6 September 2016
Transcript - #2016117, 2016

Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

SUBJECTS: Senator Dastyari; superannuation reforms; making superannuation more sustainable

BEN FORDHAM:

Mr Morrison good afternoon.

TREASURER:

G’day Ben.

FORDHAM:

I’d love to get your take. You’ve been around for a long time. 25 minutes, Shanghai Sam Dastyari. Did he win you over Treasurer?

TREASURER:

Shanghai Sam’s got to go. It’s than simple. The facts aren’t in dispute here. He’s confirmed them. He confessed to them. What I find puzzling about all this is, it’s not just the fact that he asked them to pick up his debt, but you can get on the phone, as he did, and he had the expectation that he would pay the debt. I mean, that suggests a level of relationship and engagement which goes well, well, well beyond anything that’s involved in normal donations to political parties or anything like this. As you said, he’s a repeat offender. There was a legal bill, and let’s not forget it was Shanghai Sam, who made sure the Labor Party picked up all Craig Thompson’s legal bills all those years ago as well. He’s clearly not going to walk to the pavilion. It’s the biggest outside edge, you would have been able to hear it down at Bondi Beach from the SCG. The guy should just pick up his bat and walk to the pavilion. But he’s not doing that and Bill Shorten must now make him do that.

FORDHAM:

He really struggled to explain why he went against Bill Shorten during that press conference on the South China Sea.

TREASURER:

Well he just said he forgot. He couldn’t remember. He even challenged whether that’s what he even said. It was pretty pathetic. It’s really clear. No one’s making an allegation here, he’s confirmed it. It is absolutely crystal clear. He’s raised more questions than he’s actually answered.

FORDHAM:

Let’s have a listen to him for just a moment. This is him trying to explain not the travel bill that was paid by a wealthy Chinese donor but the legal bill that was paid by another wealthy Chinese donor.

SAM DASTYARI:

Look, that legal debt has been canvassed quite openly in the media in the past. As I understand there is a confidentiality between the company. But I think those amounts that have been canvased in the media are, as I understand, are pretty close to the mark. 

QUESTION:

(Inaudible)

DASTYARI:

Again, those are very close to, quite right on the mark. But no, no, no, look, look, look, this has been on my pecuniary interests register for over…

QUESTION:

(Inaudible)

DASTYARI:

Sean, Sean. Just let me answer and I’ll get to you, if you can give me a fair shot. This is a matter that’s been on my pecuniary interests register for over, I believe, two years now.

FORDHAM:

He may survive this for a while. But is it only a matter of time Mr Morrison?

TREASURER:

Well that’s a matter for Bill Shorten. Clearly Sam’s not going to walk. He’s made that clear. And the rule under the Labor Party is they never resign, they just stand there and they try and stare it down and try and distract attention and say, this is all about foreign donations. No, this is about the, and it’s not junior senator as Bill Shorten said today. This bloke effectively drove Bill Shorten’s campaign bus around the country at the last election you remember. He was the one running the bus. This is the bloke who was on the number one spot on the Labor Party’s New South Wales Senate ticket. The biggest state in the Commonwealth and he was the number one Labor candidate.

FORDHAM:

He’s a junior senator from New South Wales, Bill Shorten says though.

TREASURER:

Apparently. He’s a shadow minister in his executive, but on top, this is the most serious office he holds. He is the manager of opposition business in the Senate. Now there are only two people more senior than him. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, and the Leader of the Senate which is Penny Wong. So this is a very senior and serious person in the Labor party machine. Now, you gotta ask yourself the question, why will Bill Shorten not tell Shanghai Sam to walk? And the reason is, just like previous general secretaries, the Labor Party from New South Wales, whether it’s Mark Arbib, all of these sorts of guys. They come in, they control a lot of numbers…

FORDHAM:

Well he’s a powerful bloke.

TREASURER:

He’s a powerful man, in the Labor Party. He has been for some time and Bill Shorten won’t stare him down.

FORDHAM:

That nickname I coined for Sam Dastyari – Shanghai Sam – you’ve had good millage out of this week.

TREASURER:

I acknowledged it too I can say Ben. I think I was talking to Ray on Monday, as he’s known on this radio station… and that’s true.

FORDHAM:

Let’s talk about your day tomorrow because you’re putting your draft legislation, as I now understand it, on the superannuation front. What are you handing it over to Labor and the cross benchers tomorrow? You’re putting it before the parliament? What are you actually doing?

