Bill Shorten: Press Club Q and A – Canberra – 24 August 2016

SUBJECT/S: Superannuation…

JOURNALIST: Hi Mr Shorten, Phil Coorey from the Fin Review. Thanks for your speech. Just on super, and just at the end of your speech where you announced – you offered Scott Morrison a way through on a couple of things and so forth. I’ll just take you back, when you were Minister in charge of this area you proposed some changes to super and at the same time you said that should be it and we should leave super from here onwards in the hands of some independent guardians, and then a couple of years ago Mr Bowen, your Shadow Treasurer, was here, he announced a couple of changes that you took to the election, and then again you proposed not touching super, only every five years and having it overseen independently. Now we’ve got the Government still trying to finalise its policy, you’re offering more changes to try to get them through. Are we kidding ourselves to think that superannuation is just not going to become a punching bag between now and whenever the economy gets back on a strong footing, we don’t need to see it as a source of revenue?

SHORTEN: We certainly think that superannuation policy going forward should be a lot more transparent and a lot more generational in decision making. That’s why we like the idea of a Reserve Bank-style of policy making in superannuation which would report to the Parliament its proposed policies and its changes. But there’s no doubt that the system of tax concessions is not sustainable in its current form, and initially when we said that I think the Liberals sort of rubbished us. But then to my surprise they came up with some almost Chavez-like measures last Budget. Only four months ago, doesn’t time fly?

There’s no way Phil, I could have predicted that this Government would embrace the principle of retrospectivity. The last time I think we saw that was in bottom of the harbour tax schemes. The truth of the matter is that they’ve made such a hash of superannuation. And don’t take my word for it. Just take it from every backbencher who briefs you off the record, and some on the record. This retrospectivity has cast the whole system into confusion. Now, I get that a standard response might be to say ‘well the people affected by retrospectivity are relatively very well off’. The problem is it destabilises the whole system. Retrospectivity undermines everyone’s confidence in superannuation. So Phil, I couldn’t have predicted that the Liberal Party of Howard would then turn into the sort of retrospective law makers of Turnbull and Morrison, and really, you know and I know and certainly I occasionally read the editorials in your paper – the David Rowe cartoon is always good – you know, they, your paper is fulminating against retrospectivity. So something’s got to give here. We’ve got to fix this.

They have got themselves into a dreadful hash. What I find amazing is that the Liberal solution is, you know, do they tackle retrospectivity which they – they don’t want to admit they’re wrong, but then they’re proposing that you should have a million dollars. Then you’ve got Scott Morrison saying he couldn’t in all conscience tell his kids he’d agree to have $1 million in terms of – with the favourable treatment. I agree with him on that. But in all conscience, we can’t tell people that they’ve invested under one set of laws, can we, and the goal posts get changed between and people have invested in good faith? So, this is a mess of the Government’s making. We’ll help fix up their retrospectivity and we’ve also proposed sensible ways to make sure that our superannuation tax concession scheme is sustainable.


JOURNALIST: Mr Shorten, just on your super position that you articulated today, is that it? I just wanted to clarify is this your final position on super? Will you then vote against what the Government puts to Parliament unless they change some change?

SHORTEN: We hope that the Government actually sits down and talks to us about this, full stop. It should be it. I can’t predict what this Government is going to produce, though. If we had had a sporting bet about the Government going down the path of retrospective legislation, could I have got any takers for it? You couldn’t get odds on it. You will probably get better odds for Giles getting elected in the Northern Territory. That is the fact of the matter. So I can’t predict what is in the minds of the Government. But what I say to them is this, superannuants, not just the people affected, but everyone, are sick and tired of the system being mucked about with. But this retrospectivity issue is very destabilising, it is not a matter about the amount of money, there is a principal going on there. We’ve come up with a solution and we have improved the Budget bottom line too. And we say to the Government and this is the thrust of today’s speech, on the things that we fair about like Medicare, well we are going to fight every day. But where we can get cooperation or negotiation we will do that too. And I think on superannuation, just like on the banking royal commission and if they could actually back down on their cuts to Medicare and if they could just, just get themselves off the hook they’re on in terms of this plebiscite. I think they would get a lift in respect of the public. It may not be in our short-term interest but it’s in the nations long-term interest and that is who I am.