Subjects: Pension changes, Medicare, Banking Royal Commission
PETER STEFANOVIC: Thank you very much Lisa. The Australian Council of Trade Unions is using robo-calls in a campaign against cuts to the aged-pension that come into effect on January 1, let’s take a listen:
CALL: Hello, my name is Leanne and I’m sorry to bother you, but there’s something really important I need your help with. I’m worried about my Dad. He’s just had a letter from the Government saying Malcolm Turnbull will be cutting his pension. He’s a retiree on a fixed income and really needs the pension just to get by each week. Him and Mum worked hard their whole lives. So how can the Government suddenly make changes now? And just before Christmas? Have your parents got the letter too? The Government can’t get away with this. It’s un-Australian.
STEFANOVIC: It doesn’t come with any claims that one. But joining us to discuss is Cabinet Secretary, Senator Arthur Sinodinos and Shadow Infrastructure Minister, Anthony Albanese. Good morning to you chaps. Arthur, first of all, your reaction to this?
ARTHUR SINODINOS: Well look mate we can’t have these sorts of ads because first of all it’s misleading. Most pensioners are either going to have no change or they’re going to have some increase in their pension, if they’re on the full pension. Some pensioners who have more assets above a certain threshold are going to be asked to use some of those assets to help top up their incomes and we will reduce the pension accordingly. And the reason we’re doing that is because we face a Budget repair problem and we’re trying to get every part of the community. Look at our Super reforms; that was to hit the big end of town, which it did, and the whole point is across the board we’ve got to have an approach to the Budget that helps us get things under control. But the most important thing, mate, is that it is misleading because it’s not giving all the facts. It’s suggesting to any pensioner who may in fact benefit from our changes that they are going to lose, that’s what’s misleading about it.
STEFANOVIC: Bill Shorten is facing pressure to distance himself from this. Do you feel pressure as well?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Not at all. I tell you what I feel pressure from, Peter, is the fact that I’ve got constituents who are on fixed incomes, who work, particularly public servants. This particularly affects people who are on defined benefits schemes. So they are on a fixed income, they’ve made plans for their retirement and, all of a sudden, without notice, and many of them are just finding out about it now, due to a deal between the Liberals and the Greens, they are going to find themselves with less income from January 1. That’s the pressure that I feel; the concern that is out there in the community about this. And I feel for the people who have been subject to this change, made retirement plans based upon expecting a certain amount of income and, all of a sudden, you have these changes, which are effectively retrospective and are having a real impact, and certainly aren’t being advertised by the Government.
SINODINOS: No Albo, we’ve put all sorts of stuff out there. Peter can I tell you something? If Albo had been leader these ads would not have happened.
STEFANOVIC: Well I mean, these are very similar to the so-called ‘Mediscare’ campaign that came through earlier in the year, I mean, is this something that…
ALBANESE: And what’s happening with Medicare Peter?
STEFANOVIC: But did Labor know about this before these were going to air?
ALBANESE: Well, I wasn’t consulted but I tell you what, there’s a real impact of it. What I knew about was constituents impacting on their incomes; that’s what I knew about. Just like I know that there are people visiting their local GP who have had, because of the Medicare Rebate Freeze, who are getting less access to Bulk Billing in my electorate. That’s what I know about.
STEFANOVIC: Alright now we’ve got to move along. This week Senator Pauline Hanson got the Government to agree to her personally questioning bank chiefs over their treatment of farmers. Arthur are you comfortable with the amount of sway Pauline is having and her One Nation Party in particular? SINODINOS: Look, the crossbench are all God’s children. They all got elected under the newly reformed voting system. We deal with all of them, whether it’s Pauline Hanson, Nick Xenophon, Derryn Hinch, the Labor Party; we agree on certain things, we pass legislation together from time to time. You deal with people depending on what the issue is. Now what Pauline Hanson is doing, of course, is every time she thinks Labor or the Coalition do something that she likes she jumps on it and tries to take credit for it. I’m in the business of taking the One Nation voters away, the Xenophon voters away from them, and getting them to vote for us. We’re not going to be in any sort of alliance with One Nation or anybody else. We’re not doing business just with one side of the crossbench, we deal with everybody.
ALBANESE: Well this is a Government that doesn’t have an agenda of its own, so it’s adopting other people’s agendas. What we need here is a Royal Commission into Banks. This inquiry is a good thing that’s happening. It follows another inquiry earlier this year that reported that farmers were being impacted by some bad activities of banks, and we need a Banking Royal Commission. And whether it’s Pauline Hanson, or the Government, what they need to look at is why are they running from having a Royal Commission into the Banks and the finance sector, so that we can look at any abuses which are out there and, also, so we can improve the system for the future.
SINODINOS: I mean, Peter, we are improving the system now. Albo when you look at people in Marrickville and you tell them it’s going to take two or three years for a Royal Commission it’s a lawyers picnic, which will help lawyers in the Eastern Suburbs, mate, that’s the end of it.
ALBANESE: The time when the Royal Commission was on the agenda is the one time that the banks all passed on the interest rate cuts.
SINODINOS: I disagree.
STEFANOVIC: We’ve got to wrap it there chaps, but thank you very much for coming on board this morning.
ALBANESE: Good to be here, we got none of the fun stuff though. You bring us on, then we’re getting kicked off straight away, not even the water slide.
RICHARD WILKINS: Fight, fight, fight, fight.
ALBANESE: Who wants us to go on the water slide?
STEFANOVIC: There we go Anthony Albanese on the water slide, that’s coming up soon on the show, what do you think Lisa?
LISA WILKINSON: They may be responsible for running the country but they are still big kids at heart.
Leader of the Australian Labor Party, MP for Grayndler, Rabbitohs Life Member. Authorised by Anthony Albanese, ALP, Canberra.