AM Agenda – superannuation; borders; China

Monday, 22 June 2020

ANNELISE NIELSEN, HOST: More on this and other news of the day we’re joined live by our pollie panel, it’s Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education Amanda Rishworth and Liberal MP Julian Simmonds. Thank you both for your time. Julian Simmonds I’ll start with you first, is this just a push from the backbench to be pushing for this guarantee to be held off under the guise of COVID, because they just don’t believe in superannuation?

JULIAN SIMMONDS, LIBERAL MEMBER FOR RYAN: We certainly do believe in superannuation, we’ve got a review going on at the moment that’s due to report at the end of July so let’s see what comes out of it. But the world has changed with COVID. Nobody is more conscious of that fact that Australians are doing it tough, Australian businesses are doing it tough, than this Coalition Government. The only people who want to seem to pretend that the world hasn’t changed is the Labor Party, who are still rolling out the same partisan taglines. So I do think we need keep in mind that it’s changed and see what comes out of the review.

NIELSEN: Amanda Rishworth what do you think of this push by at least ten Coalition backbenchers?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: Well Julian said there’s a review underway but of course what the backbenchers have done is shown the Government’s or some members of the Government’s opposition to superannuation. Let’s not forget this increase in superannuation has been continually delayed back as far as 2014, so we’ve had different excuses along the way about to why not to increase superannuation. Ultimately there’s been ideological arguments that just show members of the Government do not believe in superannuation.

Of course we’ve also got a situation where we’ve had many, many young people withdraw superannuation during this crisis – the worst time to actually withdraw superannuation in terms of potential earnings into the future. So we’ve got a real long-term problem. I think when we look at the crisis we’re currently facing, we do need to act in the short term, but we can’t ignore the long term as well. And of course this Government has cut the pension in the past, we need to have Australians having adequate retirement savings and we can’t just keep pushing this off into the never-never.

SIMMONDS: Amanda you can’t ignore the fact that we’ve had a global pandemic, of course people need to access their own super at the moment. People are doing it extremely tough, the only people who don’t seem to have noticed are you and the Labor Party.

RISHWORTH: Unfortunately Julian you did not provide adequate support for those who lost their jobs as a result of this pandemic, lost their jobs as a result of –

SIMMONDS: We doubled Jobseeker and we’ve got 3 million people on Jobkeeper.

RISHWORTH: – and forced people to actually access their superannuation because you didn’t ensure they had the support they needed. So let’s be really clear, you didn’t provide enough support for many workers who had been cut off from Jobkeeper and –

SIMMONDS: We’re supporting over 3 million Australians on Jobkeeper. It’s the largest support program Australia has ever seen.

RISHWORTH: – forcing them to access their superannuation.

NIELSEN: Sorry Julian Simmonds let’s let Amanda Rishworth finish.

RISHWORTH: It should’ve been a last resort but unfortunately as a result of the Government’s inaction that hasn’t been the case. These young people have so much to make up if they are going to get back to where they were in their retirement. So I think we need to not ignore the long term sustainability of our superannuation system, of our pension system, of our retirement system. The excuses have been free-flowing since 2014, and another excuse would be a great detriment to many people in their retirement.

SIMMONDS: A global pandemic and how tough Australians are doing it at the moment is not an excuse Amanda, with all due respect.

NIELSEN: Okay let’s move on to one of the other very contentious topics at the moment and that is the border debate. Has Victoria set the Queensland cause back Julian Simmonds? Is that going to be the thing that stops people going there for school holidays?

SIMMONDS: Well it shouldn’t set it back, the borders should be open in July as previously foreshadowed. What Australian businesses and Queensland businesses in particular need right now is some certainty. Look there will be outbreaks, this is what Australia has planned for, this is the sacrifices that Australians have made in terms of our livelihoods, not going to funerals, not marching on ANZAC Day so that we could prepare, and we are prepared for these kinds of outbreaks. We’ve got more PPE gear, more ICU capacity, the COVIDSafe app which I encourage people to download so we can contact trace. So we can jump on these kinds of outbreaks very, very quickly. But as well as the health crisis we have to deal with the economic crisis and that means opening our economy up in a COVID-safe way and that means the borders need to be open.

NIELSEN: Amanda Rishworth you’re in South Australia, you’ve moved after some pretty strict restrictions there to now opening your borders on July 20. Do you think you are putting forward the case model for the rest of the country?

RISHWORTH: Look the Premier of South Australia yesterday said he would re-look at the issue in Victoria, and that’s the right thing to do when new information comes to light, when you’ve seen a significant increase in cases that States and Territories do have a good look at the circumstances. The worst thing – and we’ve seen this in Victoria now – is after a planned opening there’s now new restrictions put in place in Victoria, which then changed the business plan for all those businesses. So when we have outbreaks like this it can have a significant impact if the medical advice is to close things down again. So we’ve got to do it in a cautious way and I think it’s right for the States and Territories to have a look at the new information. Of course we don’t want the borders to be closed any longer than they have to be, but at the same time States and Territories do have to look at new information that comes to light.

