Subjects: Pension, housing affordability, superannuation, renewables
KARL STEFANOVIC: Welcome back to the show. Usually, we are the ones putting the hard questions to our pollies but today it’s your turn at home. You’ve been sending in your questions to Christopher Pyne and Anthony Albanese. Morning, lads.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Hi.
CHRISTOPHER PYNE: Good morning, Karl.
STEFANOVIC: Nice to see you all bright and early. First up, pensions. Belinda Bendon writes “why do ordinary Australians have to wait until they are 65 to receive a pension yet politicians get an exorbitant pension as soon as they leave government?” and Irene Tsiros asks, “why do all politicians believe they deserve to be paid when they leave politics?”. Christopher, you’re first up.
PYNE: Well, of course the laws have been changed to do with politicians and their superannuation such that politicians now need to wait until they’re 55 like every other Australian to be able to access their super. There’s still a small number of parliamentarians from 20 odd years ago who can access their superannuation as soon as they leave Parliament and that was really designed to compensate them for not having very high salaries in those days. That’s also been addressed in the last five to ten years and so therefore the laws around super are now the same for MPs as they are for other Australians.
STEFANOVIC: It’s still a lot, though, isn’t it?
PYNE: Well, it’s the same super that every other public servant gets, effectively.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Anthony?
ALBANESE: The average time that a parliamentarian spends in their job is under six years. Most MPs never ever got any super. In terms of the system, it was aligned to senior public servants in terms of defined benefits schemes. That’s been changed now.
STEFANOVIC: You two are lining up together on this. It’s nice to see.
PYNE: It’s just the truth.
ALBANESE: Just chucking a few facts out there, Karl.
PYNE: Goodness gracious. We’re not in the post-fact world that the rest of the media is in, Karl.
STEFANOVIC: Daniel Esgate writes: “When will government stop foreigners (…) buying up homes, pushing the Australian dream of owning a home way out of reach of the Aussie battler?” and Douglas Green wants to know “Why are Australians being priced out of the property market?”. Chris, why is this happening?
PYNE: Well of course, we have introduced significant reforms to foreign ownership of real estate in the last three years. We have reduced the threshold that the Foreign Investment Review Board has to look at investments from overseas. We have started making people divest themselves of existing property that they shouldn’t have been able to purchase in previous years, we’ve got a land register that is now up and running so that we know who is buying what and I would make the point though, Karl, that we are a vast country of about 770 million hectares. It’s not as though foreign ownership of real estate is pushing up house prices but there is a perception among some Australians that that is the case. So we took action to do something about that.
STEFANOVIC: What do you reckon about the NAB putting up interest rates today?
PYNE: I haven’t seen that yet, sorry Karl.
STEFANOVIC: Yep, they’ve gone up.
ALBANESE: I think there’s no excuse for them to be putting up interest rates when the Reserve Bank hasn’t. They’re using the US increase as an excuse and I think it’s just another example of the banks being out of touch.
PYNE: But there’s three other major banks. There are lots of other lenders in terms of the housing market. If consumers of the NAB don’t like what the NAB is doing it’s not nearly as hard to move banks as people think it is. I’ve done it a couple of times and it’s not that difficult.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, another good one by Pete Rebew is: “Why are politicians allowed to continually tinker with superannuation…how can you plan for retirement when they change the rules?”. Albo, he’s got a point hasn’t he?
ALBANESE: He does. We do need certainty with regard to superannuation. It’s important not just for individuals but for the whole economy. We rely upon those super funds that have grown into a big nest egg that are available for investment in Australian infrastructure. We should get that certainty there.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Christopher?
PYNE: Well, I agree with Anthony about that. The truth is that the reforms to super that the government did last year need to be the last reforms for some time because there needs to be certainty to people’s approach to their retirement, and I think the less people change the super reforms, the better, unless of course they’re for the benefit of the consumer.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, a couple more to race through. Melissa Burns George wants to know: “Why don’t you pay off your debts? You keep building things and taking money away from people and yet you still have the national debt”. Christopher, why can’t you balance the books?
PYNE: Well, during the Global Financial Crisis, Labor did manage to massively increase the national debt.
ALBANESE: The question was about you, Christopher. It was about your eight times increase.
PYNE: The debt massively increased because of Labor during the Global Financial Crisis.
STEFANOVIC: How long have you been in government now? Just to remind us?
PYNE: I’d love to be able to answer the question. Do you want me to or not?
STEFANOVIC: You don’t know how long you’ve been in government?
PYNE: There was no national debt Karl when the Howard Government lost. None. Six years later, we are in deficit and debt because of Labor and we are trying to pay that back appropriately. Of course, Labor keeps blocking every saving in the Senate as much as they possibly can, but we are paying back the debt and the deficit over time, but we’re not going to shock the economy. If people didn’t want to have all that debt and deficit, they shouldn’t have gotten rid of the Howard Government when there was none.
ALBANESE: We got through the Global Financial Crisis because of Labor’s Economic Stimulus Program and we were one of the few economies in the whole world that didn’t go into depression.
STEFANOVIC: This is a really good one, too. Jo-Anne Euston is asking “How can Australia, one of the most resource rich countries in the world be faced with an energy crisis?”. Chris, how is South Australia going?
PYNE: Well, unfortunately because of bad decisions to get rid of baseload power, to close down things like the Playford Power Station, the Northern Power Station, to mothball Pelican Point gas fired power station. Now, renewable energy is a good thing. Who couldn’t be for it? But, the truth is that a 50% renewable energy target meant that South Australia is overly reliant on unreliable energy like wind power when it doesn’t blow and we are trying to do things like the big announcement yesterday of the Snowy Hydro Scheme. 2000 more megawatts into the system. The Federal Government is trying to fix that problem.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Front page of The Advertiser this morning, people are blaming Jay Weatherill for the crisis, the energy crisis in South Australia. Are they right?
ALBANESE: No, they’re absolutely wrong. The fact is that New South Wales relies upon coal for our power more than any other state. We’ve had blackouts. We’ve had shutdowns. In South Australia, the national energy market isn’t working. Pelican Point was available and not used because the national regulator chose not to turn it on. That’s why the blackout happened.
STEFANOVIC: On the subject of power, Renee Effield is asking the hard hitting question of the week on the blackout at the Adele concert in Adelaide, “did Christopher Pyne unplug Adele?”. Are you responsible?
PYNE: I was at the Adele concert, it was absolutely fantastic. I’ll tell you what happened, it’s so amazing. There was a revolving stage underneath where Adele was standing and it literally revolved slowly and it pulled the plug out on the power on the stage so it wasn’t me.
ALBANESE: You missed an opportunity to blame the Federal Labor Party.
STEFANOVIC: What’s your favourite Adele song and just give us a little bar.
PYNE: I thought at the concert actually the best song she sang was Hello. It was the opening song and it was electric. But it was a great concert. 70,0000 people.
STEFANOVIC: Sing it.
PYNE: No. I haven’t had anything to drink.
ALBANESE: Think of the viewers!
STEFANOVIC: Have a great week. Lovely to see you both.