17 April 2020


SUBJECTS: Biloela family; superannuation; financial services regulation.

ANNELISE NIELSEN, HOST: Joining us live is Shadow Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones. Thank you for your time.


NIELSEN: Just briefly before we get onto economic topics, that Biloela is still in limbo. What do you think should happen now? 

JONES: I think most Australians want to see, and more importantly the community in Biloela have been very opening to this family. I think they have been held on Christmas Island in detention for long enough. They're no threat to the community. They have well integrated. I think we should be doing the right thing by that little girl and her family and bring them here.

NIELSEN: This is a tough time for the Government managing the economy. It is unprecedented as they continue to say and they were receiving briefings yesterday in cabinet from head of Treasury and the Reserve Bank Governor to be looking at how to get out of this on the other side. You have some particular concerns around the comments that the Prime Minister has made about the Transport Workers Union being told to start accessing their superannuation if they're struggling to keep Virgin going.

JONES: There was some confused signals that went out last about Virgin Australia, about superannuation and about related matters. Virgin Australia  employees fifteen-sixteen thousand workers. We all want to see two airlines existing at the other end of this crisis and we all want to ensure that each and every one of those 15,000 workers are retained in employment. Whether it's a market solution, whether it's the Government providing some assistance, or whether it's a combination of both the objective here is to be to ensure that the workers remain in employment and Australian domestic travellers enjoy two competing airlines driving prices of airline travel down. As to superannuation, it's got an important part to play throughout the crisis. In those exceptional circumstances hardship payments will be available through workers accessing their superannuation funds. I've been critical of it, but it's up and running now and goes live on Monday. We want to ensure that it works smoothly, efficiently and it is only used for those genuine hardship circumstances. Superannuation on the other side of the crisis has got a huge role to play. Our three trillion dollar superannuation system has transformed this country, it's turned us from a country the borrows from the rest of the world to a country which is able to save enough money for domestic investments. This year with the first year since Federation where we've actually saved more money than we've had to import from savers overseas. Superannuation funds are going to be relied upon to invest in the infrastructure and the productive investment that is going to get this country moving again once the crisis passes. We've got to ensure that that sector along with our banking and other crucial parts of the economy are in good shape. What that means is ensuring no knee-jerk changes in policy, long-term policy settings to ensure that the superannuation funds can do the things that they do well, that's to invest in ensure that we continue can continue to create wealth, not only for the fund members, but for the economy as a whole.

NIELSEN: It's interesting, the point you raised there, because there is increasing pressure on regulators at the moment to try to have as much oversight when people are doing things that have never been done before and hopefully never happened again. Even ASIC has been pulling out the supervisors and banks that are supposed to be overseeing what's happening after the Banking Royal Commission. We've seen a wind back in financial advice restrictions, so it's extended to more people including accountants. Are you at all concerned about the oversight from our regulators at the moment

JONES: Some mixed messages have been coming out, I've got to say. I welcome the fact that ASIC sent warning the week before last to real estate agents that they're not financial advisors and they shouldn't be giving financial advice about accessing superannuation. I've got to say the relaxation in some of the advice to financial advisors, accountants, tax advisors later this week was a little bit concerning and I've asked ASIC for further information on this. I guess my overarching point is that we don't want to see recommendations and the learnings of the Royal Commission, we don't want to see the significant steps that have been made to strengthen our financial institutions and protect financial consumers over the last 12 months thrown to the wind in the understandable need to ensure we respond quickly in the midst of an economic crisis. There's still going to be in need financial protections for consumers. In fact now more than ever and we want to ensure that knee-jerk reactions don't do more harm than good. Message to regulators, message to consumers, message to intermediaries to ensure that we still have a robust financial system and that consumers are still protected, not only through this crisis, but at the other end of it as well.

NIELSEN: It really is just an extraordinary challenge, isn't it? Stephen Jones, thank you for your time.

JONES: Good to be with you.