NIELSEN: But Amanda what do you make of Julian Simmonds’ argument there that outbreaks shouldn’t lead to borders going up? Because that’s the argument put forward by a lot of medical experts that we’re going to keep having outbreaks regardless until there’s a vaccine, so we can’t keep borders up forever.

RISHWORTH: This is the first significant second outbreak and a change of the trend, and I think when this happens you’ve got to look at things very carefully. People would say when it came to the Ruby Princess that authorities were too slow to act and that had pretty dire consequences. And as we’ve seen in Victoria when there’s been an outbreak, the whole of Victoria is now having to endure greater restrictions and businesses that had plans for today have had to change those plans. So there’s pretty dire economic consequences if we have to do widespread increase of restrictions more than we’ve already got. I think we’ve got to take a relatively cautious approach, of course we want to see our borders open but I think it’s right for States and Territories to look carefully at this spike in Victoria. It’s the first time we’ve seen a very big uptick in a particularly large geographical area.

SIMMONDS: I just find it extraordinary Amanda that the Labor Party keeps saying let’s follow the medical advice, but when there’s medical advice that the borders don’t need to be closed, instead you’re defending the Labor Premiers instead of Australian jobs and Australian businesses. Let’s get on with it, let’s save some jobs and deal with the economic crisis. The medical advice is these borders don’t need to be closed.

RISHWORTH: Julian what I’m trying not to do is make this a partisan football like you regularly do –

SIMMONDS: I agree let’s follow the medical advice.

RISHWORTH: – in the lead up to the Queensland election you want to make this a partisan issue, it’s very, very clear.

SIMMONDS: I call out Western Australian too, your State has started it’s great.

RISHWORTH: All I’m saying is all States and Territories –

NIELSEN: Amanda Rishworth is in South Australia though.

RISHWORTH: That’s right I’m not from Western Australia.

NIELSEN: I am though.

RISHWORTH: And our Premier who is a Liberal Premier has said they are going to consider the new information that’s come to light in terms of our borders and Victoria. They haven’t made a decision yet, but they said they need to consider that information. That’s not a bad thing Julian, it’s a good thing and a responsible approach, not the partisan football that you are trying to make this into.

NIELSEN: Okay let’s move on to our last topic for the day because I don’t think we’re going to get agreement on this one in the next few minutes. China has become an increasingly contentious issue, it appears in the Labor Caucus after there was discussions about this Wolverines group, a group of both sides of politics politicians have joined to really celebrate the Australia-US alliance. But Amanda Rishworth is that going to be increasingly difficult in managing our relationship with China if we do have this Wolverines group making a lot of waves in Canberra?

RISHWORTH: People are entitled to have their own opinion and make commentary. I think what is important is we need strong leadership from the Government and from the Foreign Minister. There’s no doubt that our relationship with China is getting more difficult to navigate, there’s no doubt they are being more assertive and we need to navigate that in a sophisticated and sober way, there’s no doubt that also many businesses in Australia rely on the trading relationship with China. But what we need is the Foreign Minister out there leading this debate, she’s been somewhat absent from public commentary, from discussing this, from taking a leadership role in public. And I think that’s what we want to see, what’s the Government’s position on this? What is the Government’s approach to the Australia-China relationship? I haven’t seen the Foreign Minister out there really prosecuting the case for where Australia stands. Of course it should always be in our national interest, but I’m yet to see a strong argument about where our Australia-China relationship is when it comes to the Foreign Minister.

NIELSEN: Julian Simmonds I mean we rarely see the Foreign Minister, she is extremely camera shy. Is that leaving a vacuum in this issue with our relationship with China?

SIMMONDS: First of all the Foreign Minister Marise Payne is doing a tremendous job, she is pushing Australia’s interests incredibly hard both behind the scenes and in public. The Chinese relationship is a robust one but the Foreign Minister hasn’t hesitated to call them out on things like human rights and other issues, but of course we are going to pursue Australia’s best interests and you saw that on the weekend with the PM talking about cyber security. That’s what MPs on the Coalition side are always going to do is pursue Australia’s best interests. On the other hand you’ve got people like Labor Premier Daniel Andrews who’ve signed up to China’s Belt and Road initiative, now he is way out on a limb with this. So it’s no surprise that even his own party Labor MPs are not behind him, because what everybody wants to see is Australian politicians putting Australian interests first.

NIELSEN: Now we are almost out of time this morning, this is usually where I thank you both for your time but Julian Simmonds I think we should be thanking your wife apparently who is having a baby at the moment.

SIMMONDS: She is being generous to let me come, I’m going straight from here to the lovely Wesley Hospital in Brisbane to have a little baby girl, so wish me luck.

RISHWORTH: Congratulations and get there now.

SIMMONDS: Yes will do.

NIELSEN: My goodness, Julian Simmonds and Amanda Rishworth I will thank you both for your time.


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