SKY NEWS AFTERNOON AGENDA
MONDAY, 3 FEBRUARY 2020
SUBJECTS: Sports Rorts Scandal, the Government’s Inaction on the Banking Royal Commission, Superannuation Guarantee.
KIERAN GILBERT: Welcome back to the program. Joining me now is the Shadow Assistant Treasurer and Shadow Minister for Financial Services, Stephen Jones. We've got a lot to talk about. It's a year on from the Banking Royal Commission, I'll get to that in a moment. But first on the sports program, the Government has moved, the Prime Minister has axed a Cabinet Minister, but that obviously is not going to be enough to placate the Labor party this week. This will be your priority, won’t it? To try and throw as much mud as possible.
STEPHEN JONES: There's obviously a lot more to this story, to this scandal, than Bridget McKenzie's membership of a particular shooting club and that's allegedly what she resigned for. There was the bias that was revealed by the Auditor-General's report, but I think there's a number of other issues that we need to follow up. It’s quite clear from the leaks from McKenzie's own office that the directions were coming from the Prime Minister's office. So more needs to be revealed on what's going on there. I think there's a public interest in finding out exactly what the Prime Minister and his office were directing in this whole affair.
GILBERT: The information that we've heard from her office wasn't in fact that the directions were coming from the Prime Minister's office. In fact that they just helping to coordinate requests from MPs as my colleague Andrew Clennel reported. He spoke to a whistle-blower who is in her office and that whistle-blower said that they had raised the alarm bells about the program repeatedly, but in terms of the Prime Minister’s involvement or the office involvement that was minimal.
JONES: We don't accept that, no. We think that the Prime Minister’s office at least has been far more directional in all of this and frankly you've been in this place long enough to know that if somebody from the Prime Minister's office rings up or sends a message to a Minister's office saying we'd like to see something happen, that's not a suggestion, that's actually a direction. More needs to be looked at in terms of what's gone on there. Bridget McKenzie's fallen on a sword, the minute after she did that you saw the Deputy Prime Minister of this country stand up and say well actually none of the decisions that she made were wrong, defending everything that had gone on through the sports rorts affair. It's almost as if the Auditor-General's scathing report had never happened. The minister might have gone but the culture hasn't and what is to prevent the whole tawdry affair from repeating again?
GILBERT: But the culture is, sadly, something that we've seen across the party divide. It's a culture of pork-barrelling that's been around for a lot longer than I care to remember.
JONES: It is the National Party’s entire reason for being. You had Darren Chester in this seat a few hours ago actually making that point. It is the National Party's entire reason for being, getting people into National Party seats, getting key portfolios and using those portfolios to pork-barrel their electorates. That's what they do.
GILBERT: When you say Darren Chester made that point what are you leaning to?
JONES: Well, he said you might call it pork-barrelling, I call it something very different. I think were his exact words. Yeah, we do call it pork-barrelling and that's exactly what the National Party do. Look at every single one of the portfolios that they're responsible for. Regional Jobs and Investment Program, Regional Growth Fund the Community Grants Fund, the Infrastructure Fund and all of them, they do exactly the same thing.
GILBERT: Let's look at the other issues I want to talk about. The Royal Commission. It's one year on from the Banking Royal Commission. Six of 76 recommendations are being fully implemented, but isn't the sort of issue that you're dealing with where of course there's a lot of complexity involved in establishing all of the findings out of the Hayne Royal Commission's. It’s going to take time.
JONES: A big job of work needs to be done. I know Treasury officers are working flat out, but there's a couple of things that deserved much more urgency. We communicated to the Government very early on you'll have our complete cooperation, from a parliamentary sense, in seeing these bills move through the Parliament. Can I give you two examples that really matter at the moment? The first goes to the insurance industry, we need to place unfair contracts terms in legislation and apply that to the insurance industry and regulating the way that the insurance claims process occurs. We knew that we were walking into bushfire season, we knew that we are walking into a hail and flood season in this country, The government promised to get that legislation into the Parliament. They even put it on the agenda then inexplicably they pulled it in the last week of Parliament and prioritised putting through the union-busting bill, which had been voted down a fortnight earlier, inexplicably.
GILBERT: But you would expect the sector to step up here, wouldn't you, in terms of providing support? Surely the insurance companies won’t be ripping people off right now.
JONES: The insurance sector does have to step up and early reports are showing that they are doing most of the right things. I've got to say the claims handling process, is the steps that are sometimes once twice three steps removed from the companies themselves they need to be dragged within the sphere of regulation and that's exactly what the Royal Commission recommended. Whether it's the assessment, the cars that were damaged here in Canberra during the hail storm, the assessment of the business loss or the bush fire damage or the flood damage. All of those processes are often outside the regulation. We need to bring them in and ensure that consumers aren't being ripped off. It could’ve have been done, it hasn't been, just one example.
GILBERT: Another thing you've been you've been making the point on is the Superannuation Guarantee. It is scheduled to increase within the next 12 months or so in line with legislation. You don't want the Government to pause that again, but surely given house low wages growth has been, isn't it time to reconsider that Superannuation Guarante, because if the guarantee is increased won't that chip into people's cost of living because the wages have been so soft?
JONES: A couple of things to say about that. The Abbott Government froze the legislated increases in superannuation. They were set to increase, they froze them back in 2013-14. So the freeze has already been in place. It's already been delayed once. It has cost an average worker somewhere between sixty and a hundred thousand dollars already. Wages haven't taken off, you might have noticed that.
GILBERT: But even with the frozen Superannuation Guarantee wages have been flat.
JONES: Wages have not been not been sluggish because people are getting superannuation. We actually have a very good superannuation system in this country and we want to ensure that it gets better. We want to ensure that every worker, whether there are low, middle, or high income worker have access to a retirement nest egg. We don't believe that if we freeze or continue to freeze superannuation increases today, that aren't set to take place for another two to five years, that they're going to see a sudden uptake in in wages. Anybody who believesthat is living in fairyland. Workers deserve decent superannuation and a wage rise.