Coalition Senator Dean Smith.

The federal opposition has doubled down on its controversial policy to allow consumers to access their retirement savings to purchase residential real estate, while simultaneously arguing super should be protected and preserved.

Speaking at the Retirement Conference, co-hosted by Conexus Financial and the Conexus Institute, Liberal Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury Dean Smith argued that home ownership must form a central part of the superannuation policy settings. 

“A national housing debate is underway and a key element of the next phase of this debate must be a discussion on access to housing through superannuation,” said Smith, who represented Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor at the conference. “More and more the welfare and wellbeing of Australians of any age is measured against their access to housing.” 

Smith described attainability of affordable housing with higher living standards in retirement as a “cornerstone” of national success. 

“As well as the obvious ownership opportunities, securing housing through superannuation avoids the risk posed to our retirement system by more Australians being forced to rent,” Smith said. 

“Homeowners have lower housing costs and an asset they can be drawn on in retirement. If the decline in home ownership among younger people is sustained into retirement, there will be an increasing number of retires who rent.” 

The Coalition took a controversial plan to allow eligible Australians to draw down on their super balances to fund a home purchase to the 2022 election. Under the plan, which Smith indicated is a “core” part of the opposition’s policy platform going forward, Australians can withdraw up to 40 per cent of their superannuation, capped at $50,000, to buy their own home. It builds on the previous government’s first home super saver (FHSS), which allows consumers to access to favourable tax treatment in super when saving for a deposit. 

Remaining “inflexible” on super preservation risks undermining “community acceptance” of the compulsory nature of the defined contributions system, Smith asserted.  

The comments come ahead of the Conexus Financial Politics Series in Melbourne on Monday 28 August, at which with Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor and Finance Minister Jane Hume will  present the opposition’s alternative financial services and super policy platform. 

At the same time as he promoted a more flexible super system when it came to housing, Smith warned against other use cases, such as the government’s suggestion that a portion of super be “ring-fenced” to cover aged care costs.  

“Superannuation must not become an unwilling participant in political culture war or viewed as a piggy bank for governments to dip into when budgets need supplementing,” he said. 

“It’s Australians’ money intended to provide them with a secure and safe retirement income. It’s a balancing act of re-calibration to ensure its fit for purpose while maintaining the certainty expected of any long-term investment.”  

For more information on the Political Series lunch or to register, visit here. 

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