Bill's Transcripts




21 MAY 2013


Impact of Abbott cuts to superannuation on cleaners; minimum wage


BILL SHORTEN:       Good Morning everyone. I’m here with Marie, Anna and other representatives of commercial and domestic cleaners in Australia. We are here to talk about the dangerous and risky policies of the Opposition, which will see low-paid Australian workers – domestic cleaners, commercial cleaners, laundry workers – take a real hit in their hip pocket for their retirement savings.

The Abbott conservatives have said that they want to tax people who are earning less than $37,000. They want to put a new superannuation tax on their contributions of 15 per cent. This will hit 83,000 commercial, domestic cleaners and laundry workers. They are part of a larger group of 3.6 million Australians who will end up paying more tax on their superannuation if the Abbott conservatives are successful at the next election.

Why on earth you’d want a group of workers, who clean our buildings, clean our houses, who are older than our average workforce, who are predominately female, who are lower paid than the average wages in Australia, many of whom are migrants who’ve worked hard to make Australia their new country – so you’ve got lower-paid workers, more women workers, part-time workers, predominately migrant workers, people who make Australia the envy of the world – and the Abbott conservatives are proposing to make low-paid cleaners pay 15 per cent  more tax on their superannuation.

Also the Abbott conservatives are proposing that if they are elected, they will delay increasing people’s retirement savings from 9.25 to 10 per cent for the next two years at least. So what you’ve got is the Abbott conservatives are saying on one hand they want 3.5 million low-paid workers, including 83,000 cleaners, to pay more on their superannuation, thus, making it harder for them to retire on a decent income.

They want, actually, over 200,000 cleaners, who work full-time and part-time to have their superannuation payments frozen at 9.25 per cent. But on the other-hand the Abbott conservatives want to give back taxes to the richest mining companies in the world, whose buildings these cleaners clean.

They also want to propose in their first term opening up a debate about a goods and services tax, which they haven’t ruled out, and they still refuse to rule out, which only tells you they are thinking about doing it. And yet they want low-paid cleaners to pay more tax, have less money when they retire and they also want them to pay more with a goods and services tax whilst they look after the richest mining companies in the world. An Abbott government’s priorities are all wrong.

Happy to take questions. I’ve also got with me Anna and Marie, I don’t know if they wanted to say anything.

*Other speakers not transcribed*


REPORTER:              How vulnerable are cleaners, given their backgrounds, to exploitation in the workforce?

BILL SHORTEN:       Every night when Australians go home from the city back into the suburbs an army of modestly paid, hard-working cleaners come and make sure that everything is ok for the next day. Every building in Australia has a group of cleaners who come in, unseen, modestly paid, who work hard, to make sure that industry can roll the next day all around Australia.

There are 83,000 domestic, commercial cleaners, and laundry workers who earn less than $37,000 a year. They are part of a larger group of 3.5 million Aussies, who earn less than $37,000 a year that go to work and help make Australia the best country in the world.

It is crazy. It is stupid. It is unfair for the Abbott conservatives to say they want to put a new 15 per cent tax on the money that these hard-working employees put aside for retirement.

The Australian dream should not be the Australia nightmare of not having enough money when you retire. The Abbott conservatives are proposing a nightmare of retirement savings. They want to freeze people’s superannuation at 9.25 per cent. They want to make sure that low-paid people who earn less than $37,000 a year bizarrely have to pay more tax on their superannuation than they currently pay.

I think it is time for the message to go loud and clear to the Abbott conservatives - hands off the superannuation of Australian employees, pass the increases on when they are scheduled to, as you promised to do in February and in March. But then again we know you cannot trust the Abbott conservatives when it comes to the workplace conditions of Australian employees. They’ve got form on this and they will again commit the same mistakes and hurt low-paid workers as they did when they were last in power, in Canberra.

REPORTER:              Paul Keating said that superannuation should go to 15 per cent. Is that something Labor would look at?

BILL SHORTEN:       First of all we need to get it to go to 12 per cent. Mr Keating and I speak on a regular basis; he would agree with me that it is savings lunacy not to increase superannuation in the increments we’ve scheduled. Mr Keating recognises that most Australians don’t have enough saved for their retirement yet. And what’s crazy about the Liberal proposition is on one hand Mr Abbott says we want low-paid workers to have superannuation increases delayed, on one hand he says that he wants low-paid people to pay more tax on their superannuation.

On the other hand he says to the richest mining companies in the world, we will give you tax refunds, we want you the mining companies to pay less tax. But we want the people who clean the buildings of the mining companies to pay more tax and he is still playing with this dangerous idea of forcing every Australian to pay more on a goods and services tax, while he keeps handing back mining tax refunds to the largest mining companies in the world.

Mr Keating knows what these cleaners know, what I know, we need to increase superannuation because there is no free lunch in Australia when it comes to retirement incomes. If Mr Abbott freezes, as his promised to do recklessly, like a wrecking ball, like a bull in a china shop on superannuation- if he does that to superannuation, we’ll all have to pay more taxes for the increase in the aged pension anyway.

So there’s no free lunch. Why not take your hands of superannuation Mr Abbott and just let Australian employees earn enough so they can be independent in retirement.

REPORTER:              Do you support an ACTU push for an increase of $30 a week for the minimum wage.

BILL SHORTEN:       The Government’s put in its submission about the minimum wage. We’ve said we believe with modest wages growth, low inflation and productivity improvement, that there should be some increase in the minimum wage. But we’ll also let the independent umpire make the final decision.


I know one thing though when it comes to the conservatives, they will ensure that in terms of the working conditions of Australia’s employees who are not paid a lot of money that when it comes to superannuation, they’ve never liked compulsory superannuation. They always vote against increasing compulsory superannuation. They’ve already broken a promise before they even get into government if they get elected on September 14th that they will not touch superannuation.


So I know one thing, if you are a low-paid Australian worker, there is no way that it is your interests to vote for the Abbott conservatives because they are not interested in you.


REPORTER:              Employers seem to be saying that they want the increases in superannuation to be offset with no increases in the minimum wage. Do you think there can be both, increases in both?

BILL SHORTEN:       History shows that from between 1992 and 2002 when superannuation was increased from 3 to 9 per cent, again opposed by the Liberals, the conservatives, that we saw an increase in real wages, we saw an increase in productivity, we saw an increase in business profit as a share of GDP and unemployment fell. This argument that superannuation is a tax on business is just a lie.

REPORTER:              The Financial Services Council last month threatened an industry campaign just before Labor announced its changes. Did you expect a similar thing now that the Liberals have announced a freeze on the increase?


BILL SHORTEN:       I know that the large superannuation funds, both the banks, the industry funds, also low-paid workers are all united. Australia should not have to make everyone depend on the age pension, Australians should not have to face the choice of paying more taxes to pay for the age pension when we’ve got a system that works, the best system in the world, where we encourage Australians to save for their own retirement.


Mr Abbott on superannuation is in the flat earth brigade, just as he is on a range of other issues. He wants to take Australian backwards. Australians should be supported and encouraged to save for their retirement. That means that they will have more financial independence and dignity in retirement, but it also means there will be less pressure on the age pension. It also means Australian companies will have more domestic investors so they don’t have to rely on borrowing money from overseas.


Superannuation is as Australian as the green and gold, as the emu and the kangaroo, and Mr Abbott should take his hands off one of the things which makes Australia the best countries in the world.