Television Interview with Kieran Gilbert – Sky News – Thursday 23 February 2023


SUBJECTS: Superannuation; Universities Accord; International students; Visit to India

KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me now at the desk live is the Education Minister, Jason Clare. So, we heard in Trudy’s report, bit of a difference in what the Prime Minister was saying before the election. No intention of making any super changes now. There won’t be any major changes. Are we talking a broken promise here?

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: He made it clear no decisions have been made and no major changes are going to be made. The Labor Party is the party of superannuation. We created it, we’ve built it up, we want to protect it. At its core, what this debate is all about is what superannuation should be about, it should be for your retirement. That’s the essence of this debate that’s happening now, what it should be about.

GILBERT: So, it sounds like a pretty clear shift in language, though. Why not own it? Say, well, we’ve changed our mind, we want to rein it in?

CLARE: This is not just Albo, but Jim’s made this point as well: First, it’s important to make clear in legislation what super is about. We know that not everybody agrees in this building what super should be about. The Liberal Party opposed superannuation from its conception. They voted against it in Parliament. Under John Howard, they froze it. Under Tony Abbott, they froze it as well. There are politicians in this building sitting pretty on 15 per cent super or more, while the rest of the country is on 10 per cent. Every Aussie in this country has less super in their account than they should, because the Liberal Party froze it time after time after time.

We want to put in law what super is all about, making sure that you keep it for a comfortable and a dignified retirement. But also, Jim’s made the point that the average amount of super for the average Aussie is about 150 grand, but for 1 percent of Australians, they’ve got more than $3 million in their super. I don’t know about you, mate, I don’t have more than $3 million in my super. I guess you don’t either. He’s saying, let’s have a conversation about whether the same tax arrangements should be in place for someone who’s got 3, 4 or 5 million in their super as someone who’s got 150 grand.

GILBERT: Yeah, that’s fine, but why not have that conversation before the election?

CLARE: Well, I think we want to have that conversation now, see what Aussies think.

GILBERT: And so then, there’s got to be an acceptance it’s a broken promise, doesn’t it? Because Anthony Albanese before says, we’ve said we have no intention of making any super changes. That’s pretty clear. And then now we’re going to make some changes for those on 3, 4, 5 million.

CLARE: We haven’t made any decisions at all. There’s been no decision made.

GILBERT: But it’s a decent kite. You’re flying a pretty good kite. It’s like that Chinese balloon. This kite is flying and everyone’s noticing it.

CLARE: Shouldn’t we be able to have conversations in this country? I think it’s a legitimate thing to say we want superannuation to be sustainable over the long term. We want more Aussies to have more super. We want more Aussies to be able to have a dignified, comfortable retirement. If we need to have a look at certain changes to it, let’s have a conversation.

GILBERT: Are you willing to also have a conversation about it and just be up front and say, okay, well, that’s a change of position. That’s a broken promise. We said there wouldn’t be a change because for those that have…

CLARE: Hang on, Kieran. Hang on, hang on. I said there’s been no decision made. I know the Liberal Party are hyperventilating about this. When they were in power, they increased the taxes on super by $5 billion, and now they’re hyperventilating on this. They are dripping with hypocrisy here. As I said at the start, there’s always going to be a fight on superannuation in this building because we created it and they hate it. They hate the idea of it. They voted against it at the start. Every time they get a chance, they freeze it, and it means Aussies retire with less. That’s just the truth. That’s not me making a political point. That is just a fact.

GILBERT: But you can see why, you’re saying the Liberals are hyperventilating, but you can see why people, not just the Liberals, but more broadly, they’re saying, what are they going to do? Because it’s your superannuation, your retirement, your nest egg. People – a lot of viewers watching today going, what’s happening to my money? If you put it away, you want have certainty about it.

CLARE: Jim made the point that 1 per cent of Australians have more than $3 million in their super. Do you have more than $3 million in your super?

GILBERT: The questions are going this way.

CLARE: These are the questions that people might ask, and I suspect 99 per cent of Australians will say ‘no’. No decisions have been made. No major changes to super are going to be made. But what Jim said in a couple of interviews yesterday, is the average Aussie has got 150 grand in their super,1 per cent of Aussies have got more than 3 million. And so, he said, let’s have a conversation about it. What are the best tax arrangements there to make it sustainable in the long term? That’s all he said.

