.
‘We inherited a trillion dollars of debt as well as growing spending pressures in defence, health, aged care and the NDIS.’
The Australia Institute unsurprisingly welcomed Labor’s announcement on Tuesday, even though Prime Minister Anthony Albanese promised no changes to superannuation ahead of the May 2022 election.
‘Today’s announced changes to super tax concessions by the Prime Minister and Treasurer are a welcome step towards fairness and sustainability for Australia’s retirement income system,’ it said.
Mr Oquist’s successor Richard Denniss (pictured) was a senior strategic adviser to Mr Brown before being appointed executive director
But Mr Denniss said Labor needed to do more.
‘The expensive and inequitable tax breaks for multi-million dollar super accounts should have been retired long ago,’ he said.
‘While this is a great first step, more reform is needed to ensure fairness and sustainability in Australia’s retirement income system.’
The Australian Institute has for 15 years been a campaigner against the 15 per cent concessional tax rate for super contributions that debuted in 2006 under Liberal treasurer Peter Costello.
Mr Oquist was executive director from 2015 to 2022 and in June 2015 had tweeted his support to Greens senators Richard Di Natale, the party’s former leader, and Rachel Siewert for pushing for a review into superannuation tax concessions.
‘Positive move from Richard Di Natale and Senator Siewert: progressive pension reform good & superannuation tax review essential,’ he said.
In April 2021, he tweeted a Guardian article on a report by The Australian Institute on superannuation that noted, ‘Men receive “oversized” benefit from major tax concessions.’
The Australia Institute released a 2014 report by Matt Grudnoff about the super perks that was titled, ‘A super waste of money’.
‘Not only are super tax concessions becoming a burden on the budget, but it is clear that they are being used more and more as a way for high income households to avoid tax rather than as a retirement income support measure,’ it said.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers this week released a Tax Expenditures and Insights Statement with very similar lines to an Australia Institute media release from early February
Labor’s former shadow treasurer Chris Bowen had, in 2015, complained about the cost of the super contribution concessions but the ALP hadn’t announced any formal policy proposal until this week.
Previous Labor prime ministers Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd hadn’t changed the super tax policy.
The Australia Institute has a slogan – ‘We change minds.’
Labor is proposing to end the 15 per cent concessional tax rate for super contributions for the 80,000 Australians – or 0.5 per cent of the population – with more than $3million in retirement savings.
Mr Oquist and Mr Denniss aren’t the only heads of The Australia Institute with Greens connections.
Founder Clive Hamilton, a professor who was executive director from 1993 to 2008, ran as a Greens candidate in the Higgins by-election of December 2009 in Melbourne’s inner-east.
That was sparked by the political retirement of Mr Costello, the treasurer who introduced the 15 per cent concessional tax rate for super.