15 September 2016
Transcript - #2016055, 2016

Interview with Rafael Epstein, 774 ABC, Drive

SUBJECTS: Superannuation, plebiscite, unemployment rate, Pauline Hanson

RAF EPSTEIN:

Good afternoon.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Good afternoon Raf.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Why did you break the superannuation promise but keep the plebiscite promise?

KELLY O’DWYER:

We said before the election that the package of measures that we announced in the Budget we would consult on, that we would consult on their implementation, which is what we have been doing. We have been doing that with our colleagues. Our colleagues, of course, represent many, many constituents. We have been receiving feedback from the industry, and what we’ve brought forward is a superannuation system that will be even fairer, it will be more flexible and it will be more sustainable over the long term. And it will also keep our commitment to ensure the primary objective of superannuation, which is to provide retirement income that either substitutes or supplements for the aged pension rather than an estate planning vehicle used by high wealth individuals.

RAF EPSTEIN:

During the campaign, the Treasurer was specifically asked about the half million dollar limit that’s now gone. He said “no changes”, you heard the Prime Minister there say it was ironclad. On what basis, you’re effectively arguing that you’ve had a look at the policy and on the merits, you’re going to break that promise, but you don’t break the promise on the plebiscite. Which promises get kept and which promises are not kept?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Let me say this, in the 45th Parliament, our objective is to make sure that we can get sensible reforms through the Parliament. We know that Labor didn’t reveal its position on superannuation before the election. They told people that they would have to wait until after the election to hear what their actual policy was, despite declaring, as Bill Shorten did in April 2015, that the announcement they made regarding superannuation and its tax treatment was going to be the only changes that Labor would make. We have been very upfront in saying we would always consult on the implementation of the package. We want the package to go through, we think it’s a very important package that delivers more flexibility to average Australians to be able to save for their retirement and we are absolutely delivering on that commitment. We’re not going to say, Raf, that if there are sensible modifications that can be made to the package, that we will be wilfully blind to that –

RAF EPSTEIN:

But not sensible modifications to the plebiscite.

KELLY O’DWYER:

I don’t think that this is comparable because we took a very clear –

RAF EPSTEIN:

Can I slow you down there Kelly O’Dwyer because I’m actually a fan of the superannuation changes, and Labor’s agreed to them, but I think overall there’s money going to the lower end –

KELLY O’DWYER:

Labor haven’t agreed to them, Raf. They haven’t.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Let’s leave Labor aside. Overall, there’s some money going to the lower end. However I just don’t understand. When you make a promise in an election, which one do you keep? Because the plebiscite is ironclad. This one’s not ironclad. The only conclusion I can come to is whatever the right wing of your party wants, that determines which promises are kept.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well with the greatest of respect Raf, repeating Labor’s lines on this, I think does you no justice.

RAF EPSTEIN:

They’re not Labor’s lines Kelly O’Dwyer, they’re mine, I write my own questions.

KELLY O’DWYER:

What I would say is we took a very clear position on the plebiscite to the election. We said that we respect the Australian people and we will give them an opportunity to have their say on this important change to the Marriage Act. My personal view on it, is that I believe there should be a change to the Marriage Act and I will be strongly advocating for a change to the Marriage Act. And I want the plebiscite to go ahead on 11 February, to not be blocked by the Labor Party so we can solve this issue and we can see a change go through the Parliament.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Can I ask this question a different way. You’re willing to consult on superannuation and that’s what you say has caused these changes –

KELLY O’DWYER:

It’s a modification, Raf.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Let me finish my question – have you consulted, has the Coalition Government consulted with any significant LGBTI group and got them pushing for you to go ahead with the plebiscite, because there’s a tonne of LGBTI groups who don’t want it to happen. So you’ve consulted on super and changed, you refuse to consult on the plebiscite.

KELLY O’DWYER:

