Jul 24, 2020





FRIDAY, 24 JULY 2020


SUBJECTS: Budget update; superannuation; population growth; Ita Buttrose’s comments.


ANTHONY ALBANESE, LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Yesterday was a lost opportunity from the Federal Government. A lost opportunity to explain to those 240,000 Australians who the Government says will lose their job between now and Christmas that the Government has a plan to actually create employment. This Government likes slogans, JobKeeper, JobSeeker, JobTrainer. What we actually need is job creator from this Government. A plan to create jobs, to deal with how we come out of this pandemic, and its consequential economic downturn by actually growing the economy and by growing jobs, and by not just by going back to what was there, but seizing the opportunity, the lessons that have been learnt, about our failure to be resilient when it comes to manufacturing. And our failure to actually be able to produce what we need across a range of industries. We’ll never have an incentive like we have right now to actually invest in infrastructure, to invest in people. And in terms of the Government, we saw again that lost opportunity reinforced by Josh Frydenberg’s speech at the Press Club, where once again, there was no plan for jobs, no plans to move forward out of this crisis. The Government needs to do better. It’s a pity that we can’t hold them to account in the Parliament over the fortnight sitting that was cancelled. But Labor’s determined to ensure that no further sessions of Parliament are cancelled and that the Government is held to account on these issues. Happy to take questions.


JOURNALIST: The Budget update included a decision to extend applications for people to draw down their super by $10,000 a year. Does Labor support that decision?


ALBANESE: Look, the problem with what they’re doing on superannuation is that they’re leaving people poorer off down the track. And that will affect individuals in terms of their capacity to be able to have a quality of life when they retire. But it also has a negative impact on the economy. Because we know that pool of savings is absolutely essential. And what we’re seeing here is a concern that we had expressed at the time of the parliamentary sittings earlier this year, when it comes to superannuation, but also industrial relations. We were concerned the Government was going to use this opportunity to go back to their ideological obsessions. We know that they don’t support superannuation. And they particularly oppose industry superannuation even though it is by far the most successful vehicle for people to put their savings and to put their faith and to get a higher return than the retail funds. And the Royal Commission showed that was the case. On superannuation, it seems the Government is determined never to miss an opportunity to undermine it. And that’s our concern here. It’s understandable that people, when given the opportunity, who are struggling, will dip into their savings. But we need to know, and they need to know, that there are real consequences for that. Just like industrial relations, we warned that the temporary measures in place, supported by the union movement, bringing those suspension of normal industrial arrangements, whilst JobKeeper was being paid, to keep businesses going, that suspension, we heard yesterday, that the Government will seek to extend it across the whole operation of the industrial relations system. And this should not be an opportunity to increase insecurity at work. If there’s a lesson from this pandemic, it’s that we need more work security, not less.


JOURNALIST: Are you concerned too many people are going to be accessing their super? The Budget papers indicated a lot will.


ALBANESE: This is a concern for the individual, in terms of their future retirement savings. But it’s also a concern for the national economy because it undermines the capacity of those infrastructure funds to invest in long-term infrastructure, which benefit the entire nation, not just individuals.


JOURNALIST: The fiscal update assumes a very low fertility rate and demographers say the birth rate will stay low. Is this an issue the Government needs to address?


ALBANESE: It’s not surprising that the low population increase is expected. We obviously have a curtailing of migration at the moment. And the other thing is, when people are feeling insecure, as they are at the moment, then that’s not a time, that’s a bit of an impediment, it can be, towards people starting a family, if they’re concerned about their employment prospects. They’re concerned about their future income. They’ve had to dip into their savings in terms of superannuation. So, it’s not surprising that this is an issue. It is one that the Government does need to address over time.


JOURNALIST: What policies does Labor support for making more Australian babies?


ALBANESE: Well, you can’t impose these things. What you can do, is make sure you have an economic environment that’s conducive to that. And that, of course, needs to happen over a period of time. We need to build confidence. And that’s something in which the industrial relations changes being mooted by the Government to be made permanent certainly won’t do anything to boost people’s confidence about their future income security. The fact the Government doesn’t have a jobs plan won’t do anything to boost confidence about people having employment security in into the future.


JOURNALIST: ABC Chair, Ita Buttrose, has been reported criticising younger workers as lacking resilience and almost needing a hug. Is this kind of commentary fair or appropriate at a time like this?


ALBANESE: Young people have been hardest hit by this pandemic. And young people don’t need a hug. They need the opportunity to buy a house. They need the opportunity for secure employment. They need the opportunity to get access to education and training so that they can fulfil their potential. Young people deserve our respect. And at a difficult time like this, where young people particularly have been hard hit, it’s young people who tend to be casual workers, who have been put off and haven’t been eligible for JobKeeper. It’s young people who, around this area, are really struggling with the prospect of ever owning a home. And I think we need to show total respect for them and their contribution. And we need to work out policies in which they can be not just not left behind but, so they can be lifted up and fulfil their potential and to have their legitimate aspirations fulfilled over a period of time, as have older generations had those opportunities. Thank you.