Doorstop Canberra 25/07/19

July 25, 2019





JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: The Liberals are trying to rob 13 million Australian workers of the superannuation increases that they need and deserve and were promised. At a time when we've got wage stagnation and rampant wage theft, the Liberal Party wants to come after workers’ retirement incomes as well. Labor will always defend the superannuation system. The Liberal Party will always try and attack and diminish and undermine superannuation because they have never believed it and they never will.


If we want to recap this week in Parliament, we saw Mathias Cormann and Josh Frydenberg finally lock in the Superannuation Guarantee increase to 12 per cent. We saw Scott Morrison in his party room ask his colleagues to stop talking publicly about superannuation, and since then we've had a number of Liberal backbenchers come out and say that superannuation shouldn't go to 12 per cent, and then some of the more radical ideas from Andrew Bragg and others.


This is a test of authority for Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg. His backbench is in open revolt over superannuation. Frydenberg and Cormann have said that super will go to 12 per cent on the current trajectory. They've guaranteed that. Their backbench is in revolt about that. The Liberal Party is all over the shop on superannuation. The backbench is in open revolt. Josh Frydenberg, and Mathias Cormann, and Scott Morrison need to rein the backbench back in, so workers can get the superannuation that they need and deserve and were promised.


JOURNALIST: On Andrew Bragg's suggestion that low-income earners shouldn't be forced to pay super, what do you think of that? Why is it more important that they pay super than survive now?


CHALMERS: Well, it's absolutely laughable that the Liberal Party of stagnant wages and rampant wage theft wants you to believe all of a sudden that they care about low income workers. It is absolutely laughable that Andrew Bragg and others want to pretend that they're worried about the plight of people of modest means in this country. That's just another excuse for them to continue their usual ideological attack on workers and super and retirement incomes. The usual excuse to undermine and diminish super at every turn.


JOURNALIST: Would people earning less than $50,000, by having that extra money, wouldn't that increase the chances of owning their own home and improve their quality of life if they're probably going to be on the pension regardless, so overall their working life is at a higher standard rather than having a bit of extra savings once they retire?


CHALMERS: A couple of things about that. Michael Rice from Rice Warner, they're the actuarial group that models retirement incomes, they say if the Superannuation Guarantee remains below 10 per cent then most Australians will retire on a pension. We're trying to get more Australians self-sufficient in retirement and less Australians relying so much on the pension. That's part of the reason that we've got superannuation. But the other point that I would make is when superannuation was originally conceived it was conceived as a trade-off between wages and superannuation, but what this Government has done is they've gone after wages and super at the same time. We saw Mathias Cormann say that low wages were a deliberate design feature of their economic policy at the same time as we've got Liberals going after super. The real agenda here for the Liberal Party, is not for that two-and-a-half per cent to go into wages, not for it to go into super, but for it to go into the profit share of companies.


JOURNALIST: So, you're saying you're trying to increase the number of people who are self-funded retirees but you acknowledge though that people earning less than $50,000, they will, even if they have super set aside, probably be on the pension?


CHALMERS: The question that you're asking relies on the assumption that workers on low incomes would get wage increases in the absence of super. What I'm saying is the Liberal Party wants those low-income workers to get neither super nor increases in wages. Profit share in this country is remarkably high right now, wages are incredibly stagnant in this country right now, and it makes no economic sense for the Liberals to be going after wages and super at the same time.


JOURNALIST: Can I go to one other topic please? I want to ask, should criminal penalties apply to employees who underpay their staff and if so at what point would they kick in?


CHALMERS: To employers, you mean?


JOURNALIST: Yes, employers, sorry. 


CHALMERS: Can you ask your question again?

JOURNALIST: Should criminal penalties apply for employers who underpay their staff, and if so at what point should they kick in?


CHALMERS: I'll leave the detailed policy commentary to Tony Burke and other colleagues. But we do have a big problem in this country with wage theft. We've seen 7-Eleven and Michael Hill and a whole bunch of companies, Dominos, who have been caught stealing wages from their workers. That is a massive problem in our economy. We asked Christian Porter yesterday what legislation was in the pipeline, is in the works, for them to deal with wage theft and it's very obvious that they have absolutely nothing planned to deal with wage theft. It shouldn't take the revelations about a celebrity chef for the Government to act on wage theft which has been a problem for some time in our economy and in our community. We can't continue to see all of these cases of workers being ripped off. The appropriate response to that I'll leave to Tony Burke and others in a legislative sense, but it's not good enough for the Government to have been sitting on its hands while so many Australians are being dudded at work.


JOURNALIST: But would you support jail terms for employees who engage in systemic wage theft?


CHALMERS: I'll leave all that commentary to Burkey. Thanks very much.