PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
WEDNESDAY, 12 FEBRUARY 2020
SUBJECTS: Victorian Government’s call for 15 per cent super; Coalition’s record on superannuation, listed investment products; Zali Steggall Climate Bill; Labor’s commitment to raise Newstart; Coalition chaos; Cash Ban Bill.
STEPHEN JONES: Today Government members voted unanimously against affirming support for 12 per cent superannuation. This flies in the face of the commitments the Prime Minister gave before the election and all the assurances that he has given since. What it proves conclusively is that you cannot trust a thing that Scott Morrison says on superannuation. Australian workers have already paid dearly because of delays to increases in the superannuation guarantee levy. When the Abbott Government paused the increase in superannuation it has cost the average Australian worker between $60,000 and $100,000. I'm pleased to see that the Victorian Government agrees with Labor, that workers aren't retiring with a decent retirement income. We need to move to the 12 per cent legislated increase in superannuation to ensure that all workers get the opportunity for a decent retirement savings. It's simply not fair that you can have members of the Coalition jumping up and down. It's simply not fair that you've got members of the Coalition who are campaigning against average workers getting a move from 9.5 to 12 percent superannuation when they themselves are taking home 15 per cent in superannuation. Why is it fair for a politician to get 15 per cent superannuation? But the people who clean their offices are only getting nine and a half? Clearly, it's not fair, it's not adequate and Labor remains committed to ensuring that workers get the superannuation that is legislated and they deserve.
JOURNALIST: Do you support 15 per cent superannuation?
STEPHEN JONES: I think as a long-term aspiration we should be looking to ensure that we can maximise the superannuation return for all Australians. But the real battle ground at the moment is the 12 per cent superannuation, the real Battle Ground is ensuring that the Coalition honours the commitment that it took to the last election, honours the legislated increase to ensure that, in five modest increases between 2021-2025, workers get what they were promised.
STEPHEN JONES: I’m glad you asked. Clearly there is a relationship between wages and superannuation. It’s not one to one and even Grattan would concede that. When you have got workers and unions sitting down and negotiating getting increases in wages and superannuation at the same time, getting increases above the SGL of course, there is a relationship but I want to make this point. At a point in time when the employee share of national income is actually declining that is the profit take of national income is actually increasing. It really is quite offensive for anyone to be arguing that workers have got to pay for their own pay rise. I think the decent thing to do is to ensure that workers get both a decent pay rise The Reserve Bank Governor says, it should have a 3 in front of it. I agree. Workers should get a decent pay rise. They shouldn't be asked to pay for their own pay rise by foregoing legislative superannuation increases.
STEPHEN JONES: Labor believes that the right thing to do is for the government to have a plan for an increase to wages. We need to boost productivity. We need to have confidence in business which is going backwards. We actually need the government to be looking at areas where we need to have a stimulus to the economy. Clearly the economy is flagging clearly productivity is in the doldrums. We don't believe that the answer to this is to further attack workers conditions and we don't think tax cuts are the answer to every problem of got any economy.
STEPHEN JONES: Look, let's focus on the battle that is in front of us between 2021 and 2025. We've got five modest increases to superannuation there legislated. They are law. We want the government to honour the commitment of it made before the last election. We welcome the fact that there are state governments out there that want to go further presumably they'll be going further with their own employees as a first step we welcome that but the main Battleground at the moment is honouring and delivering what is already been legislated.
STEPHEN JONES: There's lots of businesses out there at the moment that actually see that there is an advantage in them providing above par superannuation increases. So within much of the transport sector, in higher education, basically, there's an advantage to provide attractive superannuation arrangements and a lot of state governments who are competing for professional employees and others also see as an advantage for them in the labour market in a tight labour market, for them to have attractive superannuation arrangements above the bear minimum.
STEPHEN JONES: I think that some of ACOSS’ interventions have been misguided on this quite frankly. I think there is one party in this Parliament which is committed to ensuring that we review and increase Newstart and that's fundamentally what is it the heart of a ACOSS’ concern. How to ensure that workers who are looking for a job, people are a long-term unemployed, have I benefit which is going to help them get back into the workplace. And that is not adequate at the moment. There is one party in this Parliament for the stood up and said we agree. Let's not make an increase in superannuation the enemy of doing something about the woeful levels of Newstart. Let's not make an increase in superannuation become the enemy of ensuring that people have access to reasonable access to a decent pension arrangement.
STEPHEN JONES: The problem we have is was demonstrated today is that we can't trust the government's commitments. Two weeks ago the Prime Minister stood up in the Parliament and said he was committed to 12 per cent but today he voted against it. You cannot trust anything anything. You cannot trust anything for this ad Man without a plan has to say on the subject of superannuation.
