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Transcript of doorstop interview: Conrad Treasury Hotel, Brisbane: Thursday, 26 February 2004: Australia's demographic challenges, superannuation changes, superannuation fees, competition policy.\n



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TRANSCRIPT

THE HON PETER COSTELLO MP Treasurer

Doorstop Interview Conrad Treasury Hotel Brisbane

Thursday, 26 February 2004 12.15 pm

SUBJECTS: Australia’s Demographic Challenges, Superannuation Changes, Superannuation Fees, Competition Policy

TREASURER:

Well, the response has been very strong to the announcement the Government made yesterday about the challenge of Australia’s changing outlook, the challenge of the ageing of the population, the big challenges that this is going to mean as the nature of our society. And we are encouraging people to discuss these issues, to talk about some of the things that are going to have to be done. One of the big issues that has risen already is this question of retirement. There are a lot of people in their 50s and 60s who want to remain in the workforce. They want the opportunity to do so, and our proposals to allow them to work part-time and access superannuation I think, have been very positively received. So we would encourage the debate to continue and to range over a full area of policy. This is one of the most structurally profound changes that you are going to see in Australia over the next 10, 20, 30 and 40 years, and the sooner we come to grips with it the better.

JOURNALIST:

Mr Costello, radio talk back this morning - quite clearly the mature age people that were ringing in there want to keep working but they say that employers won’t hire them.

TREASURER:

I think it is going to involve a change of attitude for employers, that employers have to be encouraged to keep mature workers and to use their skills.

One of the things we know about mature aged workers is they are very reliable, they have a history and a work pattern which makes them reliable employees. Some of them in their 50s and their 60s won’t want to work full-time weeks, but they can come in and work in an assistant capacity, helping some of the younger people, maybe mentoring some of them, and I do believe that employers will have to change their attitudes, particularly big companies, not so much small companies, they will have to change their attitudes and utilise these people and their skills.

JOURNALIST:

Would you consider mandating?

TREASURER:

I don’t know that there is a place for law to force it, but I will strongly be recommending employers, particularly big employers consider it, and I will be speaking to some of these employers and re-emphasising the message over and over and over again.

JOURNALIST:

What about the question of taxation, superannuation, people with [inaudible]? When are you going to announce changes there?

TREASURER:

Well, we announced some changes yesterday in relation to these matters. We have also put in place of course, provisions for people to make co-contributions, for low and middle income earners to make co-contributions, and I recommend people look at those.

JOURNALIST:

What about the level of taxation?

TREASURER:

Well, we put in place tax concessions to encourage people to make contributions for low and middle income earners. The Government has also just recently been able to get through the Senate a reduction in the superannuation surcharge which was opposed by the Labor Party. It would have been bigger if the Labor Party hadn’t had opposed it.

JOURNALIST:

So no further changes?

TREASURER:

Well, we are making some good progress.

JOURNALIST:

The superannuation industry will collect $5 billion in taxes on super in the next five years but you’ve really done nothing to cut taxes on savings.

TREASURER:

I call on the superannuation industry to consider its level of fees, I think that this is one of the things that is concerning people, the levels of fees that superannuation funds charge, and I think what we need is we need more competition in relation to fees. And people should have the choice to move superannuation funds if they think the fees are too high. Something we have been fighting to give them that choice since 1997, and will go on fighting. People should have the right to choose their products in this area, and a bit of competition, I think will put pressure on fees.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, given that you are advocating the valuable contribution that 65 pluses can make to society, you must be happy then to continue to let the Prime Minister lead by example?

TREASURER:

I think all of us make our contributions where we can and I will certainly be making mine, and I have no doubt that the Prime Minister will be making his.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, you’ve alluded to the need to crack down on disability support pensions and other recipients of income support but it’s not, I’m not quite sure about how you’re going to do this. Is there going to be new measures or are you just going to push ahead with the reforms that are in the Senate?

TREASURER:

We have got measures in the Senate which I announced two years ago to encourage people on the disability support pension to look for part-time work. Obviously, some people who have major disabilities are not going to be able to work at all, but there are other people on a disability support pension, maybe people with bad backs, perhaps they can’t engage in hard physical labour, but they should be encouraged if at all possible to work in a clerical job, maybe part-time. And we have some legislation which is designed to encourage that and I call on the Senate to pass it. Two years of opposition has prevented progress in this area, and it is about time that Mr Latham showed some leadership and got his party to support our measures.

JOURNALIST:

Some older people have expressed concerns that the idea of accessing super to top up salary masks the real agenda of having older people work for below award wages.

TREASURER:

No, we are encouraging people to make choices. What we are about is maximising choices and maximising opportunity and our economic message is this, with an ageing population this is going to be good for the economy, in fact it is going to be absolutely vital for the economy, and so if we can get more flexibility, more choices, that would be good for people, that would be good for the economy and it would be good for society. But it is going to take some changes to get there.

JOURNALIST:

Does that flexibility include a lower hourly rate for the mature aged?

TREASURER:

No, I think people should have freedom and flexibility in relation to their work habits and that is what I am promoting.

JOURNALIST:

Treasurer, on the deregulation of the liquor industry in New South Wales, the news that the NSW Opposition was planning to block Carr’s legislation. What’s your response to that? Would it set New South Wales up for further penalties?

TREASURER:

Well look, we have an agreement between all of the States and Territories, the Commonwealth is abiding by the agreement, the States are required to abide by the agreement and if parties abide by the agreement then there will be bonuses. But I can assure you that I will be abiding by the agreement, I

always have. Thanks.

© Commonwealth of Australia 2000