Former Liberal candidate for Bendigo Megan Purcell claims more than 7000 people in Bendigo will be affected by Labor’s proposed changes to dividend imputation, arguing those who benefit from franking credit refunds are not wealthy.
Ms Purcell appeared as a panellist on ABC discussion program Q&A on Monday night, alongside Liberal MP and Assistant Minister for Social Affairs Sarah Henderson, Labor’s shadow attorney-general Mark Dreyfus, Australian Shareholders’ Association director Stephen Mayne, and ‘people’s panellist’ and author, Zoya Patel.
She ran against incumbent Labor MP Lisa Chesters in the 2016 federal election.
Labor proposes to remove cash refunds for franking credits when the credits exceed the tax owed.
Franking credits represent the amount of tax already paid by the company on dividends, and are used to offset a shareholder’s tax.
Under the current system, shareholders with no tax, or not enough tax, to offset can claim these credits in the form of cash refunds.
Labor says it will exclude pensioners from its proposed changes.
Ms Patel said given changes such as cuts to penalty rates to hospitality and retail workers and the lowering of the HECS repayment threshold, she did not feel very concerned about wealthy shareholders losing money because they were retirees.
“I think the truth of the matter here is that these people are not wealthy,” Ms Purcell said in response.
“I’m from Bendigo, there’s over 7000 people from Bendigo who are going to be affected by this, and it’s an area where the average income is $60,000 a year for a family, or a household.”
The Bendigo Advertiser has contacted the Australian Taxation Office.
Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed the median household income in Bendigo is $1160 per week, or about $60,320 a year.
This rises to $1443 a week for a family, or about $75,036 a year.
Ms Purcell also suggested Labor was telling retirees the party did not care about them, an idea Mr Dreyfus refuted.
Ms Purcell also voiced concerns about a proposed bill that would give doctors and a medical advice panel the power to order the medical transfer of refugees from Nauru and Manus Island, with the minister only able to intervene on the grounds of national security.
Ellie Shakiba, a refugee on Nauru, asked whether the politicians on the panel would vote for the bill.
Ms Purcell said nobody liked the idea of people “languishing in indefinite detention” and the government had made steps in that direction, although noted it could promote its “compassionate side of what they do a little bit better”.
But she did not appear to support the bill in its current form.
“I’m not comfortable with the idea of regular citizens as opposed to the government making decisions in relation to border protection,” she said.
When host Tony Jones said the bill meant the decision would go to the minister, and Labor’s proposed amendments would give the minister greater powers, Ms Purcell said that was still essence of the bill.
The bill will be voted on in the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon.
Ms Purcell also said it was a “disgrace” that Liberal Party members were denied preselection of candidates when sitting MPs in Victoria and New South Wales were endorsed.
“Preselections are there to have the people who share the values of our party, to have a say in who it is that’s going to represent them,” she said.
“So if they don’t have that opportunity, then really they’re missing out on the most fundamental part of belonging to a political party.”
The Bendigo Advertiser has contacted Ms Purcell for comment.
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