01 September 2020


SUBJECTS: Kevin Rudd and Paul Keating; superannuation; Australian journalist detained in China; Australian wine.

STEPHEN JONES MP, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Yesterday two great Australian prime ministers Paul Keating and Kevin Rudd stood up to defend Australia superannuation system. A great Labor legacy, which is providing dignity for Australians in retirement. But it's also providing a three trillion dollar pool of national savings, which has been critical to growing our economy and seeing us through the COVID economic crisis. The government has now released data showing that over 32 billion dollars has been drawn out of this ill-fated and trouble-plagued early release scheme. That’s 32 billion dollars worth of privatised stimulus, 32 billion dollars, which is going to be costing young Australians dearly. Over 42 billion dollars in lost retirement savings. A 100 billion dollar slog to the budget down the track because people aren't going to have the retirement savings and you're going to be more reliant on the pension. We're going to look back on this early release scheme and think it was as dumb as the introduction of cane toads. Somebody had a good idea but decades later it's created an enormous problem. The early release scheme is going to be looking as dumb as the introduction of cane toads in years to come. We're not going to help the government break its election promise on superannuation. The government gave a commitment to retirees that it wouldn't cut superannuation and now they're trying to crab walk away from that commitment. Well, our commitment to Australian retirees is we're backing you and we're backing your superannuation. We will not help the government break its solemn promise. The government has really not got a very good story for retirees. It's been a disaster. They've stuffed up aged-care, they've frozen the pension and now they're coming after superannuation. Well our message to the government on each of these three things is you've got a big fight on your hands because we're on the side of retirees, we're on the side of older Australians.

JOURNALIST: In terms of the rise in super in July next year, do you concede that it could at least be problematic for some companies given their business environment trying to cope with that rise or is your view that it's just got to go ahead?

JONES: This has been baked in for well over a decade now and people have known it was coming. Let's just look at the numbers, for somebody on $50,000 a year you're looking at about $4.80 a week. This is a very modest increase indeed and entirely affordable, it’s been on the cards for a long period of time. The cost to business, small, the cost to individuals, huge over a lifetime after the government has already raided superannuation as privatised stimulus. We've got a big job to do to build up those superannuation savings again. Let's not forget the problem with an ageing population has not gone away, in fact, it's got worse. The problem with budget deficits have not gone away, they've got worse. The problem with government debt has not gone away, it's got worse. We need superannuation now more than ever.

JOURNALIST: The Australian journalist Cheng Lei detained in China. Does that show that the government was right to say Australians should be concerned about being arbitrarily detained in China?

JONES: Very worried about the situation. We're 100% backing the government and ensuring that our Australian citizens are getting sorts of support they deserve. Very concerned about this detention.

JOURNALIST: Are you concerned, from a Labor perspective, that it's taken two former Prime Ministers coming out rather than the current opposition leader to get a bit of traction on the super issue?

JONES: Look, last week I sat in the National Press Club with Anthony Albanese when he gave his address on older Australians. He spent a considerable amount talking about the importance of superannuation for older Australians. We are 100% committed to the SGL increases. We are 100% opposed to the government's plan to cut superannuation and our message to the government is if they break their election promise, they've got a big fight on their hands. 

JOURNALIST: Just quickly on Australian wine, I mean surely this latest wine investigation is just nonsense, Australian wines are some of the least subsidised in the world. 

JONES: This is a massive blow to our wine industry. I think the government, frankly, has mishandled this whole issue. We need to ensure that the government is doing everything within its power to restore relations and trade relations with China Australia has some of the best wine in the world. It's sought in restaurants and the finest restaurants all around the world. We know the consumers in China want to get their hands on Australia's great brands and Australia's great wines. We want to see the government doing everything within its power to normalise those relationships.