So what I would say to you is, I mean Raf, you’re sort of wanting to damn us on both ends of the spectrum here, because you want to say if you break a promise that’s terrible, which I don’t think we have done in this instance, and you want to be able to say on the other hand, you should break more promises. We’ve made a very clear commitment to the Australian people regarding the plebiscite, we’ve made a clear commitment, we’re going to deliver it. We’ve made a clear commitment regarding superannuation, we think there needs to be more reforms to make it better targeted, to make it fairer, to make it more flexible, but also to be sustainable over the long term. And that is exactly what we’re delivering in this package. We’re not going to put a handbrake on people’s aspirations to save for retirement. Instead of having a $500,000 non-concessional lifetime cap, we’re saying, we’re going to allow people to contribute $100,000 every year or $300,000 on a bring forward, which is the way the existing rules operate, but at a much higher level. But we’re saying you can only do that with your after-tax contributions if you’ve got less than $1.6 million in your superannuation balance. Which means that anyone who has the aspiration to get to the transfer balance cap, so that in their retirement they can have tax-free earnings, we are not limiting them. And I think that is a very sensible reform, a very sensible change, and that is why we have announced it today. We also have announced that we are absolutely committed to giving people the flexibility and opportunity to catch-up on their concessional contributions. This is the $25,000 concessional contribution that people will be able to make from 1 July next year. But we are delaying it for 12 months in order to be able to pay for this package so it will start from 1 July 2018. The reason this is important is because people who might’ve taken time out of the workforce because they’re caring for an elderly parent, or because they have had a child and they’ve got parental responsibilities, they will be able to top it up on a rolling five year basis if they’ve got less than $500,000 in their superannuation. We want people to be able to save for their retirement and we’re giving them the tools to be able to do that.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Can I ask you an economics question, but it’s also about Pauline Hanson actually. I don’t want to go into the specifics of her maiden speech, however, we’ve got a long term problem in this country. We create lots of part time jobs and not many full time jobs. The latest unemployment figure came out today, the headline rate is quite good. However, there are less hours being worked in this month than there were in December. So there’s less hours being worked across the population this month, than at the end of last year. Isn’t one of the problems that the numbers are quite decent and we’ve got a good growth rate compared to the rest of the world, however, everyone’s slice of that pie is getting smaller – that’s why people are voting for Pauline Hanson?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well, we can speculate on the reasons why people vote for Pauline Hanson and I’ll leave that to you, the commentator, to be able to do that. But you’re absolutely right to say that we have, in Australia, got fantastic growth figures of more than 3%, which of course completely outpaces, twice that of Canada, twice that of the US, it outpaces the other G7 countries and outpaces the OECD as well. That is something we’re very proud of and it’s a great achievement and we need to continue to keep that going. And the way we do that is to get our economic settings right. To make sure we need to encourage –

RAF EPSTEIN:

Forgive me for interrupting Kelly, but it’s not creating more work, it’s creating some good numbers but it’s not creating more work and that’s what people need, they need more hours.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well it certainly has created jobs, there’s no question it’s created jobs. When you have more investment in the economy, you can create more jobs and this is at the heart of our plan –

RAF EPSTEIN:

Can I just interrupt you again, forgive me, but it’s only in this month there’s been an increase in full time jobs. I think every other month this year, the number of full time jobs has gone down. I agree with you that the numbers are really good, the GDP rate is good, the unemployment figure is good. The problem is, it’s not actually benefiting people. There’s the same number of hours being worked by more people. The slice of the pie is shrinking.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well it is in fact benefiting people, and the point I was going to make was that we are encouraging people through our tax enterprise plan, where we are providing incentives for businesses, particularly small and medium sized businesses, to invest in their businesses and create more jobs. We are absolutely targeting the way that we are providing tax cuts to them, to ensure that we can actually deliver more jobs in our economy. That is exactly at the heart of our growth plan.

RAF EPSTEIN:

But it hasn’t happened so far.

KELLY O’DWYER:

We’re delivering it. We’ve just had an election. We’re delivering on it now.

RAF EPSTEIN:

What’s Malcolm Turnbull’s biggest achievement in 12 months?

KELLY O’DWYER:

Well I think he’s had many achievements but certainly in my own area, what I would say is that we have had a massive achievement when it comes to tackling multinationals and tax avoidance. We were able to pass through the Parliament multinational anti-avoidance laws, which operate now as of 1 January this year. This means that big multinationals who were profit shifting and trying to take their profits offshore can’t do that. The Australian Taxation Office can raise assessments on them, and they are doing that as we speak. Again, in my portfolio area, the Serious Financial Crimes Taskforce was set up under Malcolm Turnbull with me as Minister and the Minister for Justice, to tackle and combat financial crime. It’s been going for 12 months. Already we have seen very significant results from that. We’ve seen four people jailed, more than $130 million in liabilities raised. We have very significant audits that have been undertaken. There are 19 joint operations on foot because it’s a regulatory and law enforcement multi-agency taskforce. And if it’s anything like Project Wickenby which raised liabilities of more than $2 billion, it will be a massive, massive achievement that’s already happening just in 12 months.

RAF EPSTEIN:

Kelly O’Dwyer, thank you for your time, I know it’s been a busy day.

KELLY O’DWYER:

Great to be with you Raf.