Labor facing backlash on franking credits from ‘grey army’

Labor is facing a backlash on its policy of stopping most refunds of franking credits from the “grey army” of over 1 million self-funded retirees, Advance Australia has claimed.

Advance Australia, sometimes described as the conservative answer to GetUp!, has so far received over 6,500 signatures on its petition against Labor’s policy and has a target of 10,000.

The Wilson Asset Management petition, against the same policy, reportedly had over 25,000 signatures in early November last year.

Since the Advance Australia petition was started there has been two polls of public opinion on stopping refunding of franking credits. An Essential poll found 39% support for stopping refunds of franking credits, with 30% opposed and 31% not knowing. Whereas a Newspoll found 30% support for stopping refunds, with 48% opposed to the measure and 22% unsure.

Both polls found more opposition to stopping franking credit refunds amongst Coalition voters and older people. The measure was more popular than unpopular amongst Labor and Greens voters and younger people. Though both polls have issues with the question not reflecting Labor’s actual policy.

Gerard Benedet, National Director for Advance Australia, said Labor’s “retiree tax” – a tag put on it by the Government – was a tax grab that would impact self-funded retirees, including those on low incomes.

According to the ABC, Mr Benedet was the Chief of Staff for LNP member Tim Nicholls. It also reported that Mr Benedet said that Advance Australia was not aligned with any political party.

“Labor’s policy statement makes it appear as though the new tax is about reducing tax concessions for millionaires, but in fact, retirees set to be hit by the retiree tax aren’t the wealthy elite, but your average hard-working self-funded retiree,” Mr Benedet said.

“84% of Aussies set to be impacted are on taxable incomes below $37,000.”

He argued that with the stock and housing markets down now is not the time to introduce double taxation.

“The rug is being pulled out from underneath Australian retirees’ feet – and it’s simply not fair.”

“It’s a slippery slope – this so-called ‘retiree tax’ tax targets self-funded retirees first, but it’s only a matter of time before the legislation extends to pensioners and their hard-earned money too,” Mr Benedet claimed. Labor’s policy originally applied to pensioners, but they were exempted in a change to the policy shortly after it was announced.

“Clearly Bill Shorten doesn’t have an interest in managing the budget, instead choosing to target self-funded retirees by double-dipping into their life savings to make up for his proposed budget deficits.”

The Coalition has also been using increased taxes on superannuation in its quest for a budget surplus – its Treasury Laws Amendment (Fair and Sustainable Superannuation) Act 2016 increased taxes by $5.2 billion over four years. It was this legislation that removed the tax concession for Transition to Retirement Income streams and limited the amount that can be in pension phase with the Transfer Balance Cap.

“It’s time to keep Australian retirement strong, fair and free,” said Mr Benedet.

“What Labor’s proposed legislation does is target ‘middle Australia’ by punishing people who have done the right thing and saved for retirement.”

“For years, Aussies have planned for retirement on the fair assumption that dividend imputation rules, which have historically shared support from both sides of politics, would support their retirement income.”

“Self-funded retirees are distraught at the prospect of a significant cut to their retirement income, and at the end of the day, that’s just unfair – this isn’t the Australia we know and love.”

Advance Australia still lists only two campaigns on its website – Hands off My Super and another about Australia Day.

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