Mr Wilson defended the cost of the inquiry. “Sadly that’s the price of getting Labor to tell the truth and respect the retirement independence of nearly one million Australians,” he said.
The Labor policy, which would have stripped tax refunds from retirees who had not paid tax, is seen as a key reason for its surprise election loss in May.
Labor was hit with swings against it as high as 15 per in polling booths where people aged over 60 made up more than 15 per cent of the population. It is expected to form a central part of the party’s election review which is due to be released by the end of the year.
Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers said Labor needed to “listen to the message it was sent” and “learn from the result”.
“Clearly we won’t take an identical set of policies to the next election as we took to the last,” he said on Saturday.
Mr Wilson used the inquiry to campaign against Labor’s policy, drumming up protests at hearings across Sydney, Melbourne and Queensland. He coordinated with Geoff Wilson’s Wilson Asset Management, which has $3 billion in funds under management, to publicise the anxiety being felt by retirees.
Witnesses at the House Economics Committee hearings were then used by Scott Morrison’s office to produce political advertising against Labor’s policy.
One of the key stakeholders at the inquiry, the Alliance for a Fairer Retirement, will have a strong influence over the direction of the government’s future pension, superannuation and retirement policies. The Alliance was formed in 2018 to lobby against Labor’s policy.
Its spokeswoman, Deborah Ralston, was appointed by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Friday to the panel overseeing the Retirement Income Review, the first comprehensive review of the nation’s retirement income system in 30 years.
The review will cover the age pension, voluntary savings including the family home, aged-care funding, franking credits and the role of the $2.9 trillion superannuation industry.
Professor Ralston, who also chairs the Self Managed Super Fund Association [SMSF] and is a member of the Reserve Bank’s payments system board, will be joined by Carolyn Kay, a member of the Future Fund’s board of guardians. The panel will be led by former senior Treasury official Michael Callaghan.
Professor Ralston said she was a “numbers person, not a political person” and would step down from the Alliance and the SMSF.
“This is a very political area with many vested interests. There will be people standing ready to discredit the participants and the outcomes if they are not to their liking,” she said.
The executive director of progressive think-tank Per Capita, Emma Dawson, said it was “impossible to believe that [Professor] Ralston will approach this issue objectively”.
“Moreover, she represents the wealthiest class of retirees. Where is the expert in social security or pension policy?” she said.
“Franking credit refunds currently cost the federal budget around $6 billion a year. Any legitimate review of retirement incomes must critically engage with whether we can continue to afford such largess to retirees who don’t rely on a pension.”
Eryk Bagshaw is an economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra