TRANSCRIPT - SKY AM AGENDA - 18 JULY 2016

SUBJECT/S: Kevin Rudd; Superannuation; Election 2016 

KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda. With me now, Labor frontbencher, newly re-elected Member for Greenway Michelle Rowland. Thanks for your time. First of all, Kevin Rudd for the UN Secretary General, will all the Labor Party be happy with that?

MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR SMALL BUSINESS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURALISM: I think all Australians would like to see an Australian in such an important role and certainly Australia has played a key role in the UN. You think back to Doc Evatt and many who followed him and I would think that Australians would first and foremost love to have an Australian in this very distinguished and very vital role for the world.

GILBERT: Even though Mr Rudd obviously has a fairly colourful recent history in terms of the Labor Party and some of your own front benchers wouldn't really see eye to eye with him on much let alone domestic policy or foreign policy, regardless.

ROWLAND: As I said Kieran, I think that all Australians and certainly it would be a tremendous honour for Mr Rudd to be nominated for this position. As you heard earlier it's a matter for the Cabinet to be deciding now but I hope they will exercise their best judgement.

GILBERT: And support him?

ROWLAND: Indeed.

GILBERT: Okay, let's look at the issue of superannuation now. The government says it's consulting, it's talking, what is your take on all of this should Labor say, make clear what you're going to back now in terms of the government's superannuation changes?

ROWLAND: Kieran, let's say for a start this is no way to be treating one of the key pillars of our economy. This is a multi-trillion dollar sector with trillions of dollars of funds under management. And for it to be dealt with in this way now for the government to have taken to the election a half-baked set of policies which their own senior people couldn't explain and then to now come out and say we're going to have our caucus decide what goes in it, one only wonders what the end result will end up being. A dog's breakfast of exemptions, a series of regulations carving out what one particular MP in a seat wants to see, and I think what we forget in all this is that people who are looking at retiring or have retired already, have been left in a status where they are paralysed. Many of them are being unadvised because there is simply no clarity whatsoever. Let's remember Kieran, this government said there would be no adverse changes to superannuation. That was clearly a lie and this government knows that it has got a serious fight on its hands. In the meantime Kieran, I'll make this last point, let's think about all the other areas of superannuation that this government is neglecting. The superannuation guarantee for example, frozen at 9.5 per cent, it needs to increase to 12 per cent. In the meantime, Australian workers are getting older, the chances of them retiring with dignified incomes are getting less and less and this government is getting so focused on itself that it's not thinking about these people at all.

GILBERT: But Labor said that its only problem was the retrospectivity, you've said if you'd won the election you'd make a similar envelope of saves. Isn't it incumbent upon Labor now to be constructive on this rather than simply putting the proverbial boot in?

ROWLAND: We're happy to be constructive Kieran and over a year ago we released our superannuation policy for cracking down on high end concessions. And we know that this is an issue of fairness. There is nothing that meets the standard of fairness in what the government is saying now, but we're very happy to support those elements for example, the government's policies which were our policies. Think about for example, the Low Income Superannuation Contribution which the Government scrapped and then brought it back on Budget night and said 'oh yeah, isn't this a good idea.' So we're happy to support those kinds of measures but what we've made very clear is that these policies, these proposals need to not only be thought about by the government, and who knows where their thinking is at the moment, but the sector needs to be involved as well. That simply has not happened and you're not going to have a sustainable suite of policies for retirement incomes unless we have meaningful engagement with the sector.

GILBERT: Do you accept though that whenever governments are elected that they'll put the policy to their partyrooms, to the parliament as well and through that process that policies are tweaked as the Leader of the Government in the House Christopher Pyne put it this morning, that they would like to be tinkered with around the edges, that's normal isn't it?

ROWLAND: The caveat I will put to that Kieran, is that during the campaign we heard the Prime Minister and many others say that these changes were iron-clad. Then we had people like Arthur Sinodinos come out and say this was subject to negotiation, and now I hear talk about a mandate and a mandate to tinker with that mandate. Quite frankly, I don't think the Australian electorate knows what this government took to the people on the issue of superannuation policy. So let's see what they come up with, let's see what the tinkering is, but I can tell you that one of the worst things in this area is to have the level of tinkering where there is no certainty, where trillions of dollars under funds management are put out to a caucus decision, where people have different agendas, where there is an environment of blame, and where, quite frankly, I don't think senior members of the government even know what their policy is.

GILBERT: On the final result, we've got the Coalition's first partyroom meeting today since the election, various strategists will be in there to answer questions from the Members. They didn't go as well as they'd hoped but they still got a majority, 76 possibly and likely 77. That's the reality for Labor for the next three years isn't it?

ROWLAND: Kieran, we accept the election result and one thing I would highlight however, is of course this government went to a double dissolution on two points; firstly about the ABCC which they didn't mention at all from my memory during the campaign. But secondly, Malcolm Turnbull thought he was being very clever, that he would get a Senate - one that would be free of minority parties, that he would have a sustainable mandate in terms of an overwhelming majority in the House, that didn't happen. So I think this is a pyrrhic victory for Malcolm Turnbull, but of course I don't underestimate and no one in the Labor Party underestimates the task we have ahead of us. No one whom I've spoken to is assuming that the next election will be one where Labor will cruise in to government.

GILBERT: You say it's a pyrrhic victory but it's a more emphatic win than Julia Gillard's minority government of 2010, surely.

ROWLAND: If you want to look at it like that, Kieran, here's a Prime Minister who rolled Tony Abbott on the basis that the government had lost its economic narrative on the basis that he and he alone, on the sole force of his personality would save all these MPs their seats, that didn't happen. But if he wants to enjoy that victory, go ahead, and in fact I think back to a couple of days ago when the Prime Minister made quite a catty comment in relation to Bill Shorten and said 'it looks like he's doing a victory lap when in fact he lost.' Well, I'd like to remind the Prime Minister that's exactly the kind of hubris that has landed him in the position he's in today.

GILBERT: We're out of time, Michelle Rowland. We'll talk to you soon.

ROWLAND: My pleasure.

ENDS