Transcript by The Hon Scott Morrison MP

ABC News Breakfast

Program: ABC News Breakfast


MICHAEL ROWLAND: Minister, good morning.

MINISTER MORRISON: Good morning Michael.

ROWLAND: Why did you strike this deal with the Greens and what’s in it for Australian pensioners?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well what it’s in it for Australian pensioners is a fairer and more sustainable pension. 170,000 pensioners will get an increase of $30 per fortnight when this comes into effect, more than 90 per cent of pensioners will either be in exactly the same position or be better off as a result of these changes and it will remove the unfairness where you have people with large amounts of assets, over $1 million in some cases, plus the family home who will no longer be receiving a part pension. They will all now continue to get the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, which is important, but this is an important reform to the pension to make it fairer and more sustainable. The Greens have seen this as good policy and they’ve supported good policy. We have extended a process into the Tax White Paper to enable some consideration of submissions on retirement incomes issues and very happy to do that. But what it has also done is really, I think, stranded Bill Shorten. Bill Shorten went for politics yesterday on pensions not policy. The Greens took a different approach and as a result the ‘have a go’ Budget is having a go because it’s passing the Senate.

ROWLAND: Labor says 330,000 pensioners will in fact miss out, have their entitlements cut. Single pensioners, the threshold for them cuts in at $500,000, what impact will that have?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well that’s right and $500,000 of assets that people hold for single pensioners, it was currently well above that, about $770,000 odd or thereabouts. This is all a part of ensuring that those on lower levels of assets – because the pension is a welfare payment, it’s not superannuation; we’re not going to tax superannuation like Labor, that’s people’s own money that they’ve saved for. Those on a pension are on it because they need it and we want to make sure that those who are on the lowest and modest levels of pension are able to get a pension increase. Labor was going to vote against a pension increase for those with low assets. Now that’s just all politics from Bill Shorten and I think he has been caught out. He’s stranded on an island of reactionary politics of his own making.

ROWLAND: The Government has agreed, as you say, in return for the Greens agreeing to supporting this Bill to look at superannuation as part of your Tax White Paper. But the Government has already ruled out adverse changes to super this term and changes next term. So you’ve got a predetermined position on this. It’s a pretty good deal for you; you won’t do anything on super?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well our position is very clear. We won’t be increasing taxes on superannuation. We’re not coming after – that’s Bill Shorten’s policy…

ROWLAND: Excuse me for interrupting, why have you put it on the agenda for the White Paper if you’re not going to do anything about it?

MINISTER MORRISON: Because that’s the agreement we came to with the Greens that they wanted submissions and extension of process to consider those matters and that is what we’ve agreed to…

ROWLAND: It’s a pretty good deal there for you though, isn’t it?

MINISTER MORRISON: The Government has sought to have its measures passed through the Senate and that’s I think – this is the single largest savings measure in this year’s Budget and together with the small business package, which has already passed the Senate, the ‘have a go’ Budget is very much going forward very strongly and it’s because it’s a good Budget. It’s a sensible Budget. It has good policy in it and those who can see good policy are supporting it.

ROWLAND: Just want to go to our top story; Indonesian police have given our correspondent George Roberts photos they claim showing US dollars allegedly paid by Australian officials to people smugglers. What’s your reaction to that news coming out of Indonesia?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well, I’m not surprised that people make allegations but the Government’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy and programme and initiative has ensured that people have always acted lawfully and that was the case when I was Minister and I have no doubt that that continues to be the case and this policy, Operation Sovereign Borders, this entire programme has been extraordinarily successful. Now it has had its critics from time to time, I dare say a few critics in the ABC from time to time, but I think the success of the policy has demonstrated its great merits.

ROWLAND: Is paying money to people smugglers lawful?

MINISTER MORRISON: All I’ve simply said is that we’ve always done things lawfully. We’ve always done things lawfully and we will continue to do that.

ROWLAND: But I’ll get back to the question, is paying money to people smugglers either on water or on land lawful?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well what I’m saying is that, you know, you’re asking a question based on an allegation and I don’t feel the need to respond to someone else’s allegation. What I’m giving you an assurance is the Government has always acted lawfully in relation to Operation Sovereign Borders and that is the key issue.

ROWLAND: And has that involved Australian officials ever paying people smugglers?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well, as you would know, and most in the media would know, I’ve never commented on these matters. That was a policy that was put in place by General Campbell when he was the Commander of Operation Sovereign Borders and there was clear necessity for those arrangements and the necessity for those arrangements continue. But once again, I assure the Australian people that we’ve always acted lawfully and where there have been issues that we’ve had to address, the regrettable incursions in relation to Indonesia, we were very up-front about that and we addressed that with the Indonesian Government. On other occasions there were quite ridiculous and outrageous allegations in relation that was aired on the ABC about people’s hands being burnt and that our people were actually torturing people. Now I remember that very clearly, Michael, and I remember the haste with which that was reported as well. So I’m not necessarily drawing a link between these at all but what I am saying is that Australian officers have always operated lawfully on Operation Sovereign Borders.

ROWLAND: Ok, what do you think personally about the mere suggestion that Australian officials have paid money to people smugglers?

MINISTER MORRISON: Personal opinions are for journalists, they’re not for politicians. Personal opinions, I’m a Minister of the Government, we run policy, we implement policy and our policies are getting the results that have stopped the boats and stopped the deaths at sea and restored integrity to our refugee and humanitarian programme. Something that was said couldn’t be done, particularly on your network.

ROWLAND: Now you could be confused for thinking Australian voters getting mixed messages because Peter Dutton, the current Immigration Minister, and Julie Bishop have both initially firmly denied money was paid.

MINISTER MORRISON: As I’ve said, our officers have always acted lawfully.

ROWLAND: Ok, we’ll leave it there. Scott Morrison thank for you very much for your time this morning.

MINISTER MORRISON: Thanks Michael, good to be with you.