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‘Hands Off Our Super’: Retiree John Taske’s Push to Protect Nest Egg

The Australian 18/5/2024


John Taske – retired anaesthetist, war veteran and survivor of one of the deadliest Mount Everest expeditions – has a message for Jim Chalmers: keep your hands off my super.

The 84-year-old, who fought on the frontlines in Vietnam and later joined the special forces as a medic, spent his action-packed career building a nest egg for a comfortable retirement.

But sticky inflation and a looming new tax on super has Dr Taske worried his savings are being unfairly targeted by the Albanese government.

A controversial decision last year by Dr Chalmers to double the tax rate on superannuation earning for balances over $3m, from 15 per cent to 30 per cent, is before parliament and due to come into effect in July 2025.

Treasury estimates 80,000 people would be affected, raising $2bn a year, and Dr Chalmers has insisted changes were modest and aimed at making the system “fairer and more sustainable”.

But Dr Taske disagrees, saying the decision to tax unrealised capital gains was inherently unfair and “almost criminal”. “They are punishing productive people, this sort of stuff stifles people with aspirations,” he said.

Labor went to the last election with “no intention” of making changes to super, and Dr Taske said the decision to renege on that was a broken promise.

“They’ve lied, because they’ve changed their mind,” he said. “I think there’s a lot more under the belt if they get in again. They’re going to really start to use superannuation funds for their own little play game – they think it’s their money.”

People with self-managed super funds, including farmers who own their land through super, are expected to be hit hardest by the proposed changes which won’t come into effect until after the next election. Peter Dutton has vowed to repeal the hike if the Coalition returns to power.

The son of a cane cutter, Dr Taske had a working- class background. Moving from Bundaberg to Brisbane as a child, his family lived in an old World War II hut with no windows or toilet.

He went to medical school on a commonwealth scholarship and after leaving the army with the rank of colonel became one of Brisbane’s most respected anaesthetists, heading the department at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in the 1980s.

A keen climber, Dr Taske survived the 1996 Everest disaster and saved two other men by convincing them to turn back 198m from the summit.

The father of three and grandfather to five wants his super protected for his children and was hopeful Dr Chalmers was right in declaring the budget would help fight inflation.

“Inflation is a big problem for me and anybody else who has stopped working,” Dr Taske said.

“It eats away at the money you have saved up, and it’s not like you can go back to work and get a higher wage to combat inflation.”

Dr Taske was disappointed the budget did not attempt to reform the complex super system, saying the impending tax hike would send accountancy costs “through the roof”.

“It is going to be a nightmare and cost a fortune because it is so complex,” he said.


Lydia Lynch covers state and federal politics for The Australian in Queensland. She previously covered politics at Brisbane Times and has worked as a reporter at the North West Star in Mount Isa. She began her career at the Katherine Times in the Northern Territory.

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