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Transcript of interview with Kieran Gilbert: Sky News AM Agenda: 8 November 2016: Labor's superannuation tax reform package; productivity; mandate for economic reform; US Presidential election; Newspoll

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SUBJECT/S: Labor’s superannuation tax reform package, productivity, mandate for economic reform, US Presidential election; Newspoll.

KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Now to Labor’s proposal on superannuation, I spoke to the Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, earlier this morning.

CHRIS BOWEN, SHADOW TREASURER: These are good faith suggestions, these are Labor policy which we are announcing today. I don’t want to give Scott Morrison an opportunity or an excuse to walk away from this package. We do want to see a superannuation package pass the parliament, so we will work in good faith with the government, but what we are doing is making sensible suggestions which are good for the Budget, $1.4 billion dollars better off for the Budget over the next four years.

You know the Government lectures everybody about the need to repair the Budget, well here is a way to do it. Drop some of their proposed spending in this package, make the tax system fairer to superannuation, and that would pass through the parliament. The Treasurer would, with my support, be able to go to the ratings agencies and say “look, the parliament is working so well, we not only passed our superannuation package, we passed one with the opposition’s support which returned more for the Budget”

GILBERT: But you will, it’s pretty obvious you will, support the Government’s measures.

BOWEN: I’m not flagging opposition to the Government’s package as such, I am making an announcement about Labor’s position, now, if the Government chooses to take up these options, that’s good for the Budget. If they don’t, we will continue to progress them and take them to the next election.

GILBERT: In terms of some of the moves here like the new measure which includes reducing the amount you can contribute to your superannuation on a non-concessional basis from $100,000 to $75,000 a year, are you worried that you say that it’s those

earning more who you’re targeting, but surely there are those within the community who catch up later in their working life?

BOWEN: There is plenty of scope to do that with $75,000. All the evidence shows us that those non concessional contributions at that very high level - it’s common sense Kieran, frankly - overwhelmingly occurs by those who have very high incomes. Now, it’s not the most radical change in the world to say $75,000 is a better and fairer threshold than $100,000, but it’s a sensible one and it makes a positive contribution to the budget.

GILBERT: Now you’re not just trying to niggle the Government, knowing how sensitive this was internally for them?

BOWEN: Well there is no doubt that this is highly problematic for them internally, but the Labor party has led this debate for two years, we’ve been making sensible suggestions. The Government started off by saying they would never ever touch superannuation, that was Scott Morrison personally himself. We’ve led the debate and we are continuing to do so today by making these policy announcements.

GILBERT: Mr Bowen, does it show that Labor’s learned some lessons from the last election, where across the forward estimates, your numbers were not equal to or better than, the Governments?

BOWEN: Well Kieran, what it shows is that we will continue to make tough political decisions, just as we did on things like negative gearing, capital gains, superannuation in the last term, and will continue to do that and I’ll be very pleased with this set of figures that I take to the next election and we will be able to talk about those then. Again, if the Government doesn’t take these up, then we will take them to the election, they will be reflected in our budget bottom line and that will be what we are prosecuting against.

GILBERT: It’s $19 billion across the ten years?

BOWEN: Over the ten years, that’s right.

GILBERT: Now let’s look at some other stuff, in terms of the Productivity Commission Discussion Paper, it’s the front of the Australian today. It’s interesting because it says that we need to think differently in terms of productivity. What do you make of this and the idea that Mr Morrison has put forward of 5 yearly updates from the Productivity Commission in terms of the nation’s productivity agenda?

BOWEN: I have no quarrel with that. I think this is part of a broader debate about, or national conversation about is reform dead. My answer to that is, it can’t be. But I think it’s important to look at how you do reform, you’ve got to make sure reform is inclusive, it’s not just people on low incomes who are paying a price for reform. You’re showing the nation that everybody is benefitting from reform. That’s what Hawke and Keating did so successfully over the most dramatic period of reform in our nation’s history. They took people with them on that journey.

I think also, the matter of mandate is very important. You know, you’ve seen a lot of state government reform efforts fail because they didn’t get a mandate. Mostly spectacularly Campbell Newman, and federally of course Joe Hockey with the 2014 Budget, not a mandate at all. We’ve taken the approach that if you’re going to have reform, you have the difficult conversation before an election, you announce your position, you argue for it, you explain the need for change. That’s what we did with negative gearing, that’s what we continue to do, even today.

Reform is necessary. There’s no legislation, no law, which says our 26 years of uninterrupted economic growth shall continue indefinitely, they won’t, unless we make decisions, and difficult decisions.

GILBERT: Bringing people with you in terms of reform, that’s often pointed to as one of the reasons why Trump has generated so much support in the United States. What’s your feeling as we head into the 24 hours of the final day of campaigning?

BOWEN: Not long to go Kieran, I think you know the consensus is, Hillary Clinton is closing stronger. Obviously she had a little boost yesterday, and putting aside our political operatives hat as political commentators here for a second, you’ve got to of course remember that the United States is an Electoral College system. You need 270 votes in the Electoral College, you need a pathway to those 270 votes and you know, you have to say that it’s easier for Hillary Clinton to get to that pathway than Donald Trump.

GILBERT: It would shake things up if he did win, ripping up NAFTA, and various other protectionist measures.

BOWEN: I think our views about that have been pretty well articulated. You have to have a President who is outward looking, who is embracing the need for more trade around the world and not putting up more walls.

GILBERT: And finally, the Newspoll at home must be encouraging for you?

BOWEN: Well I don’t think we need a Newspoll to show us, with all due respect to the fine folks at Newspoll, that Malcolm Turnbull is struggling, that he is not in control of his government, that he has no agenda, and that he has sold out everything he ever believed in and I think that has been shown not only in this Newspoll but in all the feedback that I get and all my colleagues get around Australia.

GILBERT: Mr Bowen, appreciate your time, thanks.