7 July 2015
Transcript - #2015079, 2015

Interview with Steve Chase, ABC News Radio

SUBJECTS: Productivity Commission Report - superannuation, Tax White Paper, China and Greece.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Good morning to you Steve and your listeners.

STEVE CHASE:

Thanks.

Before we get to this Productivity Commission Report can we just listen to what Chris Bowen said about an hour ago on News Radio which was a bit of a challenge to the Government.  Let us listen to what he said:

[Excerpt]

CHRIS BOWEN:

Clearly that is not something that we would support and clearly the Prime Minister should rule that out today. If the Prime Minister's words about no change to superannuation mean anything, he will rule that change out.

This is people's money and making them wait longer to access that would be a retrograde step and not one that would find support, I would suggest, from people who are concerned primarily about the future of their retirement income.

So we know Joe Hockey has hinted at this in the past, we would call upon the Government to rule out doing this in the future.

STEVE CHASE:

Well in the absence of Joe Hockey, you are the Acting Treasurer Bruce Billson.  Do you have a view on this?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Our view is absolutely consistent and that is, we have no plans, no plans, to make changes to superannuation, that point has been made over and over again and it just makes you wonder where Chris Bowen has been.

I mean, the Productivity Commission Report does not make any specific recommendations.

The savings that it indicates are, at 2055, represent but a drop in the ocean of broader retirement savings challenges, and more over we have been very consistent.

No adverse unexpected changes, we have no plans for changes in the future, no plans to change the eligibility criteria, how one can access superannuation and we have made that point over and over again.

So sounds like Chris Bowen is falling over Labor's own rhetoric – whereas we have been very clear and consistent: No changes are proposed for superannuation. The Productivity Commission Report is a useful contribution to the Tax White Paper process but that is it.

STEVE CHASE:

So, the Tax White Paper process will be revisiting this area later in the year will it?

MINISTER BILLSON:

Well, the Tax White Paper process is already examining this area and the paper that the Productivity Commission instigated on its own behalf looks at a broader range of post retirement income arrangements.

It has done some interesting analysis.

Slightly different take on the Intergenerational Report population projections but its input into the Tax White Paper process – the Government's position has been clear and consistent: we have no adverse unexpected changes to superannuation.

The debate in Canberra, Steve, is the Labor 'break glass in case of budget emergency' approach to superannuation. Viewing it as some kind of budget repair bounty.

That is not the Government's view. People have worked hard and provided thoughtfully for their retirement and that is why stability in superannuation is important in our view compared to Labor's view of wanting to make changes all over the shop.

STEVE CHASE:

I do not need to tell you and other politicians that an election is due to be held within the next year or so and lots of things are going to be put to the voters as what they want to do with retirement incomes. Could… what are you suggesting be changed?

MINISTER BILLSON:

I see no case for it changing.

The Government has made it clear it has no plans to change it. We think stability is what is needed in superannuation.

Labor used to believe that too Steve. I remember Kevin Rudd running the country saying there would be no changes to superannuation, 'not one jot, not one tittle'. 

Instead we had around a dozen changes costing superannuation fund holders around eight or nine billion dollars. That is not the approach of this Government: Predictability, certainty, encouragement for people to provide for their own retirement, that is what we have been offering and that is a vivid contrast to the flip floppery and the 'budget raid' that Labor seems to think that superannuation funds represent. That is not our view.

STEVE CHASE:

You talk to small business very regularly in your day job as the Small Business Minister, the Acting Treasurer now, and you would be aware that there are problems with the stock market in China and Greece and that is causing worries here that it could hit confidence across our region. Do you share that worry?

MINISTER BILLSON:

We are very closely monitoring what is going on.

They are different sorts of challenges facing the Greek economy and the Chinese economy. In the Chinese economic case there has been hyperactivity in the stock market as people sought to shift investment funds out of property.

That has then been recognised as, large part, unsustainable. The Chinese authorities have intervened in a very confident and bold way and we saw some improvement in the situation in China.

Greece is an entirely different kettle of fish: The election, the referenda results on the weekend made it clear what the Greek population did not want in relation to its economic circumstances and the role and contribution of its lenders into the Greek economy.

Now what needs to happen is a clear definition of what is next.

We know later today, Europe time, the Eurozone Finance Ministers will be coming together, urging the Greek authorities to bring forward a new proposition that lenders can be happy with so as to see an ongoing supply of funding into the Greek economy.

So the next few days will be very significant Steve to see how the European community, its leadership, the Greek authority and the Greek people will try and find some common ground and (INAUDIBLE) what has resulted from the weekends referenda.

STEVE CHASE:

Bruce Billson, appreciate you joining us this morning.

MINISTER BILLSON:

Thank you Steve.