“They knew when they appointed Professor Ralston it would be hard for Labor to sign up to conclusions reached by the panel when she has been such a prominent, well-known and dedicated campaigner against the Labor Party,” he said.
Professor Ralston told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that she was not a “political person” but found Labor’s franking credit policy to be “pretty inequitable”.
“People in large funds with pension accounts were largely unaffected, while self-managed super funds in pension mode and older people with no super and a few shares would have been badly affected,” she said. “The numbers clearly demonstrated that. I was very careful throughout to steer clear of politicians and remain as apolitical as possible.”
Professor Ralston has now resigned as the spokeswoman of the Alliance for a Fairer Retirement, a body set up to campaign against the Labor policy. Transcripts and press releases show that during her time at the Alliance, Professor Ralston said some retirees would be “big losers” from the policy and that it was a “cruel blow” that would “drive many retirees onto welfare”.
She reportedly ruled out examining franking credits in the course of the inquiry on Monday, telling The Australian they form part of the tax system rather than retirement incomes. The move comes despite widespread expectation the $6 billion-a-year policy would be under investigation by the panel and her own comments earlier this year it could be considered as part of a broader review.
“Any proposals that risk causing major upheaval for over a million people deserve careful considered study within an overall review of the Australian superannuation, taxation and retirement income systems,” she said in a statement in May.
Professor Ralston, who is a Reserve Bank payments system board member, has also advocated for superannuation contributions to be made voluntary for low-income earners.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison dismissed suggestions from Industry Super chair Greg Combet that her appointment should be reconsidered in the wake of the comments.
“We’re not going to be intimidated by that at all,” Mr Morrison said. “She has the right experience in this area and we welcome her participation in the review.”
Eryk Bagshaw is an economics correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House in Canberra