Jennifer O'Brien. Photo: Tara Croser.
Jennifer O'Brien. Photo: Tara Croser.

We don’t need to encourage more bludgers

STILL believe Malcolm Turnbull can win the next election.

It may seem like Mission: Impossible, but he only has to awaken the sleeping army who will be hurt most if Labor wins.

This army is made up of the 8 million Australians over 50 whose retirement funds and pensions will be looted by Labor to fund welfare handouts to squibs, malingerers and downright bludgers.

The silent army includes people now planning to retire and those who have already done so.

People like Jennifer O'Brien, a retired schoolteacher from Keperra on Brisbane's northwest.

"I am an 82-year-old self-funded retiree residing in a village designed for independent living," she wrote to me.

"I am sure if Shorten was in O'Brien's classroom he would find himself in the naughty corner.

"My husband Bill and I worked very hard to prepare for an independent retirement," she said.

"When he was forced into early retirement we did qualify for a small part-pension but he did not live long to enjoy it.

Jennifer O'Brien at home in Keperra. Photo: Tara Croser.
Jennifer O'Brien at home in Keperra. Photo: Tara Croser.

"Some 18 months after Bill's passing I found myself unable to look after and maintain our home so I sold it; a move that meant the end of the pension I was then receiving.

"With the sale of the house I was financially independent and downsized to my present unit.

"My income is derived from a small allocated pension fund (super), bank interest on term deposits (not very much) and savings, share dividends and franking credits.

"Most of the shares I have held in my name since the late '80s."

O'Brien, who was born at Biggenden, about 300km northwest of Brisbane, taught in state schools in Toowoomba, Miles and Brisbane, and at Glennie, a leading Anglican school in Toowoomba.

She said Labor's plan to change taxing credits would punish those, like her, who had saved all their lives and who help keep the welfare wheel rolling.

"Much of my income (about 25 per cent) is derived from franking credits. If Bill Shorten succeeds in removing these it will put me and many other self-funded retirees in a difficult financial situation.

"We will be forced to liquidate funds and eventually call on the Government and the old age pension for support - thereby becoming a burden on the Government and the taxpayer.

"This is surely not desirable. Surely the Government can show a little more foresight and think beyond the next election."

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten (left) with Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen. Photo: AAP/Joel Carrett
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten (left) with Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen. Photo: AAP/Joel Carrett

Like many of her generation, O'Brien, a mother of three, does not want to be a burden.

Australia needs more Jennifer O'Briens to rise up and challenge Labor's ill-conceived plan.

"Elderly people should not be the whipping boys for politicians of any ilk," she wrote.

"Leave franking credits alone. No part of anyone's income should be taxed twice."

Retirees will lose up to a third of their annual incomes under Labor.

So why bother saving for your retirement if the ALP is going to steal a big chunk of it?

O'Brien told me she was concerned the have-a-go spirit that made this great country will be snuffed out.

And she is right. We don't need to encourage any more bludgers, we have enough already.

The pension snip is one of many attacks proposed by Labor to take your money and give it to those who didn't earn it.

Labor's plan to wind back negative gearing is another assault on the wealth creators.

Labor's raids on retirees have also angered National Seniors Australia.

The lobby group's chief advocate Ian Henschke hopes retiree incomes will be a major election issue.

He says: "In March Labor said, if elected, it would close a 'tax loophole exploited by the rich' and reap $59 billion over 10 years. It would do this by disallowing tax credits from Australian shares paid to people with no taxable income, affecting only a 'small number of people'.

"That 'small number' turned out to be more than a million Australians and included pensioners, part pensioners and self-funded retirees. They never saw their tax credits as a loophole.

"They'd been encouraged to buy shares in the likes of CSL, Telstra, Qantas and the Commonwealth Bank. It was also income they'd relied on for almost 20 years.

National Seniors’ Ian Henschke.
National Seniors’ Ian Henschke.

"Labor then announced it would exempt pensioners and Centrelink recipients. National Seniors helped win that change for 320,000 people who would have lost $3.3 billion over 10 years.

"But a follow-up poll revealed two out of three members still thought it unfair, as it only protected a fraction of those affected.

"What about the self-funded retirees? The policy means a 30 per cent drop in income from their shares."

Henschke quotes from a letter from a member named Joe who told him he had been paying taxes for 49 years and wasn't rich.

Joe told him: "My generation was encouraged to plough more into superannuation and, if possible, invest in shares in Australian companies so we could be self-sufficient."

Henschke says Joe, like hundreds of thousands of others, made his decisions based on a policy that's been in place since July 2000.

Ten organisations have now formed the Alliance for a Fairer Retirement System.

Its website was launched last month by Sunday Mail finance guru Noel Whittaker.

Whittaker gave an example of a couple who had saved $1 million in shares who would be worse off than a pensioner couple who had saved $300,000 in shares.

How bizarre. And among those worst hit will be traditional Labor voters like teachers, nurses and ambos.

desmond.houghton@news.com.au

GROPER TREAT

ACE Brisbane chef Jake Nicolson tells me he believes the giant Queensland groper is the "wagyu of the sea" and says the fish will be a specialty dish at Donna Chang, a new upscale restaurant due to open any day in a gorgeous old sandstone bank building at 171 George St in the CBD.

The groper (pictured) is protected in the wild in Australian but Nicolson managed to source supplies from Rocky Point aquaculture, 12km east of Beenleigh.

Nicolson is the executive chef at Blackbird restaurant and is setting up Donna Chang for his corporate masters at the Ghanem Group. In a coup for Brisbane he has lured Jason Margaritis, formerly of Rockpool in Sydney and Spice Temple in Melbourne.

The gropers will swim in a big glass tank, Margaritis tells me. He intends to cook them wrapped in paperbark with native desert limes and smoky lapsang souchong tea, in a kind of Sino-indigenous culinary nuptial. The menu, finalised on Friday, will also feature Fraser Island spanner crabs, game birds, silky chickens, suckling pig and Tajima wagyu - much of it cooked on a wood-fired grill.

A Queensland grouper at the Cairns Aquarium. Photo: Brendan Radke
A Queensland grouper at the Cairns Aquarium. Photo: Brendan Radke

There will be much Cantonese spice and XO sauce, says Margaritis. He and Nicolson have also installed a duck humidifier to ensure their Peking duck has a crispy skin. Brisbane has not had a Chinese restaurant the calibre of Sydney's Billy Kwong or Melbourne's Flower Drum. I suspect that is all about to change.

Donna Chang, for the uninitiated, is a character from a Seinfeld episode.

Too much overtime

PHILLIP Strachan's inquiry into Queensland Rail revealed how unions rigged rosters to get overtime to bulk up their salaries. Strachan's report to Parliament says one of the "underlying issues" that caused the timetable meltdown was "Queensland Rail preferring to operate with a 5 to 10 per cent undersupply of train crew, driven largely by a practice of providing overtime opportunities".

Is there is a similar tinkering with rosters to boost pay for state firefighters? Perhaps. A document tabled in Parliament shows firefighters were paid $131 million in overtime in the past six years. Even allowing for emergencies like bushfires, it is an extraordinary amount.

Any business with an overtime bill like that would, of course, go broke.

TV special

FOR legendary ABC reporter Sean Dorney, Manus Island is not a hellhole detention centre but a paradise. It was where he married a chief's daughter, Pauline.

Dorney reported from Papua New Guinea and the Pacific for 40 years, covering everything from political upheavals to earthquakes. Along the way he won a Walkley Award and played in the PNG rugby league national team, the Kumuls.

Dorney made an emotional final visit recently to Manus and his return is the subject of a special report on Foreign Correspondent on Tuesday night. Dorney is suffering motor neurone disease but despite his illness he lights up the screen. It's compelling TV thanks to Dorney and his talented producer Ben Hawke.

A threat

THERE were 38 patched bikies on bail awaiting appearances in the Supreme Court, the District Court and the Magistrates Court, Parliament has been told. This was despite police opposing 26 bail applications. What gives judges and magistrates the idea they know better than police as to whether a person is a threat to the community?



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