SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
TUESDAY, 24 NOVEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Nationals in the Hunter Valley; superannuation; housing; Qantas and the COVID vaccine.
LAURA JAYES, HOST: Jason Clare, the Shadow Minister for Housing and Homelessness joins me. Just on that point and not making any assumptions about the case in South Australia, but do you think under the pandemic and the way visa holders have not had that safety net, Jason Clare, has it potentially prompted more people to work and accept cash and therefore not pay tax?
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: It's a risk, isn't it? It certainly is a risk. We've got to make sure that people play by the rules and play it safe, otherwise the virus spreads and we've seen too much evidence of that around the country over the last few months.
JAYES: Let's look at what the Nationals are going to be concentrating on in this next week ahead, spending a week in the Hunter Valley targeting Labor over its perceived lack of support for coal jobs. Are you worried?
CLARE: What's not well known here Laura is this is all part of Labor's secret weapon, getting Michael McCormack on a bus to the Hunter Valley. Just like Bob Brown on a bus up to Central Queensland during the election helped to win votes for the Libs and the Nats, getting Michael McCormack I reckon to the Hunter Valley is only going to win votes for the Labor Party. I think the more people see Michael McCormack up there, the more likely they'll be to vote Labor come the next election.
JAYES: Yeah, that hasn't been a point raised but perhaps you make a cheeky point there now. Let's talk about the super guarantee. Would delaying it be justified in any circumstance, given the year we've just had?
CLARE: No. The short answer to that question is no, Laura. This has been tried and tested before. John Howard froze super, wages didn't go up. Tony Abbott froze the super increase and wages didn't go up. He froze that back in 2013. We haven't seen wages go up dramatically since then. So, this argument that if you freeze the superannuation increase, suddenly people's wages are going to go up is just a fraud.
The government, frankly, is using the cover of COVID to give people a pay cut here. It'll be a cut in their retirement incomes. Instead of wearing a balaclava, they're just using a COVID mask to do it. It's also a broken promise. Remember, the government at the last election said they wouldn't do this, so if they do go ahead and cut this, effectively cut the amount of money that people will retire on, people will remember come the next election that this is a government that can't be trusted.
The final point I'd make on this is remember, people like me, people like Scott Morrison, get 15.4 per cent super every year. Everybody else, or almost everybody else, in the country gets nine and a half percent. What the government saying here is that 15.4% is terrific for the pollies but nine and a half percent is good enough for everybody else. I reckon when the people of Australia hear that, that'd be pretty bloody furious with this government.
JAYES: You'd have to admit that the super system is not perfect. So, starting from that premise, where do you go? I mean, you just point out the inequity between what politicians get and the rest of us get, and also, the fact that this income retirement report also pointed out that it's not perfect. So how do you fix it?
CLARE: Of course, it's not perfect, but it's pretty bloody good compared to systems around the world. I think we're the envy of many countries.
JAYES: Can I just pick you up on that? How can you say it's pretty bloody good when you see, I think 65 to 70 per cent of Australians in retirement still relying on the pension?
CLARE: That's got to do I think with some of the rules around the way you access the pension. But the point I'm making here, Laura, is that if you've got something like $2 trillion in savings that helps people to retire, Paul Keating was on telly the other night making the point that this system started almost from scratch in the 90s, universal superannuation, and has helped millions and millions of Australians to retire in comfort rather than just relying on the pension and millions more in the decades ahead. It's something we should be proud of. I think it's one of the biggest, most fundamental reforms to our economy and our country in the last few decades, but it can always be improved. The point I'd make, the point Labor makes though is, if we want more Aussies to be able to retire at a standard they want to and not feel like they have to scrimp and save and rely on the pension, then we want to be able to increase the amount of money that people have to retire on when they do retire. That means increasing super not freezing it.
JAYES: You know how difficult it is for people to get their first home at the moment, particularly if you're a low-income earner. What about this idea from Bernie Fraser that you could access super to buy home?
CLARE: I think Tim Wilson on the backbench of the Liberal Party floated this idea as well. The heavy hitters in the Liberal Party have already knocked this idea on the head. I remember Matthias Corman a couple of years ago was asked this and said this just won't work. All it would do is increase pressure on prices, increase demand without increasing supply. You know what we should be doing here is helping more Australians to buy their first home without ripping their super off them. Surely, we can do both. Surely, we can put in place policies that help more Aussies to buy a home without them having to take their super to do it. We want people to retire with more super, not less, and to be able to retire owning a home rather than renting. Surely, it's within the wit of all of the politicians in Canberra and around the country to be able to do that.
JAYES: You'd think so but who knows? Now, just finally, before I let you go let's look about Qantas. I think it's a really interesting intervention from Alan Joyce here. He said that once we do get back flying internationally, overseas, he will make it mandatory and you have to produce evidence of getting the COVID vaccine in order to get on a Qantas plane. Is that a good move?
CLARE: It's not surprising. I wouldn't be surprised if the government mandates that and says that that's the rule if you want to be able to come into the country and not quarantine, that you've got to have evidence that you've been vaccinated. We'll see what happens over the course of next year, as hopefully lots and lots of Aussies get vaccinated and we can put this COVID nightmare behind us. A key part of that though, Laura, is going to be building community trust here. For most of us getting immunizations, getting vaccines is just par for the course. I took my four-year-old munchkin to get his four-year-old shots just on the weekend. But with a new vaccine, I know there's going to be lots of Aussies who will say 'hang on a sec, I'll wait and just make sure it's safe'. So, the role that political leaders play and community leaders play in making sure that the community knows this is safe, and that we get vaccinated so life can return somewhat to what it was like before COVID is going to be very, very important.
JAYES: It's interesting. Just on that, the UK has threatened to take action against anti vaxxers perpetrating lies online. I asked Greg Hunt about this, he says it's not quite necessary for us to at the moment, but that should be surely something we keep in our arsenal, the ability to quash those messages.
CLARE: Yeah, I think it is. It's up to all of us. I guess the point I'm making here is that unlike your standard run of the mill immunizations, I'm picking up in the community, mums and dads with young kids saying 'hang on a sec, I'll wait to just make sure it's safe. I don't want to jab my kid until I know it's going to be safe'. Or older Aussies who say 'look, I'm not going to travel even when the borders go back up because I just want to be safe. I want to know that the vaccine is going to work'. I sit here today as somebody who has enormous faith and trust in the work that our scientists have done and I think that it's going to be up to all of us on telly, in the Parliament and in the community to build that trust to make sure that Australians are vaccinated and that we can get life to life back to normal, back to what it was like last year.
JAYES: I'm sure Jack was very brave in getting his vaccinations Jason Clare. Thanks so much for your time.
CLARE: He was indeed. Much braver than his dad.
JAYES: Yeah, indeed. Thanks.
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