Scott Morrison’s changes to superannuation tax concessions last year have been his finest achievement as Treasurer so far. At a time when we routinely lament the unwillingness of governments to undertake hard reforms, Morrison took on the most difficult kind of reform, the kind that upsets your own political base, and delivered. It was good retirement incomes policy and good fiscal policy that will continue, silent and unnoticed, to deliver benefits to the budget for decades to come. Sure, it could have gone further; sure, it was an ugly win in which clowns like George Christensen capered in the spotlight, but even the best reforms are rarely perfect.
That a group of Melbourne Liberals who have been exploiting the absurdly generous superannuation tax concession system for years for their own wealth management purposes are seeking to wreck the career of Kelly O’Dwyer in order to punish her for her association with the reform says something ugly about the Liberal Party and not a little, either, about contemporary politics. O’Dwyer is no great shakes as a minister, but she’s no worse than many of her colleagues. Merely not serially bungling like George Brandis or Peter Dutton is a badge of honour in the Turnbull government.
It takes some extraordinary self-delusion for rich old white men to see themselves as victims, but that’s the position of Jack Hammond QC. Hammond says he was once an adviser to Malcolm Fraser on the Save Our Super website (which boasts an interview with arch-reactionary David Flint, conducted on the right-wing Christian video channel Safe Worlds TV). Hammond’s views can be obtained from a long, sympathetic piece by Glenda Korporaal in (where else?) The Australian.
In a demonstration of real class by her old white male opponents, the push to force O’Dwyer out of Higgins in favour of Peta Credlin came while she was having her second child. This, Hammond claimed, was coincidence, and he proceeded to joke about it. “It’s a complete misconception,” he quipped. “They gave birth to an appalling policy.” Perhaps a retirement hobby of stand-up awaits Jack. The effort to destroy O’Dwyer comes at a time when the Liberals face a further reduction in its already ridiculously low representation of women.
The attack on O’Dwyer is part of an emerging pattern: pursue the broader public interest at the expense of powerful groups and efforts will be made not merely to defeat your policy, but to force you out of public life. The political execution of WA Nationals leader Brendon Grylls at the recent Western Australian election was a signal to all politicians across the country of what will happen if you provoke Australia’s parasitic, tax-dodging mining industry. A successful effort to oust O’Dwyer would serve as an exemplary execution, to warn the rest of the Liberal Party not to defy narrow sectional interests in some misguided attempt to do the right thing by the country as a whole.
Save Our Super may look hokey, with their clunky website, bad photoshopping and David Flint “interviews”, but similar people to them wield significant power throughout the Liberal Party branches across Australia. They’re the reason we are doing nothing about climate change, the reason why we are now a laggard in the west on same sex marriage, the reason why we have created a housing affordability nightmare in our major cities. And super may well be the last time this government dares to upset them.