ABC Weekend Breakfast – SA lockdown, superannuation, kyoto credits

Saturday, 21 November 2020

KATHRYN ROBINSON, HOST: We’re joined by our political panel, Labor MP Amanda Rishworth and Liberal MP Katie Allen. Good morning to both of you. Thanks for joining us. Amanda it’s right to assume you’re in South Australia?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: I am in South Australia, that’s right.

ROBINSON: So I’d love to get your take on the lockdown, what you thought of it, and the lie that led to it?

RISHWORTH: Firstly I would say that South Australians all heeded the advice. There were immediately South Australians all doing the right thing when the advice came through. So, I’d just like to say a big thank you to everyone who really heeded that medical advice. Of course, we now know that restrictions will be lifted, and that’s a really good thing. And, of course, authorities had to act on the information they were given. And so obviously what has now been outlined is that was not all accurate. I guess for me though, the question really comes back to we still have a cluster in South Australia, it did break out from hotel quarantine, so I think we should be asking ourselves the questions. And I’m sure the State Government will go through this process, and it definitely needs to. What extra things can we put in place in hotel quarantine to make sure that this outbreak doesn’t happen again? Are there things that we have not put in place from the Victorian experience? And how can we make sure that everything is put in place to protect the community from hotel quarantine? Because ultimately that is where this cluster started, an outbreak from hotel quarantine, and they are the questions we need to ask and address to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.

FAUZIAH IBRAHIM, HOST: From South Australia we’re going to cross the border now to Victoria. Katie, I’m presuming you’re in Victoria at the moment?

KATIE ALLEN, LIBERAL MEMBER FOR HIGGINS: I am.

IBRAHIM: Alright. We do know that while these restrictions are easing in South Australia as of midnight tonight, Victoria is maintaining their hard border closure against South Australia. Is it still warranted?

ALLEN: Well, of course it’s up to the states to decide what they do with their borders. And the most important thing is that we have nationally a good quarantine system. And Alan Finkel has now gone and done a review on quarantining and contact tracing systems throughout the states and territories, and that’s really important. Because as we lead into Christmas, there’s going to be more people returning from overseas and from those hot spots, so we need to be really, really careful with our quarantining defence. But more than that, we need to be really careful with contact tracing. So, Victoria needs to make its own decisions about what it does with borders, and, of course, they have the information. The Victorian State Government has the information about how it wants to act. The good news for Victorians is we’ve had 21 days with no cases and no deaths, so that’s absolutely fantastic.

ROBINSON: Katie, with respect to the lockdown by Steven Marshall, the SA Premier there, business groups have criticised this as it sets a dangerous precedent, many of them said to shut down on what was questionable evidence at the time. Only 17 cases were around when the lockdown was announced. Was that overreach in your mind?

ALLEN: Well, I think the thing to realise is, with this pandemic – and everyone uses the word “unprecedented” this year – is when things happen unexpectedly that can actually throw the cat amongst the pigeons. When you’re working with imperfect data, then, of course, sometimes you need to make pretty decisive decisions to get on top of it. And so I think they, at that time, thought that the data was imperfect because of the misinformation – in fact, the lie that perpetrated this whole problem. So, I think Steven Marshall is a very good leader. I would say he’s a very decisive leader, because there were significant concerns by the medical experts informing him that we were looking at a new form of this virus. And, of course, that doesn’t just have impacts on Adelaide and on South Australia, but on the whole country and, indeed, the world. So, I think at the time there was significant question marks about was this a more contagious or a different form of the virus. There were significant concerns about the data they were looking at looked to be imperfect. And when there is a rapidly changing scenario with this virus, I think people need to make pretty significant steps. But what’s really interesting is he’s walked back from that, because the data has been found to have been based on incorrect assumptions because we didn’t get someone who was telling the truth. So, it just shows how important it is in this pandemic, particularly in Australia, where there’s a lot of trust in the authorities, there is a lot of trust in people doing the right thing, and it just really reaffirms how important that is, that Australians need to do the right thing, but they also need to engage and provide the right information.