TREASURER:

This is the normal process you do with any piece of legislation. Yesterday, I released the exposure legislation on the new Effects Test under Competition Law which will level the playing field and misuse of market power and all of those issues. You put out an exposure draft so there is the opportunity for people to comment on it, and tomorrow we are releasing the exposure draft on the first tranche of that superannuation legislation and that deals with the issues like restoring the tax concessions for those on low incomes so they can have the discounts, the concessions like others do for making contributions to their super. It includes the provision which allows you to carry forward five years of concessional contributions if you have been a carer or you have a disrupted work pattern or you haven’t been able to use them all or you have had a baby or something like that. It also includes the provision, and this will be important to many of your listeners, particularly the tradies or those in home based businesses where if you have got a job. You know Glenn Gorick, our mate Glenn. He is a good example. I am not talking about his tax affairs specifically.

FORDHAM:

I hope not.

TREASURER:

No, I don’t know them. But if you are contractor, say if you are a plumber, and you are also a fiery. Then as a fiery you can only claim the concessional contributions for your wage as a fiery. You can’t do it for your contracting business unless it is a very small proportion of your income.

FORDHAM:

So, it will allow a lot more flexibility in those areas.

TREASURER:

Heaps more and you can make contributions up to the age of 75 whether you are working or not. So, that is the legislation that is going out tomorrow.

FORDHAM:

Ok, you have confirmed this afternoon to David Speers that the $500,000 lifetime cap will not be part of that draft legislation.

TREASURER:

Well, no because that is part of a next tranche and that will come out later.

FORDHAM:

And why isn’t it part of tomorrow’s?

TREASURER:

Because it is very complex legislation and we are continuing to work through some of those details Ben and I have made that very clear.

FORDHAM:

When you say it is complex legislation does that mean others are having trouble understanding it because they are not won over by you on it?

TREASURER:

No, I mean it is a very technical issue, superannuation and when you do these things you make sure you get it absolutely right and so that is still being worked on now. The threshold issue about the nature of the $500,000 cap as well as the other matters as you know I have been up front we have been doing that consultation with colleagues now for some weeks. What we certainly do agree on is that the package of measures we take forward need to make the contribution to Budget repair and arresting the debt we have. So, if the Government were to make any changes and I stress ‘if’ then it would still have to meet the task of doing for the Budget what it needs to do.

FORDHAM:

Alright, I guess there will be a perception that it is on the backburner – is that unfair?

TREASURER:

It is unfair because that is not what we are doing. What we are doing, I mean this was always complex legislation and it was always going to take a while to get it into the Parliament to get it right. I am listening to people, Ben, I am consulting with people. That is a good thing to do.

FORDHAM:

And you have been making the point, I know that you have been distributing some material with some of your colleagues, you have been telling them that it is fewer than 1 per cent of fund member would have made contributions above the…

TREASURER:

$500,000

FORDHAM:

…proposed lifetime cap of $500,000.

TREASURER:

Well, that is right, and similarly less than 1 per cent of people actually get to the $1.6 million of a balance by the time they get to converting their funds into retirement accounts.

FORDHAM:

I guess people are nervous because anything to do with superannuation people get nervous even if you have got the Treasurer saying “look, it is less than 1 per cent that is going to be affected by it”. When it is superannuation people get, very, very, quite rightly protective of it.

TREASURER:

Well, that is understandable but what we have to also remember Ben is that the superannuation system, as it goes forward, it needs to be there for those who come after us as well. Back in 1975 there were 7.3 people of working age for every Australian aged over 65. Today that figure is 4.3 and in the future on 2055 it will be 2.1. Now, if we have got lots of people in that over 65 age group, who have got a tax system which is highly concessional and you have got less people having to work and pay taxes, that means they will have to pay more taxes. So, you have got to make sure that it is sustainable and that is why we are making these changes. That is why we are consulting in these changes. They say you have got to make the superannuation system flexible and sustainable and we have also got to arrest the debt because that debt as we know $430 billion at the moment – and growing – we have to arrest its growth otherwise our kids and grandkids will be paying even more taxes and not getting the services that we enjoy today.

FORDHAM:

I appreciate you coming on the program, Treasurer. Thank you.

TREASURER:

Good on you Ben.