Interview with Alan Jones, 2GB

Transcript
25 Aug 2016
Prime Minister
E&OE

ALAN JONES:
Malcolm Turnbull, good morning.

PRIME MINISTER:
Good morning Alan.

ALAN JONES:
Thank you for your time. Can I just canvass with you the things that people are raising with me almost every day? About 120 emails I answer a day and these are - top of the pack is superannuation. Could I just ask a couple of simple questions here? Firstly, we’d all want people to have a tidy superannuation nest egg to make them independent in retirement so the only issue is the size of the nest egg. You’ve said $1.6 million and the investment on that, returns on that – no tax.

PRIME MINISTER:
That’s in the retirement phase.

ALAN JONES:
In the retirement phase. Some would say ‘look why couldn’t it be a bit higher?’ But the thing they are arguing about is your $500,000 cap on after tax contributions. My question to you is - wouldn’t it be ok to say: ‘Look forget the cap, you can put as much in as you like but you can’t make the nest-egg greater than $1.6 million and there would be no cap there and away you go.’ And we’re meeting all the needs? What’s wrong with that?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well Alan, there is nothing either right nor wrong here. I mean, what we are seeking to do is to make superannuation more sustainable, fairer, better for women, better and more flexible for older people, for independent contractors. So the arrangements, everyone that has complied with the superannuation arrangements in the past has absolutely done the right thing but we obviously have to review it in the light of the very tough budgetary conditions we’ve got. And you know, the fact that we’ve got an ageing population and fewer taxpayers as a percentage of the population, so we’ve got to make sure the tax system is modernised and is fit for purpose.

ALAN JONES:
Scott Morrison did say he wouldn’t tackle superannuation, you know. See when you say that, I agree with you on what you just said and people out there agree with you. But as you know the bloke on, say, $80,000 – you know, first he’s got to pay off his mortgage, he’s educating his kids and whatever – he doesn’t really have much beyond the 9 per cent compulsory to stick in. So he’ll never get to $1.6 million. But the kids leave home at 50 and he’s got another 15 years that he thinks: ‘Right, I’m going to save like hell and I’m going to stick as much in as I can to get to that $1.6 million.’ But you’ve said, or Scott Morrison has said: ‘Well you can do that but once after $500,000 you can’t stick anymore in.’ Does that matter? Why wouldn’t we just say do whatever you can to get to $1.6 million, after that of course you’re going to have to pay tax?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well, let me give you some facts – and look I understand the arguments about this and as you know Scott and Kelly O’Dwyer, the Revenue Minister are both consulting actively with stakeholders and colleagues and reviewing the details of implementation. But the reality is that of those people who today, who have contributed $500,000 or more in after tax contributions, they have super balances well over $2 million. So the reality is that the changes that have been, this is why we say the changes that have been proposed affect a very very small percentage of taxpayers and superannuants. But I understand the criticism. What you’re really talking about, if I may, this will be a first Alan, I’m going to put some words into your mouth –

ALAN JONES:
Yes. I never do that Prime Minister. You know that.
[Laughter]

PRIME MINISTER:
I know. We’re old friends. We can pull each other at least a bit I think here.
[Laughter]

ALAN JONES:
Right – there you are.
[Laughter]

PRIME MINISTER:
What I was going to say was, I think the point you’re making is, and this is that really this is about aspiration and that the – people may not necessarily get to more than $500,000 over their lifetime but they are concerned that there is a cap, their argument is that cap is too low. And we also understand the criticism that has been made that it refers back to contributions since 2007.

ALAN JONES:
That’s it.

PRIME MINISTER:
I just want to make one point here. That is not a retrospective tax.

ALAN JONES:
No it is not retrospective at all.

PRIME MINISTER:
It’s not retrospective.

ALAN JONES:
The benefit is still there. All I’m saying is –

PRIME MINISTER:
The problem is that if you make it, I mean again, my job is full of difficult choices and I love it and I’m a volunteer and I relish every second of it. But here is the difficult choice – if you say as you often do, you grandfather it and you say: ‘Alright, it’s $500,000 lifetime cap from Budget night.’ Let’s say you did that, then someone who hasn’t got around to putting anything in says: ‘Well I can only put in $500,000 but my mate down the road, he’s already put in $500,000 so he can now put in $1 million – that’s not very fair.’ On the other hand –

ALAN JONES:
No, but you can’t go past $1.6 million. See that’s my point.

PRIME MINISTER:
You can go past $1.6 million.

ALAN JONES:
But you have to pay tax.

PRIME MINISTER:
Yes, but 15 per cent. It is still a very good deal. I mean, super is a terrific deal.

ALAN JONES:
Yes, well, not too many people – the ones you want, pardon the vulgarity of it, to vote for you are the people under the $1.6million who are saying ‘I want to be independent of Government. I don’t want to be on welfare, but I am not going to get to $1.6 million if Malcolm Turnbull says to me the amount I can stick in after tax, after I’ve paid my tax is capped at $500,000.’ I don’t understand why that is even relevant. What is relevant is your cap of $1.6 million – get to $1.6 million, after that, sorry you’re going to have to pay tax on any income you’ve got and it simplifies it.

