Veteran fund manager Geoff Wilson has launched a fresh broadside against Labor’s proposed policy to end cash tax refunds attached to stock dividends.

If it wins the next election Labor has promised to end an arrangement introduced under the Howard government that sees cash returned to individuals when the tax breaks they get tied to their share dividends exceeds their annual tax bill.

Mr Wilson said a petition started by his firm had attracted almost 30,000 signatures and seen more than 2000 people submit a written description of how the policy will affect them.

“What it will do to ordinary Australians, it’s going to devastate their lives,” Mr Wilson told the Sohn Hearts & Minds conference in Melbourne on Friday.

Mr Wilson told Fairfax Media after the conference that the policy would drive people to invest offshore and also to seek stocks with lower dividends or lesser tax burdens such as property trusts.

“It is such poor policy,” he said.

“What they are proposing is so discriminatory to older Australians and to women, from my perspective, that it’s criminal.”

At the event Mr Wilson quoted a case study of a woman in her late sixties, who was renting and caring for a disabled child.

“It is cruel and morally wrong to impose such changes on people who are already retired,” he said, quoting the woman’s letter.

The charity event saw top fund managers picking their top stock pick for the year and Mr Wilson chose an offshore computer gaming company citing concern over the policy.

A Senate inquiry into the effects of the policy is due to start public hearings on Tuesday in Sydney followed by hearings in Melbourne on Thursday and has so far attracted more than 200 submissions.

Many of the submissions complain the change penalises people who have sought to fund their retirement rather than rely on pensions.

“Short of abandoning this distorting and unfair policy, people who have made lifetime investment decisions on the basis of long established superannuation and taxation regulations, should be protected by ‘grandfathering’,” one submission says, adding the change would cut the couple’s annual income by about 23 per cent or $27,000.

Labor estimates the policy would save $11.4 billion over four years from this financial year and argues that wealthy Australians would shoulder most of the burden.

Mr Wilson disputed that assessment saying it would not affect his savings but could materially impact on lower income earners.

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen responded by repeated his previous criticisms of Mr Wilson dismissing his petition as “dodgy” and the senate inquiry as “partisan”.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was contacted for comment.