ROBINSON: Amanda, just before we move on, off this topic, do you think there should be punishments in place for people who aren’t telling the truth? Or do you have sympathy for the worker who shut the state down?

RISHWORTH: Look I can’t really comment on the details, I don’t know the worker’s circumstances. But I think that we do need to have appropriate punishments in place for people to tell the truth, I think there needs to be incentives, punishments, however you say it, to make sure that people are telling the truth with the contact tracers. Like I said, I don’t know this specific situation, I couldn’t comment on that. But as a general principle, we need to ensure that everyone understands and does indeed make sure that they are honest with the contact tracers, and that everything is put in place to facilitate that.

IBRAHIM: We want to move on to another story that made headlines this week, and, of course, the report on the superannuation was released this week. And it showed that increasing super would mean less of a wage growth. Now, Katie, I want to put this question to you, the Liberal Government in the past has promised that a super freeze would result in wage growth. The basic concept is that super comes from wages. In recent years, of course, wage growth has been nil to pretty much minimal. Is it time to decouple one from the other?

ALLEN: I don’t think that’s the right way forward. I think the most important thing is that the super guarantee rise has been legislated, and we are looking at that happening in July 2021, next year. But because we’re in the middle of COVID and this economic crisis – not just a health crisis, it’s an economic crisis – we do have concerns about the fact that businesses are really suffering and they’re really finding it hard going out of this pandemic. And we want to give the businesses the best opportunity to continue to employ people. So, we do know that the super guarantee rise can have a big impact on wage growth, and we know that from the RBA and from ACOSS and from all different types of expert opinion, that it can provide pressure, where the super guarantee rise gets pushed on to the employee having a lack of a wage rise. So, we do know that that is coupled. And so there is consideration that whether, because of COVID, maybe we need to pause this legislated super guarantee rise that’s due to happen next July. And I think that’s something we need to think about as a community, of what we want going ahead. Do we want to help the economy get going again?

ROBINSON: So, Katie, what do you think the best plan is? Should it go ahead but at a reduced rate, say 10 per cent, or do you think it should pause altogether?

ALLEN: What the super guarantee rise is legislated to do is go up 0.5 per cent July 2021, next year. So, the concept is do we just pause that rise for the moment, just to wait to see what happens coming out of COVID. So, I think that’s what’s in discussion at the moment, because we do know that when there is a super guarantee rise, that tends to have a downward pressure on wage rise. And what we do know is that people want, you know, wage rise rather than necessarily super guarantee rise at this point in time. We do know that people, through this COVID crisis, has been accessing their superannuation. They’ve got two bites of the cherry to access $10,000 twice. And we know that 1.3 million Australians, unfortunately, needed that through this really quite terrible crisis.

IBRAHIM: Amanda, given the current economic situation there, as Katie has just outlined, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says that the priority is to boost employment and the labour market. Whereas increasing the super would do just the opposite. Surely there is some truth to that?

RISHWORTH: There is just no evidence for that. We know that the Liberal Party always uses excuses, John Howard did it, Tony Abbott did it, to delay increase in superannuation. This is just the latest excuse. And when the Government has paused the superannuation increases you’ve actually seen downward pressure and less wages growth. So, the evidence just doesn’t back it up. And this dates back to the Howard government and the Abbott government, where the pauses happened and it just is not correlated with wages growth. So, this seems to me like an ideological pursuit of superannuation. It’s been a long history of the Liberal government doing this. We’re looking at July 2021, and as Katie indicated, many people have stripped their superannuation because they’ve had no other choice. That means that they are going to retire with less income. Really what we’re doing is pushing a problem that will be less retirement savings, more poverty in retirement, down the road if we do not increase our superannuation and importantly make sure people have enough to retire on.

