Transcript - Risk to low income superannuation

Andrew Leigh MP
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister
Member for Fraser
24 June 2013

TOPICS:                                Superannuation for low income workers, leadership, polls

Andrew Leigh: At the next election Australian people are going to face a very clear choice on the issue of superannuation. We know now, thanks to new figures that are on the website that a child care worker working on average child care wages, full time, will lose $75,000 in retirement savings if Mr Abbott were to win office. Mr Abbott’s superannuation changes increase superannuation taxes on the lowest paid workers in Australia. That is, I think, fundamentally at odds with basic Australian values that say that if you want to make budget savings you should make them on those who can most afford them, not those who can least afford them. If the superannuation pause takes effect then an average worker stands to lose $30,000. But if, as is more likely, Mr Abbott were to, upon winning office, not continue with increasing superannuation that would cost $127,000 of retirement savings. That’s a deeply short-sighted decision and one that’s damaging to so many workers on average and lower incomes. Happy to take any policy questions you’ve got. [Pause] Silence?

Journalist:                           It’s commendable for you to come out here and try to talk about policy but aren’t you ignoring the big issue of this week, and that is the leadership, do think it’s just media fascination?

Andrew Leigh: I’m happy to take your leadership question, Laura, but the reason I come out and talk about policy every day is because I believe that questions of leadership pale into insignificance alongside the big policy differences between the major parties. Tony Abbott doesn’t have a health policy; he doesn’t have an education policy. He’s got a $70 billion costings crater. And last week he announced a northern Australia plan proposing a commission that already exists.

Journalist:                           How can Australians have confidence in the Government though, to be able to deliver on these promises if you’re not entirely sure who’s going to be leading the Party by the end of the week?

Andrew Leigh: You just look at the track record. 586 Bills passed through the House of Representatives. Big reforms like the price on carbon pollution, DisabilityCare, better schools, and let’s not forget winning a seat on the UN Security Council. I’m very proud of the track record of this Government on policy reform.

Journalist:                           Are you confident that Julia Gillard will still be the Prime Minister by the end of the week?

Andrew Leigh: Yes

Journalist:                           Do the Rudd forces need to ‘put up or shut up’?

Andrew Leigh: My focus here is on policy, not on gossip and flim flam.

Journalist:                           Well it’s not gossip. Like, Rudd supporters are obviously backgrounding and there’s some sort of backgrounding that’s going on at the moment on the leadership, so what to the Rudd forces need to do? Do they need to challenge Julia Gillard for that position or does the Prime Minister need to step aside?

Andrew Leigh: Mr Rudd has said as recently as last week that there’s no circumstances in which he can envisage returning to the leadership. He has said that he sees the major contest in this country as being the contest between the political parties. And he’s right about that. That is the huge policy question here in Australia. This absence of a health policy or an education policy just months out from an election; that’s an extraordinary thing for the Coalition to be attempting to do. To try and skate into power without being honest with the Australian people about what they would do to services, without being clear about which taxes they would increase and which services they would cut to fill that $70 billion black hole.

Journalist:                           Poll after poll shows that Kevin Rudd is vastly more popular than Julia Gillard and today’s poll shows that Labor could lose 30 seats at the election. Why won’t you or your colleagues switch to Kevin Rudd if it means saving some seats?

Andrew Leigh: Julia Gillard is an extraordinarily gutsy woman. She will lead us to the next election and my focus between now and then is talking about policy, not talking about numbers.

Journalist:                           Why should she, though? Why should she given the state of the polls; they’ve been consistent at that level for the best part of six months. Why, what’s the best reason you can give that she should lead?

Andrew Leigh: Prime Minister Gillard has delivered an extraordinary set of reforms over the course of this parliament. In the circumstances with a minority government she has managed to get done a large number of important policy changes. Whether that’s the superannuation changes, the increases in foreign aid: now at the highest level as a share of GDP in 25 years, important improvements in Australian services, the hospital reform efficient pricing…

Journalist:                           But she’s unable to pull Labor out of the dire situation. So, aren’t most of those reforms at risk?

Andrew Leigh: My view is that good policy is good politics. That if you want to have the privilege of being elected and re-elected by the Australian people, which is what it is, then you’ve got to be focused around policy and we as a party need to back a leader who has delivered important Labor reforms across the board.

Journalist:                           So what happens now? We’re now looking down the barrel of perhaps a third leadership showdown. The last two, we’ve been told the matter is resolved. So, what should Kevin Rudd do now? Should he bow out of politics or does he remain a problem for Labor whilst he’s there.

Andrew Leigh: Mr Rudd has made it absolutely clear that there aren’t circumstances in which he believes he would lead the Labor Party.

Journalist:                           Regardless, Andrew, if he remains in the Party, in politics, there’s always going to be this question of leadership.

Andrew Leigh: Laura, I’m not sure why you can say ‘regardless’. Mr Rudd has clearly said that there’s no circumstances in which he sees he will return to the leadership.

Journalist:                           Do you believe him?

Andrew Leigh: Yes, I do. And I’ve clearly told you that I believe that Julia Gillard will lead us to the next election.

Journalist:                           So you don’t believe that there’ll be any sort of leadership challenge this week?

Andrew Leigh: No, I don’t. But I certainly believe that we ought to see more scrutiny of the policy differences here because they are massive. Broadband: Fraudband versus broadband is a far bigger issue than any poll that’s been coming out today.

Journalist:                           So you haven’t you heard any of the talk around Parliament House that Julia Gillard is losing some support; you haven’t heard any of your colleagues talk about this leadership issue?

Andrew Leigh: This building is filled with more petty gossip than any other building I have worked in.

Journalist:                           Do you put it all down to petty gossip, though? Are you seriously saying that this leadership talk is a figment of our imaginations and petty gossip?

Andrew Leigh: I think it pales into insignificance between the policy differences and I’m desperately worried that three months out from an election we’re spending more time, you are more interested in asking me questions about opinion polls and personalities than about the big policy questions. And that’s I guess my challenge to you as an honourable profession is to focus on the policy questions as well as the ones on personalities.

Journalist:                           Fair enough, but Craig Emerson this morning said that it would be naïve to suggest that there isn’t backgrounding going on and he spent the better part of five or six minutes trying to call on caucus to back Julia Gillard, he didn’t speak about policy once. Is he distracting from the issue there?

Andrew Leigh: I suspect Craig Emerson is in the same predicament as me in which he is answering questions rather than giving statements. But, if you get Craig on a topic of policy passion, something like economic reform, something like trade liberalisation, he’s one of the great economic reformers of the place and I suspect would much rather be focussed on policy questions than questions of personality, gossip, flim flam.

Thanks folks.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Stay in touch

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter


Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.