Television interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 24 February 2023


SUBJECTS: Superannuation 

NATALIE BARR: Well, the Coalition has vowed to block any changes to superannuation in Parliament. Labor has stressed it’s not intending to make any major moves, but it is considering slashing tax breaks for the most wealthy. It means the government could redirect a billion dollars in savings into other budget areas like health and aged care. But the opposition says that would be breaking an election promise. Let’s bring in Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley. Morning to both of you. Sussan, we’ll start with you. 

SUSSAN LEY: Morning. 

NATALIE BARR: Why block changes if it means the money that’s saved can help more people? 

LEY: Because the government said before the election that they had no intention of changing superannuation. They floated the idea earlier this week. Now they seem to be making jokes about it, calling it a ‘honeypot’ to be raided for the things they want to spend it on, instead of fiscal responsibility and managing the economy in a way that actually protects the retirement incomes of Australians that have worked really, really hard. I’m in Western Australia, all over the state for the week, I’ve met a lot of self-funded retirees, totally unimpressed with this, because they’ve worked hard, they’ve put their money away and they’re not going to rely on the age pension when they’re older. And, I mean, I don’t know, no one can explain to me in the Labor Party what this actually is. And this is the problem, talking about it as if it’s honey to be raided, shared around. Well, it’s not honey, it’s not funny. And we actually need the government to stick to its election promises, instead of all of the different views that we’ve heard this week that actually seem to be saying to Australians, we don’t care about your superannuation, we want it ourselves, we’ve got plans for it and those plans don’t look after you. And Nat, the other thing is that it’s your superannuation today, it’s your tax cuts next week. Where will it end? 

BARR: Yes, so Jason, Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones said yesterday “There are billions in super, that is a lot of honey to be shared around”. Was that a poor choice of words? 

JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: Super is for your retirement. It’s about making sure that you can retire comfortably, and you don’t have to rely on the pension. We’re proud of super. It’s the Labor Party that created superannuation. We built it up and got it to the point where it is today. 

BARR: But do you think that was a bad way of saying it? Because it sounded like, we are going to take your honey. It sounded to a lot of Australians yesterday that it may be greedy, that the money is there we’re going to take it. Should he have said it like that, didn’t go down well did it? 

CLARE: I’ll use my words Nat, but our superannuation accounts are there now, today, because of the Labor Party, because we created it. The awful truth is, for most Aussies, they’ve got less money in their super today than they should because of the Liberal Party. Under Howard and Abbott, they froze super, which meant we’ve got less than we should. Politicians are sitting pretty; we’ve got 15 per cent super. But for everyone else in the country, most Australians are on 10 per cent super. So, I’m not going to cop the hypocrisy from the Liberal Party on superannuation. We created it, built it up for Australians. Whenever the Libs get a chance, they rip it away. 

BARR: Jason, I guess the problem here that a lot of people are saying is that you went to an election, you said there wouldn’t be any major changes to super. Now you seem to be playing with words because you’re considering changes to super now. It’s a backflip, isn’t it? 

CLARE: I don’t think this is a major change. We’ve said two things. One, we think that we should make it clear in the legislation what super is for; that it’s for your retirement, it’s not to be ripped away for other reasons. And two, what the Treasurer said is it’s worth having a conversation about the fact that for 1 per cent of Aussies who’ve got $3 million or more in their superannuation, should the tax concessions for them be the same for everybody else? I don’t know about you, Nat, I don’t have $3 million in my super. 99 per cent of Australians don’t. We said, let’s have a conversation about this and every Liberal MP across the country’s head exploded at that thought. I think that says a lot about the Liberal Party. They say they’re for the suburbs, but when it counts, they’re really just for the multimillionaires. 

BARR: And, Sussan, you know, the Coalition has made changes to super along the line, too, so there’s a precedent there, isn’t there? 

LEY: Changes Nat which we took to an election, we took to the 2016 election, and we talked sensibly and productively with Australians, and we took the changes to an election. It’s not even one year from this election and already the Labor Party is coming after your money because they’re running out of theirs. And the principle here is that if you look Australians in the eye and you say, we have no intention of changing superannuation. And by the way, Labor would have said that they would have said that because they had trouble in the 2019 election by proposing changes which Australians actually voted against. So, they’ve been really tricky this time, they’ve waited until after the election. They’re now sort of floating this balloon, and I mean, my goodness, making jokes about it, calling it a ‘honey pot.’ How does an Australian who’s saved hard for their retirement and who’s not going to rely on the age pension feel about their hard-earned savings being described that way? 

BARR: Okay, we thank you both for your say this morning. We’ll see you next week.