PRIME MINISTER:
Yes well Alan it is a –

ALAN JONES:
You’ll take that on board? I’ll ask you one other thing. Would you promise -

PRIME MINISTER:
Alan, can I raise something just separate to this?

ALAN JONES:
Away you go.

PRIME MINISTER:
I want to, and I think we should all note with great sadness this recent earthquake in Italy, again in the Abruzzo region that has been so badly hit. Yesterday morning Italian time, there was a big earthquake there. The Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi said at least 120 people have been killed.

ALAN JONES:
That’s right and there is a stack of people still under rubble.

PRIME MINISTER:
There is 368 injured. Unknown numbers under the rubble and obviously the number of dead will rise. Now I can just say that there are no reports of Australians dead or injured to date. Australians in Italy should follow the advice of the local authorities and if you have any concerns for the welfare of family or friends in Italy you should attempt to contact them directly but our love, our thoughts and our prayers and our sympathies are with the people of Italy and particularly the people of Abruzzo in this shocking time. It is a region that has been very hard hit.

ALAN JONES:
And a very historic region and there is many people there that they haven’t yet unearthed under the rubble which is terrible. Just can you make a commitment that after this is resolved, superannuation will be left alone?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well Alan I can say to you that after this, we’ve gone through this period – it is important that superannuation is, it obviously will always be reviewed but it is important that once the changes are made and they’re settled and we obviously have to get them through the Senate and we have to deal with all the other parties and the Parliament but we would then be leaving it alone and that would set the new ground rules.

ALAN JONES:
Well people are just writing to me to say can’t you abolish the $500,000 limit? So we’ve made that point, so there is no use repeating it but I’m just telling you what they’re saying.

PRIME MINISTER:
I’ve got it. No – I hear it loud and clear.

ALAN JONES:
The other thing out there – the battler in struggle street is constantly talking about the cost of living. Now this week the phones here and the correspondence have been on fire. Are you aware that there are people out there - which I find just extraordinary and we’ve checked all this out – just take a Shell service station on General Holmes Drive Brighton in Sydney, it’s the same thing on Coronation Drive in Brisbane and Vulture Street in South Brisbane – on Sunday the petrol was 114 cents a litre. That same product, 145 on Monday. The same product, 149 on Tuesday. Now if you or I saw someone robbing a bloke in the suburbs we’d call the police. This surely is robbery? What can the Government do? I’ve written to Rod Sims but the public are saying if the Government can’t look after us on this – what is Government for?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well this is definitely a matter for the ACCC. I checked the petrol prices in Sydney this morning and according to the application I used the average is $121 - 121 cents I should say.

ALAN JONES:
Well it has certainly gone down dramatically since I said I’d raise it with you and it frightened them a bit. But I mean this is rip off isn’t it? Cost of living?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well it is – it is hard to justify going from 120 cents, $1.20 to $1.45 and back again. But it is –look, it is a competitive business, we’ve been, over the years, we’ve felt that the solution was competition and transparency. It is very competitive and you can, there are plenty of ways of getting applications on your phone and so forth that shows you where the cheapest petrol is. But of course the problem is, very few of us have got the time to drive around, because we’re all so time poor.

ALAN JONES:
Yes of course and anyway there’s no choice - they’re all doing the same thing. They’re all doing the same thing aren’t they?

PRIME MINISTER:
Yes, well I can see this has become a matter of real concern. I’ll make it my business in the course of today to get in touch with Rod Sims myself.

ALAN JONES:
Thank you, I have written to him. Now look I asked you last week about this foreign investment. Are you as the leader prepared to stand up to China who says we’re hypocrites? Because we say Australia is open for business and here we are of stopping the sale of some stuff China, forget what it is, they want everything. They’ve got the best dairy farms, they want to cherry pick, they’ve got the best beef cattle properties, they want to own the wind turbines because we’re subsidising to the tune of $600,000 a year. And I’ve just had an email today to tell me that Vergimon, a 352,000 hectare cattle property in Longreach, beautiful property, is listed for sale and the Chinese interests are hovering. Now I asked you about this Chinese property developer Shanghai Zhongfu acquiring a million acres of this beautiful stuff in the Ord River district, which we paid for and so on. Now this business about we’re hypocrites because we’re open for business, is someone going to tell China that open for business doesn’t mean open slather? That open for business does not mean we’ll own the business?

PRIME MINISTER:
Alan, they absolutely understand that. Look you get all sorts of voices coming out of China, out of their media, but I can assure you having dealt with Chinese governments over a long period of time, they absolutely understand  that it is entirely our right to determine who invests here. Obviously they’d rather have more access than less. Look I actually - 20 plus years ago, I established and built as a joint venture a zinc mine in China and I can tell you it wasn’t very easy getting that done.
ALAN JONES:
That’s correct.

PRIME MINISTER:
It’s a lot easier – and the point I always make and I make this with respect – but the candour that is required between friends, I always say to Chinese officials that it is a lot easier to invest in Australia than it is to invest in China. They understand that and we decide who invests in Australia and that is our sovereign right as a nation and we do.