STEPHEN JONES: This is an absolute furphy the beneficiaries of increasing superannuation are the millions of Australians who have a superannuation account. Let me take you through that. Actually, I've had a bit of a gut full of some of the lll inform things that Senator Bragg and others have had to say, it's a very recent conversion I've got to say. Senator bragging who before we got to this place made a living out of the superannuation industry that is now become the number one critic of. Australian superannuation industry is a National Treasure. Three trillion dollars worth of domestic savings that is available for investing in infrastructure, investing in job creating projects, providing ballast to our current account problems. This year for the first time since the mid-70s had a current account surplus in large part because of the contribution of our increase in domestic savings. What sticks in the craw of people like Senator Bragg is that, for the first time in our nation's history, workers at retiring with a nest egg. Now, I don't think that that should be just something which is the privilege of politicians and high paid Australians. When my father retired, when my mother retired they had a few thousand dollars in the bank when people are retiring under current policy settings. They will have between 350,000 dollars and 650,000 dollars in their retirement savings. I think that's a great thing. I think that's something we should be celebrating not going about trying to undermine. This is something that Australia should be celebrating. Three trillion dollars worth of superannuation savings providing ballast and impetus for the Australian economy providing decent retirement for Australian workers. Only a mad person will be against that.
JOURNALIST: What legislative action will you take to protect industry funds that (inaudible)?
STEPHEN JONES: Look, we think the current policy settings are just about right and frankly I think consumers have voted with their own feet. We've seen over the last 12 months alone over twenty billion dollars worth of superannuation money as walked across the street from underperforming funds to high performing fund with relatively low fees. That doesn't mean it's game over, that doesn't mean that we don't have to be continually vigilant on the issue of performance and ensuring that all funds, industry funds, retail funds, corporate funds, all funds are doing the very best that they can to ensure they're getting the lowest fees and the best outcomes for Australian workers, because that's what it's all about.
JOURNALIST: (Inaudible) legislative amendment trying to close down a loophole (Inaudible).
STEPHEN JONES: I’m very disappointed that the government hasn't supported our amendments. It's an amendment that was supported by many within the industry, the financial planners Association of Australia, supported because it closes a loophole which should never have been opened. Supported because it is in the interests of mum and dad investors. Supported because it creates a level playing field between people who are investing in various sorts of financial instruments and listed investment companies and trusts. Supported because we shouldn't have a situation where the reason that people are being sold certain financial products is because the brokers and the planners who are promoting those products to them are getting a whopping commission from it. If we've learned anything from the Royal commission into the Banking and Financial Services it is that these conflicted remunerations are very very dangerous and they need to be closed down. Labor's amendment was going to do that. I predict that at some stage in the next two months we're going to be back here voting on exactly the same proposal. The only problem with that is that there will have been a rush for the door between now and then. There will be further listings of these risky Financial products and there will be millions of dollars worth of commissions paid on it, and we'll be closing the gate too late.
STEPHEN JONES: Labor’s got a very strong position on climate change and ensuring that we have realistic and decent action on addressing dangerous climate change. Anthony Albanese has already announced that we will have further to say on this in the very near future. We welcome the fact Zali Steggall is a member in this place replacing probably somebody who has done more damage to credible action on climate change than any other Member of Parliament.I think that's a good thing. I think it's great that she's adding her energies and her commitment to the Parliament’s consideration of these issues. We've had her bill for a short period of time. We'll give it the due consideration warrants. But the one thing I do know is this one thing I do know is this the only way that we're going to get Bills through Parliament through both houses of Parliament and meaningful action in this place on climate change, on transitioning our energy is if we elect a Labor Government because this mob is just so hopelessly divided they can't even agree amongst themselves. Let alone get bills through Parliament on this issue.
STEPHEN JONES: We took the government on its word on the $10,000 cash ban bill. We said to the Prime minister, if there is a case here, if the cash economy is being used to evade tax laws, if it is being used to launder money, then that is something that we need to do something about. We supported it in the house with the caveat that we wanted to refer it to a senate inquiry to give the community, but just as importantly the government the opportunity to make its case. Now, I'm very disappointed that the government has done a woeful job of making its case before the senate committee, and in the community, and it now appears to be that the reason they've done a woeful job of making the case is that their heart's not in it and that they are so divided on this as they are on so many issues. So it's up to the government to confirm today are they committed to seeing the cash ban bill through and if so, when are they going to bring It on?
STEPHEN JONES: The problem that the government has with the cash ban bill is that the conservatives within their own party room and the National Party are dead opposed to it. So with this issue, as with so many issues. They are so divided that they can't move a bill through Parliament. It's why we say that Scott Morrison is the ad Man without a plan. Big on the big statements but when it comes to the detail of getting legislation through Parliament he either can't or won't do the hard work that is necessary to win over the community and win over the support of his own party.