Bill's Transcripts

Doortsop: Everleigh - Abbott Government cuts to the pension; Abbott Government’s broken promise on pensions




FRIDAY, 26 JUNE 2015


SUBJECT/S: Abbott Government cuts to the pension; Abbott Government’s broken promise on pensions; Superannuation; ABC; Australia Post.


BILL SHORTEN, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Good afternoon everyone. Great to be at the ACOSS conference, ACOSS working so hard to speak up for people in this society. Today, I talked about the Government's so-called pension reforms. New research today from NATSEM reveals that the case for the Government's changes, that they were going to get all these millionaires off pensions has shown to be a complete myth, a usual set of Government slogans with no actual evidence.


0.3 per cent of all pensioners, 0.3 per cent of all pensioners have assets over $1 million and the real problem with these changes is that over a million Australians both now and in the future are going to have their part pension really severely slashed.


The Government's created new poverty traps where the incentive for people now, 700,000 people, one in every two potential retirees in the next 10 years, the message to them from Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison is don't save money because you won't get a part pension. Their message is don't save money and go onto the full pension.


I think this is a disaster for the idea of encouraging people on modest incomes to save money for their retirement. The Government is cutting pensions, which they specifically promised, the Prime Minister and Mr Abbott said before the election no changes to pensions, no cuts to pensions and we see the legislation that's gone through Canberra this week is going to damage a million people from his broken promises.


Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: So will Labor reverse the pension changes to the assets threshold if its elected?


SHORTEN: We’re going to have to see how much money is left in the Budget at the time of the election. As you would appreciate though, Labor has had a significant policy of review and consultation led by  formidable Jenny Macklin the Shadow Spokesperson for Pensions and Families. So closer to the election we'll announce what we're going to do across the range of our issues, it's very important. But there's no doubt that Mr Abbott broke his promise from before the last election. There is no doubt that 330,000 part and full pensioners are going to lose significant sums of money. People are only getting $15,000 or $20,000 a year. There's no doubt that one and two people contemplating retirement, over the age of 50 in the next decade, are worse off because of Mr Abbott and Mr Morrison.


JOURNALIST: What about superannuation changes announced today? Where does Labor stand on these changes that would see big funds appoint an independent director, an independent chairman, where does Labor stand on those [inaudible]?


SHORTEN: There they go again, the Abbott Government interfering with our superannuation system. Let's get some facts into this debate. The superannuation industry in Australia is, I think, north of $1.6 trillion, our money, Australians money, $1.6 trillion. That money is being administered very well. We've seen superannuation funds including industry funds deliver some great returns to their members over the last two years. But here's the Government putting politics ahead of the case for change and what they're trying to do is interfere with some of these funds and the governance structure.


We will consider the Government’s proposals carefully but one question which needs to be asked of the Government right now, this is a $1.6 trillion industry, when you look at all the retail and industry funds they cover the vast bulk of that money. Why on earth is Mr Abbott interfering with the administration and the governance of people's retirement savings? What is his case for change? What is the problem they're trying to solve? What is the benefit that they can prove to people they'll get?


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, what did you think of Mark Scott's speech in defence of the ABC last night?


SHORTEN: Well I didn't see all the words of the speech, but what I certainly know is that it would have been addressed to the issue around Q&A on Monday night. Let me state for the record the following principles. One, ABC Q&A show got it wrong when they put that fellow on TV and gave him a platform for some of his views. That was a mistake, no ifs, no buts. I do wonder why some of the other networks are also giving this fellow air time. If it was wrong to do it on the ABC, I'm not sure what the case is to give him further platforms. But beyond that, the ABC is independent of government. It is not a propaganda arm of government. So whilst I think it is right to be critical of the Q&A audience proposals and who they put in the audience I am not satisfied that it warrants the full-on attack against the independence of the ABC.


JOURNALIST: So should heads roll over Q&A, as Tony Abbott has said?


SHORTEN: I think you and I and most Australians know that Tony Abbott overreached with those sort of sentiments. I think if he had his time again Mr Abbott wouldn't use such clumsy language.


JOURNALIST: What’s your reaction to Australian Post announcing today 1,900 voluntary redundancies over the next three years, is that concerning?


SHORTEN: Yes, it is really, really sad news for people who may have worked for Australia Post for 10, 20 and 30 years. Now I get that they're voluntary redundancies. What I also believe though, is that the Government has an obligation to help these people transition to other work. I don't know all the circumstances of all the people losing their jobs, but I do know that when redundancies occur, when men and women in their late 40s or 50s are told you no longer have a job, it is important that the government do everything they can and Labor will assist them, to help find other work. We cannot be a nation who says to people in their late 40s and 50s you're expendable, that we view that you have nothing more left to contribute. Government has a job, an obligation to help these people find new work and Labor's prepared to work with the Government to do it because there's nothing more important than getting someone into a job.


JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison suggested this morning that the private sector needs to do more by way of investment in social services. What do you think about that as a proposition?


SHORTEN: Well if Mr Morrison is saying that private companies are not doing enough charity, that's up for him and the private sector to work out. What I am concerned though is I don't believe that merely encouraging the private sector to do work should absolve Mr Morrison and Mr Abbott of their obligations as leaders of Australia. The truth of the matter is we're one of the richest countries in the world but that prosperity does not extend to all Australians. I don't take the view that everyone on welfare is a bludger, is a rorter, is somehow a cheat.


I think that the Government has an obligation, that's what they're elected to do, to ensure that we have a strong safety net, to ensure that people with families are not finding it too hard to work through the cuts to family payments, that we don't see parents who've got their children in early years of child care not seeing their funding cut. I think we have an obligation to make sure that older Australians get the opportunity to participate. I also believe that we need to make sure that people in irregular or casual work don't get forgotten, too. So there's a big job of work for the Government. I appreciate if Mr Morrison wants to give advice to the private sector about what they're not doing but I also need Mr Morrison to focus on his day job, which is to look after people, not mug them.


Thanks everyone.