25 August 2020


SUBJECTS: Michael Sukkar; Richard Colbeck; Early access super scheme.

STEPHEN JONES MP, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: The Prime Minister is wearing a mask today, but he can't hide the fact that the Coalition is in shambles. You've got two senior ministers who have to be sacked. They're not up to the job. We've got Michael Sukkar who absolutely has to go. He's been caught red-handed using public office for private purpose. I can't understand for the life of me why the Prime Minister has not moved on Michael Sukkar already. You should come into the Parliament today and advise the House that he stood down the minister, the Assistant Treasurer. This is no ordinary minister with no ordinary portfolio. He's in charge of the Tax Office. The Tax Office is in charge of administering the early release superannuation scheme. Millions of dollars have been frauded from that scheme, millions of dollars have been defrauded from the scheme. Not one cent of compensation has been paid by the government to the members of those funds who have had their funds defrauded because of their sloppy administration of this scheme. He should have been sacked for that alone. But using public office for private purpose for a sleazy internal Liberal Party branch stacking purpose is frankly unforgivable. And then we got the hapless aged care minister Richard Colbeck. Frankly what is the prime minister waiting for. If any other minister of any other government had received a report and been sitting on a report for six months that said in our residential aged care system 5 out of every 10 residents are malnourished, do you think they’d just sit on it and do nothing? But seemingly the minister for aged care thinks this is okay. 5 out of every 10 resident of an aged care service are starving. In what country is that good enough? Yet seemingly event after event, blunder after blunder, Richard Colbeck keeps his job. So you’ve got Sukkar, you’ve got Colbeck sitting in their jobs while millions of Australians are losing theirs. Is this the prime minister's idea of a JobKeeper scheme? We also hear today the Coalition's in absolute shambles. You've got the National Party, and there's only 15 of them, they're all related, they're about as stable as a two-legged barstool and they can't work out who amongst them is going to run the show. We're in the middle of a global pandemic. We've got serious issues that we have to deal with. The prime minister is protecting to incompetent ministers and he's in unison with a mob the can't run themselves. The country deserves better than this.

JOURNALIST: On Richard Colbeck, if he just resigns the middle of a pandemic wouldn’t that just cause more uncertainty in the sector? How would that work.

JONES: We learned today that he has been sidelined anyway. Why is he keeping his job?

JOURNALIST: But how would it work? If you move on the age care minister during a pandemic, in the middle of an aged care sort of disaster, for want of a better word, wouldn't that just causes more confusion, more upheaval?

JONES: It's hard to think of a member of the Coalition, as hapless they are, that could be doing a worse job than Richard Colbeck. He has sat on a report for over six months that has told the government that 5 out of every 10 residents of an aged care service is being malnourished. If any other member of this place had got that, they'd been knocking down the doors of Cabinet saying this is not good enough we have to do something about them. So time and time and time again, Richard Colbeck has shown that he's not up to the job and not one single member of the Cabinet respects his authority. Time to move him on.

JOURNALIST: Just on the early access super scheme, we're hearing a lot of reports of people accessing that scheme who haven't technically qualified to be able to do that. What should happen in those in those cases?

JONES: Well, I blame the government. I don't blame the individuals who, because of the lax administration of the scheme and frankly members of this place running around telling people; this is free money, whether you're eligible or not go and access it because it's free money. Reckless and irresponsible. They should be sternly reprimanded by the government. Absolutely unacceptable. So I blame the government. I don't blame the individuals but the government is exposed these people to severe fines and penalties. Fines of up to 12 and a half thousand dollars, the potential of being whacked with a huge tax bill in the middle of a pandemic because the government wouldn't listen to advice and have administered this poorly thought-out scheme in an absolutely appalling manner.