Doorstop - Canberra 22/7/19

July 22, 2019

MONDAY, 22 JULY 2019

SUBJECTS: Liberals’ latest attack on super; Newstart; Liberals playing politics with farmers

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Here we go again: the Liberals are clearly gearing up for another attack on the retirement incomes of Australian workers. The test for Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg today is to rule out changes to the legislated increase to workers' super, and not cave in to backbench pressure once again when it comes to the Superannuation Guarantee. The Liberals are gearing up to thieve money from the retirement incomes of Australian workers. At a time when company profits are very high and wages are incredibly stagnant, the Liberal Party wants less money going into wages and less money going into the retirement balances of people who work in this country. 
We call on the Liberal Party to get their hands off workers' super, to do something about stagnant wages in this country. We cannot have a situation where the Government of this country, which already presides over stagnant wages growth, now wants to rob Australian workers and their retirement incomes at the same time. We have high profits, we have stagnant wages and now the Liberal Party is coming after people's super. It's not good enough. 
This is an ambush on Australian workers. It was never mentioned in the election campaign.
Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg need to stand up immediately and guarantee that superannuation will go to 12 per cent on the current timetable. They need to give that assurance to Australian workers, who are already suffering under stagnant wages, that the Liberal Party are not coming after their superannuation at the same time. 
The Liberal Party has form when it comes to superannuation. They have never believed in it. The Labor Party created it. We will fight tooth and nail to defend it, so that Australian workers get the dignity in retirement that they need and deserve. That should not come at the expense of an ideological Liberal Party, which is always coming after retirement incomes of Australian workers. 
Today is the day that they need to rule out these changes. They need to say that they won't cave in to the backbench pressure once again, like they did on energy policy; guarantee the 12 per cent on the current timetable, so that Australian workers get the certainty and the retirement incomes that they need and deserve. 

JOURNALIST: It's expected the Government's final budget position might come in this week a little better than expected. Isn't now the time for Labor to be pushing for an increase in Newstart?
CHALMERS: The final budget position for the financial year we just finished will be known in September when those numbers are released. It is certainly true that very high iron ore prices, very high company profits and other factors mean that the Government has absolutely no excuse not to deliver on the commitments they've made, particularly as it relates to this year's surplus. We've said for some time that Newstart is inadequate. If you look right across the Australian community, it seems that really only Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison, the Liberal Party are the only ones who think that Newstart is adequate at $40 a day. We planned to take action on this had we won the election. Unfortunately we didn't win the election, so the ball is in the Government's court. They need to say to the Australian people why they think $40 a day is adequate. Our concern is that it's not enough to help people get back on their feet, and to help them find a job, to support themselves throughout that process. 
JOURNALIST: Labor's coming under pressure from many of its own supporters, who are saying Labor should be pushing for about $75 a week. Why not adopt that position for a solid increase and put a number on it?
CHALMERS: We've put a very strong position that we think that Newstart is inadequate. We think that it should be lifted. It's currently a barrier to people getting back on their feet and finding meaningful work. And so we've said for some time, we've been campaigning for an increase. Obviously, when we've said that we will review Newstart, it wasn't with an eye to cutting it. It was an eye to lifting it. We think that an increase for Newstart would play an important role in helping lift people out of poverty, helping them get themselves in the condition that they need to be in to find work. But it will also have an important economic impact as well, as it would help stimulate the economy, which is floundering under the Liberal Party. And by helping to stimulate the economy, it would create jobs. So there are lots of reasons for the Government to act. We would love it to be different but we are not the Government. The Government is in there for the next three years. Unemployed Australians need extra assistance now, so the ball is in the Government's court to act. 
JOURNALIST: Just quickly on superannuation, are you surprised to see Liberal backbenchers pushing for a delay in increases to super?
CHALMERS: The Liberal Party's got form when it comes to attacking retirement incomes. The Liberal Party's never believed in superannuation. At every turn, they've tried to undermine it. They've frozen super at its current level of 9.5 per cent - the Superannuation Guarantee. And there are extremists on the Liberal Party backbench who will do what they can to unwind super. The test is for Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison: will they cave in to backbench pressure from the usual extremists, when it comes to superannuation? Or will they say to Australian workers that we will guarantee a legislative increase to super that you had been promised, that you need and deserve to save for a decent retirement? The Government gives this excuse, all of a sudden they seem to have discovered that wages are stagnant this country - they've been stagnant for years now on the Liberal Party's watch. When companies make profits that can go into wages, it can go into superannuation, or it can be retained by the companies themselves. The Liberal Party never wants to see the fair distribution of company profits to workers, whether it be in their retirement incomes, whether it be via their wages. We see more of that now. It's time for the Government to lock in the legislated increase.
JOURNALIST: And just on the Future Drought Fund, Anthony Albanese has said he'd happily see that legislation pass in an hour if new appropriations are being put behind it. Is there some kind of middle ground that can be found to get this legislation through, given both the Government and Labor want to see it happen?
CHALMERS: We've got an open mind to making sure that farmers get the relief that they need from this devastating drought. We've said all along that we want to assist farmers. We took to the election a policy which would see that assistance provided to farmers. I think it's deeply disappointing that the Government wants to politicise the plight of Australian farmers. We want to play a constructive role. Our concern has not been money going to farmers, our concern has been where the money is coming from, which is infrastructure in regional areas. So it shouldn't be beyond the Parliament to get farmers the relief that they need, to work together, without playing these silly political games that the Minister seems to be playing again this morning. Thank you.