MONDAY, 18 JULY 2016
SUBJECT/S: Superannuation; Secret Coalition agreement; Kevin Rudd’s nomination for UN Secretary-General; Herbert
BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon. After the Budget was brought down on May 3, Labor attacked many of the changes proposed by Mr Turnbull concerning superannuation. Labor said that these changes in the Budget were chaotic and unprecedented. They were made with zero consultation and they dangerously undermined what experts recognised to be one of the best systems in the world for retirement savings and security. When you have the entire system’s confidence being undermined by unprecedented and chaotic, and indeed arguably retrospective changes, then everyone is affected. And Australians are now left to guess what next with Mr Turnbull's stewardship of superannuation.
And superannuation's too important to be left to the realm of the unpredictable and the uncertain. All through the election Mr Turnbull backed in his changes heavily including in national debates with myself where he supported iron clad his changes to superannuation.
But now the election is over, it's only taken two weeks or so for these superannuation changes to unravel with many Liberal backbenchers deeply unhappy at what the changes are that were made in the Budget of May 3. Mr Turnbull needs to restore confidence in our superannuation system; it is very important to millions of Australians. Mr Turnbull needs to take Labor's advice, he needs to listen to the people of Australia and have an independent review of the superannuation changes and report this review to Parliament.
Labor will work constructively with Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison to ensure that changes to superannuation are neither retrospective nor throw people's planning into complete chaos. This matter is one which the Government needs to address as a first-order priority when Parliament resumes in August. Happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: Are the changes being mooted by the Government sensible?
SHORTEN: Well, what happened is that the Government said these changes only affect a relatively small number of superannuation account holders, but what's clear is that the experts have said the changes affect a lot more people, and furthermore that lot of these change appear on their face to be retrospective. In other words people have made investment decisions based upon one set of laws, now what they're required to do with these latest changes in the Budget, Mr Turnbull's Budget, is that they have to go back and they're going to be penalised for decisions they made based in good faith on previous laws. Now Mr Turnbull says these changes are not retrospective. If that is the case, let us have an independent review which reports to the Parliament because many experts are saying exactly the opposite, that the transition to retirement and other measures proposed by this Government are simply retrospective in nature. And also what the Government seems to be relying upon is that these changes only affect only a few people. The problem that they don't understand is that when you make retrospective changes even if it's to a relatively small group of people, then it leaves everyone in the system guessing well who's next.
JOURNALIST: What superannuation changes will Labor back?
SHORTEN: Well we outlined our policies which we took to the election. We think that at the very top end the concessions are excessively generous. But we think it's the best possible model that the changes should be prospective. People shouldn't be penalised, as a principle, people shouldn't be penalised merely because they invested in good faith under one set of laws. It is a bit like playing a game of football and then towards the end of the siren they go back and change the rules at halftime. People can't make investment decisions on retirement savings based upon retrospective changes. This just goes to the division in the Liberal Party room at the moment. We saw Mr Turnbull's address to the Party room this morning. He quite frankly looked like a deer in the headlights. There's clearly a lot of unhappy people in the Liberal Party, unhappy with the policies on superannuation amongst other matters. I offer in good faith to the Parliament of Australia and to Mr Turnbull that if we do an independent review, let's get the best experts in Australia around the table. They do a review and a report to Parliament; we will work with Mr Turnbull to fix up this omnishambles.
Another example I think are the problems that the Liberals have at the moment is they still stubbornly refuse to reveal the agreement they've made with Barnaby Joyce and the National Party. This Coalition agreement is the argument upon which Mr Turnbull justifies forming a Government, the Coalition. This agreement is very important, it stabilises the Government. I don't think it is a very good start for this Government with the Australian people that the document which underpins the stability of the Government, the document upon which Australians depend for stability from Mr Turnbull's Government, that this is kept as a secret. If Mr Turnbull does not trust the Australian people, how can the Australian people in turn trust Mr Turnbull?
JOURNALIST: Does the Labor Party support Kevin Rudd's push to be UN Secretary-General?
SHORTEN: I think that Mr Turnbull should put the national interest first and support an Australian. The Turnbull Government has to decide if it's an Australian Government or a Liberal Government. If it's an Australian Government, it will support the Australian. If it's a Liberal Government, it won't back the Australian because of petty political reasons. Australians have had enough of that.
JOURNALIST: So you do think it would be petty if Cabinet vetoed Kevin Rudd's push?
SHORTEN: Mr Turnbull needs to tell Australia are they going to be a Government for all Australians or just for the Liberal Party? If they're going to be a Government for all Australians they'll support the Australian on the international stage. If they're just going to be a petty Liberal Government then they won't back the Australian for petty political reasons.
JOURNALIST: How can Labor support Kevin Rudd when he's been described within his own party as being a megalomaniac? Is that someone that you actually want running the UN?
SHORTEN: Well I do think Mr Rudd is suitably qualified from his experiences in Government and on the international stage. I think this is a marvellous opportunity for Australians to have an Australian in the United Nations in a senior position. In New Zealand Mr Turnbull's equivalent over there is happy to back a former Labour Prime Minister for the UN. I just wish that an Australian Government would show the same non-partisan backbone that New Zealand is showing in support of New Zealanders. Perhaps I might take one more question.
JOURNALIST: You think Kevin Rudd would do well against Helen Clark?
SHORTEN: Well, every country in the world will be consulted and it will be dealt with at the UN. I think that we should be supporting an Australian, full stop.
JOURNALIST: And just on Herbert, there's only 12 votes in it, I understand. Can you win Herbert?
SHORTEN: It's very close. I don't think anyone can know who's going to win Herbert at this stage. It is very close. I congratulate Cathy O'Toole on the campaign that she's run. There's been a sizable swing to Labor. Whether or not it's enough, well the answer is in the mail isn't it. We'll find out what our interstate and international absentee voters have determined. I want to thank the AEC for the work they're doing. Have a nice day.
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