GILBERT: It sounds like it’s happening. It’s not like he’s the Shadow Minister for facilities. He’s the Treasurer.

CLARE: He certainly is.

GILBERT: It sounds like…

CLARE: And Albo hasn’t been secretly sworn in as the Treasurer either.

GILBERT: Well, it sounds like it’s happening to me, but the Treasurer says it, the Prime Minister is saying no major changes. Well, minor changes are coming. You might call them minor, but for those with three, four, $5 million super accounts…

CLARE: You getting worried are you, Kieran?

GILBERT: Maybe not. Maybe not mine. Now, let’s look at the universities review. You’ve made this announcement. First of all, this is what you’ve been focusing on this week. How do our universities stack up internationally?

CLARE: We’ve got some of the best universities in the world. Look at the top 100 universities and it’s full of Australian universities. They do an extremely good job. The evidence of that is, look at how many people come from all around the world to study here. The research we do is first-class as well. What this review is about is how do we make sure that we set them up for the next 10 years and the next 20 years. If we went in a time machine back to when you and I were born in the Western Suburbs of Sydney, there’s only a handful of unis. Only about 7 percent of Aussies had a uni degree. If you fast forward to today, we’ve got about 40 unis. More than a million Australians are at uni at the moment.

GILBERT: How have they held up during the pandemic? Because a lot of foreign students were unable to come here. Have they struggled?

CLARE: Some did it tougher than others, and international students were basically told to go home. A $40 billion industry was kneecapped. It was cut in half. It’s coming back. But let me just finish this point about what the future of universities is going to be. We’re told that nine out of 10 jobs in the coming decade are going to require you to finish school and then go to TAFE or go to uni. Universities and TAFEs are going to be more important in the years to come than they have been in the past decades, because you won’t just be able to finish school and get a job, you’ve got to finish school and then go to TAFE or go to uni. A big part of this review is how many people do we need to have a university degree and what are the priority areas where they need to focus?

GILBERT: You’re going to India next week. One of the things that I guess you’ll be hoping for is further Australian university campuses. How promising is that looking over the next few months?

CLARE: I’m heading to India with about 11 Vice Chancellors to sign a mutual recognition agreement of qualifications.

GILBERT: What does that mean, mutual recognition of qualifications?

CLARE: It means it’ll make it easier for Australians if they do a degree in India for it to be recognised back here in Australia and vice versa. You make the point about campuses, there’s Australian universities in India at the moment that run courses embedded in Indian universities. Deakin and Monash and La Trobe are examples of that. This is about the potential to open campuses. So going from running courses to opening campuses. And the University of Wollongong is a good example of that.

GILBERT: So you don’t need a foreign- it’s not just foreign students that travel here to study, they’ll be studying in India at an Australian institution.

CLARE: Think about India, the world’s biggest democracy, 1.4 billion people, half a billion people under the age of 23. The Indian Government has an education plan where they want half of all young Indians to either go to vocational education or higher education by 2035. We think about the education challenges we’ve got here. Think about that. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of people going to the equivalent of TAFE or university. They can’t do it all on their own. Not all Indians are going to have the money to come to Australia or another country to study. So they’ve said to us, what can you do to help? And one of the ways to help is to run courses in Indian universities. But another opportunity that’s now emerging is to set up campuses.

GILBERT: How many are we talking about?

CLARE: Potentially a couple of universities who could do this. The first out of the blocks is the University of Wollongong, which is keen to set up a university in Gujarat. And I’ll be joined next week by Adam Gilchrist, former test captain, who’s now a global ambassador for the University of Wollongong.

GILBERT: They wouldn’t like you much in India with that.

CLARE: I was checking the other day, we haven’t won a Test series in India since 2004, and the captain back then was Adam Gilchrist.

GILBERT: So you’ll get the cameras to the news conference at least. What about the issue of diversifying?

CLARE: I can assure you it’s not a conspiracy to get Adam into the country to resurrect our chances in the next Test.

GILBERT: Yeah, we could do with him, but is this all about diversifying away from China?

CLARE: About 40 per cent of our international students in higher education are coming from China. I think there is a fantastic opportunity to educate more Indian students, but also students from Indonesia and from Vietnam as well. So that’s a big part of it.

GILBERT: Jason Clare, thanks as always. Appreciate it.

CLARE: Thanks, mate.