Labor has signalled it won’t back down from a contentious policy to axe cash payments for franking dividends despite prominent fund manager Geoff Wilson collecting more than 17,000 signatures on a petition to fight the changes.
Labor plans to abolish the rebate component of the imputation credits system that benefits shareholders and self-managed super funds by allowing them to cash in unused imputation credits. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten expects to claw back nearly $60 billion over 10 years by abolishing the refund plan.
An email exchange yesterday between opposition treasury spokesman Chris Bowen and Mr Wilson, chairman of Wilson Asset Management, laid bare the increasingly acrimonious battle over Labor’s proposal just a week after a Coalition-dominated economics committee was formed to examine its impact on retirees.
Wilson Asset Management, which manages a portfolio of listed investment companies that have more than $3bn invested mainly in Australian shares on behalf of 80,000 investors, started a petition on May 11 to fight the changes with concerns over the impact on retirees.
After Mr Bowen received a message yesterday that thanked him for adding his name to the petition, the opposition treasury spokesman wrote to Mr Wilson saying he did not sign it.
Mr Bowen questioned whether Mr Wilson’s claims of 18,000 signatories was an inflated number and asked for clarification on “how such a fundamental error could be made”.
Mr Wilson responded by saying he views any attempt to undermine the credibility of the petition very seriously and had reported the “alleged fraudulent impersonation of a public office holder” to the Australian Federal Police. Mr Bowen’s signature and that of several other Labor ministers were from the same IP address, according to Mr Wilson.
Mr Bowen declined Mr Wilson’s request for a meeting to discuss the changes as a waste of Labor’s time.
“You have requested a meeting with me in order to attempt to get Labor to change its policy. I am always happy to meet with members of the business and investing community. I do so very regularly,” Mr Bowen said. “However Labor will not be changing our policy. We will be campaigning for it and will implement it should we win the next election.”
The cost of refunds has ballooned to $6bn a year, from $500 million annually, according to Mr Bowen, who said the policy was not sustainable for the nation’s economy.
A House of Representatives’ economics committee chaired by Liberal MP Tim Wilson said it would focus on the impact removing the refundable franking credits would have on retirees.
Submissions are due by November 2