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Transcript of interview with Barrie Cassidy: Insiders: 21 August 2016: the Government's Omnibus Bill; superannuation reform; same sex marriage plebiscite

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Kelly O'Dwyer

Minister for Revenue and Financial Services



Subjects: The Government’s Omnibus Bill; Superannuation reform; Same sex marriage plebiscite.

BARRIE CASSIDY: We'll go to our studio guest, the Minister for Revenue, Kelly O'Dwyer, while she joins us here's the Minister for Employment, Michaelia Cash on those Budget savings that the Government says Labor is now honour bound to support.

These are savings that Bill Shorten took to the election and promised the Australian people. He is reneging on a promise made to the Australian people. And in fact, you know, it's opportune that we've got the Rio Olympics on at the moment. Bill Shorten could go and become a gymnast, he'd get a gold medal for the biggest backflip that anyone's ever performed in the history of the Olympics. He took these savings to the Election, Laura. It's an absolute joke if he does anything other than that.

CASSIDY: Kelly O'Dwyer welcome.

MINISTER O'DWYER: Good to be with you, Barrie.

CASSIDY: Is that the best way to open negotiations, do you think that really captures the right spirit?

MINISTER O'DWYER: My colleague Michaelia Cash I think nails it when she says that the Opposition and the Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten has no economic credibility if he is prepared to walk back from the commitment that he made to the Australian people prior to the Election. Now they banked on over $6.5 billion worth of savings, they banked that in their bottom line, in their Budget figures and if they now turn around and say that ‘no we didn't really mean it’, it means that they are playing petty politics, they are playing with our national interest and Bill Shorten simply can't be trusted.

CASSIDY: Why don’t you try persuasion before the heckling and the lecturing?

MINISTER O'DWYER: We absolutely believe it is important for Bill Shorten to honour his commitments. He wants to be constructive...

CASSIDY: He said he will... But that’s one thing they have said - they will honour their commitments but they want to see the legislation.

MINISTER O'DWYER: Well then there will be no issue - these are the commitments they gave at the Election so they will be able to honour those commitments. It's fairly simple, you don't need to negotiate something that you've already agreed.


CASSIDY: But isn’t it reasonable that they see the legislation because they don’t want you slipping something in that they didn't commit to. They're entitled to see that, surely?

MINISTER O'DWYER: They will obviously see the legislation. But the principle is this - are they going to honour the commitment that they made in the Election? Now Bill Shorten has not said that he will honour those commitments...

CASSIDY: He has said that.

MINISTER O'DWYER: If he honours those commitments, he will we can pass the Bill.

CASSIDY: Why hasn't Malcolm Turnbull, Scott Morrison called Bill Shorten in, Chris Bowen, sat them down and said this is what we want and start the negotiations that way?

MINISTER O'DWYER: But it isn't a negotiation when they have already agreed these particular measures. The negotiation is around measures that you haven't agreed. These are the measures that Labor, during the Election, said that they did agree - $6.5 billion worth.

CASSIDY: Is that why you’ve bundled them all together in one Bill?


CASSIDY: So there is no wiggle room?

MINISTER O’DWYER: We are putting all of the measures that Labor have agreed in one Bill, so they can pass it and so that we can really commit ourselves to the task of budget repair. It is critical that we commit ourselves to the task of budget repair, that we reduce deficits because it will only be through doing that that we are able to reduce debt and that we reduce the burden on future generations, our children and our children's children.

CASSIDY: But see, there might be one problem with that strategy is that if they do want to vote against one part of it, say the clean energy agency money - $1 billion or so - if they were to knock that back then you’re left with nothing. You don't just lose the billion you lose $6 billion.

MINISTER O'DWYER: But this is the issue though Barrie, they actually banked that in to their figures, their Budget bottom line, that particular saving prior to the Election and if they want to crab-walk away from a commitment that they made to the Australian people they need to be honest about it. Bill Shorten needs to say that he is going to play politics with the Australian Budget, with the future of Australians and of our economic national interest.

CASSIDY: But wouldn’t you rather be $1 billion short rather than $6 billion short?

MINISTER O'DWYER: This is for Bill Shorten to explain. This is not for the Government to explain. It is for Bill Shorten to explain why it is that he is backflipping. We saw this prior to the Election and during the Election that they made all sorts of grand statements of the things that they weren't going to do. In the Election they backflipped on around about $47 billion worth of savings and revenue measures and that was because they needed that to bank it into their budget bottom line. The Australian people are sick, they are sick of these games, they are sick of the politics. They want the Government to get on with governing, they want us to fix the Budget. They want to make sure that the Labor Party works well with the Government to act in the national interest.


CASSIDY: Yes, but it might be a lot of wasted outrage but in the end they support you?

MINISTER O'DWYER: I would love it. We would love that, Barrie. That's what we want.

CASSIDY: Alright, now on these welfare payments and we are hearing that Labor well they've already, I think, indicated this anyway, they meet you halfway on that. With these supplements $700 or so on average, if that was reduced to $350, would that be acceptable?

