Leading independent Kerryn Phelps will use a win in Saturday’s Wentworth byelection to secure a five-year freeze on changes to superannuation and oppose Labor’s abolition of franking credit refunds in Parliament.
Fine tuning her pitch to taxpayers and small business in the blue ribbon Sydney seat, Dr Phelps told The Australian Financial Review she wanted a lower corporate tax rate and action to slow bracket creep.
She said parliament should block dividend imputation changes until proper economic assessment and consultation was completed, while pledging to push for streamlined small business reporting requirements and fair taxation from multinationals.
Labor will scrap excess franking credits for everyone except pensioners, part pensioners and some recipients from self-managed superannuation funds.
Dr Phelps has debated Liberal candidate Dave Sharma and Labor’s Tim Murray during the campaign. DEAN LEWINS
The plan is forecast to raise $10 billion in its first two years and more than $55 billion over a decade.
“I think we have to address fairness, sustainability and certainty concerns that are in the current superannuation system so all Australians are protected in retirement,” former Australian Medical Association boss Dr Phelps said.
“People are telling me they are really sick of constant changes. We’ve had a major change to super every year for the past 25 years and people can’t make lasting plans for their retirement.”
A five-year moratorium on any further reform would restore confidence and allow the government to address the gender imbalance in retirement savings – as Australian women retire with 47 per cent less saved than men.
“Single older women are the fastest growing cohort of homelessness in Australia,” Dr Phelps said during a break at an early voting booth in Waverley.
Calling for lower corporate tax rates to help Australian businesses compete with overseas rivals, the equality advocate and businesswoman said she would seek talks with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition leader Bill Shorten if she wins.
“Australia exists in a global economy and our businesses need to be competitive. It’s very important government policy reflects that,” she said.
“Our personal tax system has to effectively tackle bracket creep. For years governments have quietly let it push people into higher income brackets as they go forward in careers or take chances, but without an increase in real income, and it discourages aspiration.”
On track to finish second on first preference votes against Liberal Dave Sharma and viewed as the frontrunner, Dr Phelps has used her campaigning experience to shake up the race in the electorate Malcolm Turnbull vacated.
Pitching herself as the true local in the race, Dr Phelps broke with Sydney’s Lord Mayor Clover Moore last year after a Sydney City Council dispute.
A leading campaigner in the same-sex marriage debate and with links to would-be crossbench colleagues in Parliament, she has been a ubiquitous media presence.
She still practises at Double Bay’s Cooper Street Clinic, while working as a corporate adviser and brand ambassador for Health & Co.
The deal was a key plank to the turnaround strategy in the company’s struggling medical centre business, led by then Primary chief executive Peter Gregg, who looked to move away from a predominantly bulk-billing model for GP visits into private billing.
Patients pay a co-payment in addition to the standard Medicare subsidy of $37.05. Dr Phelps’ two Sydney clinics became the founding practices in the Health & Co network.
It is believed the company paid $13 million for her clinics and Dr Phelps remains the chair of Health & Co’s advisory board.
Dr Phelps said that electing an independent in the previously safe seat would bring a moderating influence to parliament.
“I’ve got a track record of being constructive in everything I do. I’ve been an advocate for the health system, an advocate for equality. I set agendas,” she said.