SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
TUESDAY, 1 SEPTEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Superannuation; China; aged care crisis.
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let's bring in the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness, Jason Clare, live from Canberra. Jason, good to see you. Thanks for joining us. Let's start there on super. What did you make of that intervention?
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: I thought Paul nailed it in that contribution just then. The Prime Minister, the Treasurer, all the pollies here all get 15 and a half per cent. All the public servants in this building. It's 15 and a half per cent as far as the eye can see but go out there in the real world and most people only get nine and a half per cent. I'm sure that's what you get as well, Pete. And it's not fair that politicians are getting almost double the amount of superannuation in percentage terms as the average worker. The Prime Minister gets 84 grand a year in superannuation. The Treasurer gets 60 grand a year in superannuation. They get about as much in super as the average wage, and now they're going to go out there and say that the average Australian worker doesn't deserve a couple of extra hundred bucks in his super every year? That's just plain old mean.
STEFANOVIC: What does this say though, about Anthony Albanese, if two former leaders of the Labor Party are required on this subject for cut through?
CLARE: No, it's not that it's required. You try and hold Paul Keating back when it comes to superannuation. This is the bloke that built it and he's not going to see it ripped down by the Liberal Party. He knows, like most Aussies know, that wherever there's a chance, the Libs will try and freeze it. Howard froze it. Abbott froze it. Now Morrison wants to freeze it. Of course you'd expect him to fight for it. This is bloody important. It'll determine how much money people have to retire on. This is a full-court press. Everybody that cares about superannuation and about making sure that ordinary Aussies have enough money to retire on is going to fight this to the bitter end. I make this the same point I made two weeks ago, Pete - John Howard lost an election after he brought in Work Choices that cut salaries for a million Aussies. If they were to pass this, this would be a pay cut for 10 million working Australians and they would rue the day.
STEFANOVIC: Isn't COVID a game changer, though? I know the Treasurer is just looking at the timing of it all. So, it's not that it's going to be canned, it's just sort of going to be pushed down the road a little bit. Does that argument kind of weigh up because businesses just can't afford pay rises at the moment anyway?
CLARE: Look what's happened in the last five years - there's been a freeze on superannuation and no increase in wages. The bottom line here is that if your superannuation gets frozen again, no one will get a pay rise. The only pay rise people are going to get is through their superannuation. We've seen profits go up over the last five years but pay increases are as rare as hen's teeth. What's happening here is the Liberal Party see an opportunity. There's a crisis, here's an opportunity to do what we always want to do which is freeze the superannuation of ordinary Aussies while they rub their hands and take 15 and a half per cent every year. It's just not fair. I think it's bloody hypocritical that they're happy to take 15 and a half per cent super and say that for the rest of Australia, nine and a half percent is good enough for you.
STEFANOVIC: Just on this arrest of this Australian anchor or journalist, the news that's come out of China, Jason. I'm wondering, I'm not sure what you can say about it but I guess it dovetails into the broader argument about, you know, trade between Australia and China at the moment: beef, barley, wine and all the rest of it. Do you feel like this is a bit more than an arrest?
CLARE: I wouldn't say that. I don't have enough information to even suggest that. It's obviously concerning. The good thing here is that the Foreign Minister has indicated that consular assistance is being provided. That's first and foremost what needs to happen. I wouldn't say anything to prejudice the case of this individual. More broadly Pete, what I'd say is China is our biggest trading partner. To put that in context, one in every three dollars we make from trade we make from China every year, so it's big and important. But whenever we have a problem with trade, we pick up the phone and no one answers. Now that's not good enough. Think about what happened a couple of years ago when Donald Trump was threatening tariffs on Australian steel and aluminium. There was a full-court press. The Prime Minister spoke to the President, Premiers spoke to Governors, we had leaders in business fly over to America. They were able to talk to their counterparts. The relationships are strong and deep. But for our biggest and most important trading partner, whenever there's a problem, we pick up the phone and no one answers. Now it cuts both ways. Both countries have got a responsibility to fix that, but after seven years, you'd think the Government would have somebody that they could pick up the phone and talk to.
STEFANOVIC: Onto aged care. Labor obviously smells blood at the moment when it comes to Richard Colbeck. The Government tipped in more money into the aged care sector yesterday. Is that enough?
CLARE: No money is going to bring back the 450 people that have died over the last few weeks and last few months and that's the problem. Normally a Prime Minister can carry a weak Minister and you see it all the time. But this is too important for that. People are dying. We've got more than 400 people who are dead. You need a top-class Minister who is on top of the portfolio to make sure that we're putting in place all of the things to make sure that no one else dies. We're in the middle of a second wave, there’s the risk of a third wave if we don't get this right coming down the track. We've seen this virus plunge into different aged care centres and it's exposed that the Government either didn't have a plan or didn't have a good plan, because we've seen so many people die. And all we've seen over the last few days is the Minister turning us back on the Senate walking out or turning his back on journalists here at press conferences. I think most Australians, particularly people that have got their mum or dad in aged care, would just like to see the back of this Minister for good.
STEFANOVIC: There's no way to stop it though, is it, COVID from entering aged care facilities? The argument always is that whenever there's a hotspot or whenever there's an outbreak, it's inevitably going to get into aged care where people are most vulnerable, and there will be other outbreaks. Despite best intentions or however much money is tipped into it, it's going to continue, isn't it, regardless of who is leading the portfolio?
CLARE: There's always that risk but it's about what plan you've got in place when it happens. Do you make sure that all of the people that work there have got the equipment they need, the masks and the gloves so they don't have to try and pick someone up with one glove? Do you make sure that people aren't forced to work at multiple centres so they can spread the virus from one place to another? Do you have the teams in place when everybody that works at the aged care centre gets the virus and they have to be moved out, to move another team in? When the proverbial hit the fan of a couple of weeks ago in aged care in Victoria, the Government was exposed. They didn't have a plan to make sure that people are being cared and looked after so we saw people dying in aged care with ants crawling over open wounds and people not being fed. For people that have given their life to this country, paid taxes, they deserve better, to be honest. And if that's not enough for a Minister to go, I don't know what is.
STEFANOVIC: We'll have to hold it there. Jason Clare, appreciate your time, as always good to chat. We'll talk to you soon.
CLARE: Thanks mate.