One of Anthony Albanese‘s ministers landed himself in a sticky situation with a bizarre comment likening superannuation to ‘honey’.
Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones addressed a self-managed super fund convention after the federal government earlier this week floated plans to overhaul the superannuation system.
The government is reconsidering tax concessions for the wealthy and cracking down on the rules allowing Australians early access to their super.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ deputy sparked outrage on Thursday when he compared the retirement savings of Australians to honey that should be managed ‘in the best interests of the hive’.
‘In the self-managed sector, there are over 600,000 funds holding around $870billion in retirement savings – that’s a lot of honey,’ he told the convention in Melbourne.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers (pictured with wife Laura) and the federal government have come under fire over plans to overhaul the superannuation system
‘We want to make sure there’s plenty of honey to go around.’
He ended his address with a final corny metaphor as he urged Australians to join the government’s national conversation about the objective of superannuation.
‘You could even say that if we get this right, it will help ensure that superannuation is the bees’ knees of public policy,’ Mr Jones said.
His choice of words sparked widespread outrage and prompted his spokesman to later tell NewsCorp the metaphor was simply a reference to the ‘bees’ theme of this year’s conference.
Australia is home to 16million superannuation accounts collectively worth $3.3trillion, with self-managed funds making up 600,000 of that, worth $870billion.
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton led the outrage by accusing Mr Jones of treating super as ‘honey to be raided’.
‘The government is now describing your superannuation balance – your hard-earned money – as ‘honey’ to be raided. This is a deeply concerning development,’ he said.
‘It’s a sticky metaphor from a tricky government. It’s a shambles, and the Prime Minister should simply honour his pre-election commitment: no changes to your super.’
Mr Dutton’s deputy doubled down on the government on Friday.
Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones referred to Aussies’ retirement savings as honey (stock image)
The assistant treasurer’s comments have self-funded retirees who are now concerned about their savings (stock image)
‘The government said before the election they had no intention of changing superannuation,’ Sussan Ley told Sunrise on Friday.
‘They floated the idea earlier this week and now they seem to be making jokes about it, calling it a honeypot to be raided for the things they want to spend it on instead of fiscal responsibility and managing the economy in a way that protects the retirement incomes of Australians that have worked really, really hard.’
She added she’s met many self-funded retirees who are now concerned about their savings.
‘I don’t know if anyone can explain to me in the Labor Party what it actually is and that’s the problem, they’re talking about it as if it is honey to be raided and shared around,’ Ms Ley said.
‘It’s not honey, it’s not funny and we actually need the government to stick to its election promises.’
Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones has come under fire for his poor choice of words about retirement savings
Education minister Jason Clare tried to repeatedly deflect the question when asked by Sunrise host Natalie Barr if his ministerial colleague used a poor choice of words.
‘I will use my words. Our superannuation accounts are there today because of the Labor party. We created it,’ he said.
‘The awful truth is for most Aussies, they have less money in their super today than they should because of the Liberal Party under Howard and Abbott, they froze super which means we got less than we should.
‘I won’t cop hypocrisy from the Liberal party on superannuation. We created it, built up for Australians. Whenever Liberals get a chance, they take it away.’
Industry leaders were also baffled by Mr Jones’ metaphor.
‘If it’s a hive of honey, who is it for? It sounds like he is talking about workers bringing back honey for the whole hive, not just their individual accounts,’ Association of Independent Retirees director John Ritchie said.
Australians earning up to $250,000 a year can deposit up to $27,500 a year into their super and pay a concessional tax rate of 15 per cent, which is well below the 45 per cent marginal tax rate for someone earning more than $180,000.
Australia is home to 16million superannuation accounts collectively worth $3.3trillion, with self-managed funds making up 600,000 of that, worth $870billion (pictured is a stock image)