ALAN JONES:
But no government and this is not a reflection on your Government, no government has defined ‘national interest’. So the average Joe out there hasn’t got a clue what that means. No one is prepared to define it.  But we say that AusGrid is a strategic asset. The Port of Darwin is a strategic asset. Wouldn’t you concede with the almost evaporation of the mining boom, that perhaps the greatest strategic asset to assist productivity today is agriculture and we are selling, giving, selling it to China. They own it, they don’t invest. They own. So basically they can own our cattle farms, they then put the cattle in to sale and they get $3.50 a kilo and they tax to us. But the $3.50 a kilo product, they’re selling, into their middle class for $30, $40 and $50 a kilo. We should be doing that.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well Alan let me make a couple of points there. Firstly as you know, Luce and I have had interest in the beef cattle business in the Hunter for many years, well over thirty years. I don’t claim to be an expert in it, but one thing I do know is that Australian agriculture has always needed more investment. You know, you talk about the Chinese company that’s invested up in the Ord.

ALAN JONES:
Bought.

PRIME MINISTER:
Yeah they bought up there.

ALAN JONES:
That’s different.

PRIME MINISTER:
Yeah absolutely, no I understand that they invested, bought it, but they’re pumping a lot of money in to it. Now we get a very big piece -

ALAN JONES:
But we get nothing out of it, we just get a bit of tax.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well Alan that’s not quite right, there was a very big piece in The Australian a few weeks ago which set out the development that’s going on there, the jobs. You know we’ve talked about it before, you look at the bloodstock operations up in the upper Hunter, where our property is, and many of them  - if not most of them – are foreign owned. The jobs they provide, the investment they provide is enormous. So I think it’s like a lot of things in government, you’ve got to get the balance right.

ALAN JONES:
I know but here’s a burgeoning middle class in China. They want milk, they want beef, they want our dairy produce so what they say is: ‘We’ll buy the Australian farm and then we will sell into that market at massively inflated prices.’ We should be having a share of that.

PRIME MINISTER:
Alan we do have a share of it. Can I just tell you, everywhere I’ve gone – I went around Australia – both before, during and after the election. Particularly in regional Australia, which has been hard hit by the decline in the mining construction boom, one of the bright lights has been the growth in exports to China and that is in large measure being seen in agriculture and food products. Whether it is lobsters or whether it is all sorts of jams and wines and drinks. You’re seeing that and -

ALAN JONES:
Oh you can’t – we don’t have a foreign register, you wouldn’t let us have a foreign register, Scott Morrison said we’re not going to have the foreign investment register. But look I’ve got a couple of other things to ask you here if could? About gas - can I just say gas.

PRIME MINISTER:
Can I just say something to you about the foreign register?

ALAN JONES:
Yes.

PRIME MINISTER:
What we’ll be releasing, the Tax Office has carried out a stocktake of foreign-held agricultural land from July 2015 to February 2016 and the statistics include the proportion of Australian agricultural land held by foreigners, the level of foreign interests in agricultural land by state, the level of foreign interest in agricultural land by country and the use of the land. They’ll be required to report that information to the Treasurer as soon as possible after 30 June each year. So we are absolutely on to that and we’re determined to make this information transparent.

ALAN JONES:
You were before becoming Prime Minister rightly, vehemently opposed to 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. But now, the rubber hits the road. We’ve got three students who were refused in Queensland, entry to the QUT computer because they weren’t Aboriginal. They had something to say about it on Facebook because they said well hang on this is racism, we’re victims here. The Aboriginal woman who refused them entry , then began action under 18C which makes it an offence to insult or offend an ethnic group. She wants $250,000 compensation. The matter is now in the Federal Court. One of the accused is a 24 year old, Callum Thwaites - he’d been half way through a teaching degree, he’d hoped to teach disadvantaged children. He said on Tuesday: ‘I’m sure some students and parents would go straight to Google and read that I’ve been accused of racism.’ He’s dropped out of teaching. Now these people were young people, were merely protesting against segregation and against racism. They’re now being accused. No one in the Federal Government has uttered a syllable in defence of these young men. Will you abolish section 18C?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well Alan the – look firstly can I say, the matter is before the Federal Court and I’ve got every expectation the Federal Court will apply sound reasoning to it.

ALAN JONES:
These boys have got to fund that. How do these boys afford to fund that?

PRIME MINISTER:
Well Alan the matter is before the court. Let me just say on 18C there has been a strong argument made over a long period of time to remove the words insult and offend from 18C. As you know when Tony was Prime Minister he proposed some wider changes to that and then decided – and it was his decision – to take the matter off the agenda.

ALAN JONES:
But will you put it on the agenda? We’ve got to go to the news.

PRIME MINISTER:
Well, very quickly.

ALAN JONES:
Will you give me a yes or a no?

PRIME MINISTER:
The answer is no, not at this stage because we have higher and more urgent Budget repair priorities.   

ALAN JONES:
So these poor buggers, these poor buggers are stuck there and they’ve got to fund it, they don’t have the dough to do it. We’ll talk again soon I’m always grateful for your time.

PRIME MINISTER:
Thanks.
[Ends]