'We are not rich': Retirees rally against Labor's 'class war'
In the Liberal party heartland of Melbourne's Malvern, it was rowdier than a political rally.
A packed room of more than 300 self-funded retirees told a parliamentary inquiry they grew up in modest circumstances and aren't rich now.
They felt "demonised", "penalised" and "attacked" by Bill Shorten’s "class warfare", which is what they called Labor's policy to end cash refunds for excess franking credits.
Another 300 people descended on Brighton Town Hall later to insist the changes would be "un-Australian", "deeply unfair” and go against "Labor's values" for those who have worked hard and saved all their life to avoid relying on the government’s pension.
The fear is the “rug could be pulled out” on their long-standing savings plan as early as July if Labor wins the election.
"It is an attack on people who want to be independent, work hard and plan their retirement," Lili Gans told the parliamentary inquiry chaired by Liberal MP Tim Wilson.
"I do not like it when one pits one generation against another, one class against another, one race against another, it is unbecoming and that is what the Labor Party plans to do," she said. This triggered an outcry after Labor's Matt Thistlethwaite denied the characterisation.
'Not just the mega wealthy'
Andrew Lee, 73, says he's only on $44,000 a year and will lose $9000 a year under Labor's plan.
“It is not just the mega wealthy who will be affected,” Mr Lee, a former public servant and agricultural adviser, told the hearing in Kelly O'Dwyer's seat of Higgins.
“I already drive an old car … I do all the maintenance around the house and do all my own gardening," Mr Lee said.
“Can you explain how it is fair to allow charities, trade unions and employer bodies to still claim cash refunds and not self-funded retirees?” he asked in one point raised by many.
David Dolan was another typical example of those who spoke, warning he and his wife would lose $20,000 to $25,000 a year.
He pointed to analysis which indicated retirees would need a balance of $1.1 million or more to match the income from the aged pension.
"We saved consistently through our working lives so we could be self sufficient and not have to rely on the aged pension," Mr Dolan said.
'Spend up big and go on the pension'
"We did not spend up and buy a bigger home or expensive cars. We brought up our three children in our modest home.
"This is a ludicrous situation," Mr Dolan said, joining others who asked:
"Why save? Spend up big and go on the pension."
A number of the retirees said they would look to invest in foreign companies or move their money into property if Labor goes ahead with the plan.
"It's wrong," John Banks said. "We should be encouraging Australian companies who are employing Australian people."
'It will impact you dad'
Another urged retirees to mobilise their children to hurt Labor at the voting box.
"My kids, who live in Labor seats, have already said 'We are not going to vote Labor if it will impact you dad'," he said. "I encourage everyone to urge their kids to vote against this policy."
TAG Financial adviser Brenda Hutchinson told the inquiry a lot of her clients want to leave the Australian sharemarket.
The firm's analysis shows it is self-funded retirees at the lower end who will suffer most - those with a balance under $1.6 million and particularly those with a balance under $800,000 who are expected to lose any cash refund.
"For those who are under the $1.6 million transfer balance cap which is the majority of the self-funded retirees, they will actually just lose that [income]," Ms Hutchinson said.
Ms O'Dwyer was joined by new Liberal candidate Dr Katie Allen at the Malvern hearing, while Liberal candidate for Macnamara Kate Ashmor and former NSW premier Nick Greiner were at the Brighton hearing.
BOSS Deputy Editor