Peter Costello made the most out of re-announcing his big budget bribe for relatively wealthy retirees yesterday, filling in the details of extremely generous transitional arrangements that will allow the well-off to stick $1 million in their super funds this year. He left it to his assistant treasurer, Peter Dutton, to fire the early shots in the $7.2 billion political trap that’s been set for Labor.

There’s precious little in the new scheme for most people retiring while John Howard is Prime Minister – most workers in their 50s don’t have enough in their super funds to worry much about payments becoming tax free. But for those with ample assets, it’s a gold mine that will fuel a super boom.

Never mind the numbers though; Labor has been painted into a political corner. Dutton was straight in on it at yesterday’s media conference:

“Today marks the 119th day since the Treasurer made the announcement on the 9th of May about this revolutionary change to superannuation … Kim Beazley has still adopted in relation to superannuation the ‘Three Minds’ policy, the ‘yes, no, maybe’ policy. It has been 119 days… and still Labor has not been able to decide whether or not they are going to support the simplification of superannuation, a benefit to older people as they retire to live a much better lifestyle…” And so on and so on.

A wealthy 51-year-old will be able to sock a couple of million dollars into his superannuation over the next decade, receive concessional tax treatment on what it earns in the fund and then pay no tax at all on the annual six-figure income he will be able to draw from his protected investments. A bit of careful scheming and he could draw a pension as well.

But if Beazley criticises that, down will come the scare campaign for the next election – Labor will tax your super. Beazley can’t win. And it’s costing taxpayers $7.2 billion over the next three years.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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