Jelena Dokic has lambasted the government’s proposed superannuation plan, detailing how early access to retirement savings could help women escape domestic and family violence.
The 39-year-old tennis champion-turned-commentator told the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday how she herself had fled a violent home at the age of 19.
While she said she’d been lucky to have her professional tennis career to support her, she said most women did not have the financial means or stability to flee.
Her comments came after Treasurer Jim Chalmers began a consultation program on Monday, aiming to legislate an objective of superannuation. Through this, the government is seeking to ensure future policies abide by a belief that super should be for retirement income.
Ms Dokic said the matter was not “black and white”.
“There are a lot of different areas where I think you should be able to access it (super),” Dokic said.
“I think there is so much we’re seeing today when it comes to domestic violence, for example; women are so afraid to leave and one of the reasons is because they feel like they won’t be able to start again – they won’t be able to set themselves up.
“I was in that position when I was 19. I was just lucky with the fact that I was a professional athlete. I had the ability to go and earn a living, but I left home with nothing. I was basically on the street.
“There are so many women out there that are in the same position, so maybe making it where you can withdraw $10,000 and put your money to use when you really need it.
“There are so many people who are not even going to be able to get to retirement or be able to have a dignified retirement because they are not going to make it. They might not even be here.”
During her appearance on Q&A, Ms Dokic did not make specific mention of her father, Damir, but has previously recounted his abuse in her autobiography Unbreakable.
In 2021, former prime minister Scott Morrison proposed victims of domestic abuse be able to withdraw $10,000 from their superannuation, however his government did not proceed with the plan.
As it currently stands, access to superannuation before the age of 65, or preservation, is limited only to situations where someone is permanently incapacitated, has a physical or mental condition which prevents them from working, is dying, or their loved one is.
There are also provisions for severe financial hardship, but domestic violence is not specifically mentioned.
Dr Chalmers’ intention to legislate an objective of purpose was to ensure any future policies surrounding legislation did not deviate from the “yard stick”.
It follows the release of $36 billion of Australians’ super during Covid-19, where early access was allowed during the initial months of the pandemic.
To that, Dr Chalmers has vowed “never again”, saying his proposal would ensure Australians are less reliant on government subsidies in their retirement.
Superannuation funds have in general been supportive of the government’s move, while the Coalition and some crossbenchers have voiced their concern and criticism.