MINISTER O'DWYER: This is actually Labor's policy, this is not the Coalition's policy and we have brought forward a policy in relation to child care that is supported and paid for by these savings measures that we have put forward. Now, this only goes part way to delivering that. The Government needs to make sure that we can not only deliver on the policies but make sure that we can pay for them as well otherwise we're simply extending out the problem that already exists with the Budget. So this is a Labor policy, I'm not sure where the speculation has come from that a deal has been done.

CASSIDY: But if you did cut some kind of deal around that figure, that would still leave enough for child care relief?

MINISTER O'DWYER: No, it doesn't pay for it at all, it doesn't go halfway there to actually paying for it. That's why I'm surprised to read these sorts of speculations and reports in the paper today. We need to make sure -

CASSIDY: So that sounds to you like their leak not yours?

MINISTER O'DWYER: I don't think it's come from the Government, let me put it that way, Barrie.

CASSIDY: Alright. On superannuation I hear you are negotiating with your own side which makes it a little unusual, but on these non-concessional contributions, $500,000 as it stands, you are open to increasing that?

MINISTER O'DWYER: What we have said on superannuation is that as the fiscal pressures increase and as our demographics change we need to make sure that superannuation is fit for purpose going forward. That it is affordable, that it is sustainable and that it is flexible and that it allows Australians to be able to save for their retirement. We're going to be legislating an objective for superannuation that says that it is for the retirement incomes of Australians that will either supplement or substitute for the Age Pension. Now that is where our package has been tied together through this particular objective. The non-concessional contributions is one aspect that people have highlighted...

CASSIDY: And the question was are you open to allowing that to be increased?

MINISTER O'DWYER: What we're doing at the moment is we are having discussions with stakeholders, we're having discussions with colleagues as we would ordinarily do…

CASSIDY: With an open mind?

MINISTER O'DWYER: As we would ordinarily do with any piece of legislation that we’re constructing…

CASSIDY: George Christensen tweeted overnight that if you double it, if you double it to $1 million it would satisfy most concerns.


MINISTER O'DWYER: What we're doing is we're doing what we always do when it comes to legislation, we are consulting very broadly. We're making sure that there are no unintended consequences. We're making sure we get it right.

CASSIDY: Because you did say in the run up to the election - during the campaign - you would be sticking with the policy you wouldn't change a word of it.

MINISTER O'DWYER: This is our package, this is our policy, it has got additional flexibility measures that mean those people who are on lower incomes who haven't taken full advantage of their concessional contribution caps, they will be able to do that going forward - up to $125,000 going forward on that rolling 5-year basis. We've extended out 10 years for people to be able to make concessional contributions. That adds up to $250,000 that people will be able to put into superannuation if they take advantage of it. We're encouraging people to put money into their spouse's superannuation if they've got a lower income spouse and we're giving them a tax offset to do that. We're making it a level playing field for people who want to be able to have tax deductions for their superannuation contributions so that if they’re employed by a small business that doesn't actually offer this, they're not put at a disadvantage. We're creating a level playing field for people to be able to contribute to their superannuation because at the end of the day, it's their retirement income and we want them to be able to have a good and strong retirement.

CASSIDY: Alright, and just finally on the plebiscite around same sex marriage, where are we on the same sex marriage plebiscite, what if any decisions have been taken around this?

MINISTER O'DWYER: So I've read the reports today. Obviously the Cabinet would be the ultimate decision-maker around the question and the timing of the plebiscite. The Government has committed to a plebiscite. We took that to the last election…

CASSIDY: But the timing?

MINISTER O’DWYER: We want the Australian people to have a vote. We have always said we would be very hopeful that we would be able to do that before the end of the year. We have said that we would do it, we committed though to doing it as soon as practicable and my understanding is that…

CASSIDY: So is February 17 the date?

MINISTER O'DWYER: My understanding is that the Special Minister of State has received very clear and direct advice from the Australian Electoral Commission that says that it is not possible to hold it by the end of the year…

CASSIDY: But why is it not possible?

MINISTER O’DWYER: That's the advice that he has received.

CASSIDY: But why is it not possible?

MINISTER O'DWYER: No decision has been taken but ultimately that will be for Cabinet to decide.

CASSIDY: Why is it not possible to hold one this year?

MINISTER O'DWYER: Ultimately that will be a decision for Cabinet. But if there are practical reasons as to why you can’t do it…


CASSIDY: That’s not a decision for Cabinet, it’s advice from the AEC that it's not possible this year, the question is why not? What have they said about that?

MINISTER O'DWYER: I’m not the Special Minister of State, I'm the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services and that advice will no doubt be put to the Cabinet at a future point in time.

CASSIDY: Right, so then, only then, the country will know what it’s not possible? Surely that's a question that can be answered now?

MINISTER O'DWYER: As I said to you, no decision has been taken, Barrie.

CASSIDY: No decision on the timing, no decision on the wording?

MINISTER O'DWYER: That's correct, no decision has been taken.

CASSIDY: Except that it will be next year not this year.

MINISTER O'DWYER: No, Barrie, no decision has been taken as to the timing or the question. So you can't make that assumption.

CASSIDY: One decision has been taken, it won't be this year. Do you accept that decision has been taken?

MINISTER O'DWYER: That decision has not been taken Barrie, that is precisely the point I am making. The Cabinet has not yet made a decision, advice has been received - that advice will be considered.

CASSIDY: We will leave it there, thank you.