ROBINSON: Amanda, are you saying that the Callahan report is wrong when it stated that “maintaining the super guarantee of 9.5 per cent would allow for higher lending standards in working life? Working life income for most people would be around 2 per cent higher in the long run”?

RISHWORTH: That report relied on a 4 per cent wages increase. I mean, at what point have we seen in the last few years 4 per cent in wages increase? The Liberal Party set this report up with a specific intention in mind. Katie talked about COVID, this was set up well before COVID, so COVID wasn’t the excuse that was made in this report. It really was set up to say “Let’s stop the increase in superannuation guarantee.” And the evidence just isn’t there. If you look back to the last six years, we’ve seen flat wages growth while the superannuation increase has been paused. Previous to that, in the previous six years, you had higher wages growth. So, it’s been quite a stark difference, and the evidence just isn’t there.

IBRAHIM: Katie, I want to get your reply, of course. Amanda has just outlined there this is the Liberal Party’s ideology when it comes to super. What’s your response?

ALLEN: I haven’t heard from a single independent economically valid argument against it. In fact, all of the groups have come out in support of what this concept is. As I said, of what this concept is. As I said, the Reserve Bank of Australia, ACOSS, a whole lot of other different groups.

ROBINSON: Was the tax review in support of that?

ALLEN: In fact, the only two groups not in support of this are the industry super groups themselves and the Labor Party. I would argue they do have quite significant links.

ROBINSON: If we’ve got time for one more quick question, just on climate change, we had Scott Morrison flagging a shift on Kyoto climate change carryover credits. Amanda, if the last word on this topic can be with you, and then we’ll obviously get Katie’s response as well, isn’t this a good thing? The Government is saying they’re probably not going to be using Kyoto carryover credits when they’re not banned but other countries haven’t been using them?

RISHWORTH: I think Scott Morrison would have found himself alone in the world by actually using these credits. They were a dodgy accounting trick. So, of course, it’s a good thing he abandons this, because he had no other choice when the rest of the world was refusing to accept them. But, of course, the challenge for Scott Morrison will be how does he reach his target of Paris? Because he was relying, when he says he meets and beats meets and beats the targets, he was absolutely relying on those carryover credits. Without those carryover credits, we have a real problem when it comes to meeting our Paris commitments. So, I look forward to seeing Scott Morrison’s plan of how we actually meet those commitments now that the carryover credits will be ditched.

IBRAHIM: Katie, just a final word to you. And I want to put it to you that when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Australia for bolder action when it comes to climate change Scott Morrison said we would go at our own pace, now we’ve got a American President-Elect about to enter the White House who’s very focused on  green policies. You know, one can’t help but think whether there’s a coincidence here as to whether there’s been a backtrack on the Morrison Government’s policies when it comes to climate change?

ALLEN: No, there’s nothing further from the truth. If you look at our trajectory since May 29, when we were elected, and I have been out there every day strong on climate action. And climate action is not just about targets, it’s about a plan. In fact, the first-ever low emissions technology statement was released just last month. If you have a look at that, there’s five very, very important targets in there to help make sure that we lead the world with renewables, that we have hydrogen under $2 per kilogram, that we have carbon capture under $3 a hectare, that we have low-emissions aluminium and steel production, and that we also have battery storage for our incredibly fast uptake of renewables. We’re actually world leaders in renewables. But what we need to do is we need to get to a commercialisable state, particularly with new technology such as hydrogen. As Alan Finkel, the Chief Scientist who led this low emissions review statement, said we need to ship sunshine in a bottle. And we now have agreements with places like Japan about our hydrogen-led future. There’s a lot we’re doing. We’ll continue to meet our international obligations. But I’m very excited by the technology that is now coming online, not just here but around the world, and Australia needs to be part of that. And we are committed to being part of the technology revolution that’s going to get us to a cleaner and greener future.

IBRAHIM: On that note, we’re going to have to end the segment. Thank you so much to both of you for taking the time to come on Weekend Breakfast to speak to us. Amanda Rishworth and Katie Allen.

ENDS

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