Transcript by The Hon Scott Morrison MP

Today Show, Nine Network

Program: Today Show


KARL STEFANOVIC: Social Services Minister Scott Morrison joins us now, G’day Scott.


STEFANOVIC: Or should we be calling you Robin Hood this morning?

MINISTER MORRISON: Scott will do mate. What this is about is a fairer access to a more sustainable pension. I mean last year we had measures that were put to the Budget – to the Senate they weren’t accepted so we’ve been working on a compromise since then and over 90 per cent of pensioners will either be better off or not affected by these changes and this represents a compromise, a consensus so we can continue to fix the Budget problems but get a fairer and more sustainable pension for the future.

STEFANOVIC: I’ll tell you what Scott the detail in the Daily Telegraph this morning is pretty impressive. They’ve got figures here home owners couples, single home owners, non-home owner couples, single non-home owners; it’s almost as if they got your figures have they?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well, I can confirm all of those figures, it’s important I think for people to get a very clear understanding of what these changes mean and what you said is right we’ve got 170,000 people on modest assets who will be getting a $30 per fortnight average increase as a result of these changes. So we’re helping those with more modest assets but those who are on assets of over a million dollars and the family home they will no longer get a part pension. They’ll be self-funded retirees and fully self-funding.

STEFANOVIC: Joe Hockey’s ok with you leaking his figures ahead of the Budget?

MINISTER MORRISON: This information I can confirm, which is in the Telegraph today, and I’ll be making further announcements on that over the course of the morning.

STEFANOVIC: Just to the Telegraph though, not to anyone else last night?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well here we are talking about it with you right now Karl, so it’s great to be with you.

STEFANOVIC: Well you wouldn’t do it at the same time for everyone? For such an important policy?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well what’s important here is that we’re getting the clear message out that pensioners on modest assets will be better off under this plan and it ensures that we can also have the savings in the budget which is necessary to clean up Labor’s mess. Now what we won’t do for self-funded retirees is we won’t be taxing them more Karl. That’s the Labor Party plan. They want to tax superannuants on the money that they have put aside and they’re drawing down in their retirement. They want to tax them more, that’s not what we’ll do. But we are also going to ensure that welfare is for those most in need, not for those on high levels of assets.

STEFANOVIC: Look is looks like a pretty good program are you concerned in any way, shape or form that there might be a poverty trap created for those people whose assets are just sitting above those limits?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well were talking about couples with over $820,000 in assets plus the family home and in order to stay at the exact same level of income when these changes come into place, and I should stress in 2017 not in this term of parliament therefore keeping our promise, they would have to draw down on those assets by no more than, in the worst case scenario, 1.9 per cent. So this is a modest change to ensure people with modest assets can get a fairer deal out of the pension.

STEFANOVIC: And the only other focus needs to be is, are you encouraging people to give their money away or spend it before they retire?

MINISTER MORRISON: No, there are rules in place on the gifting for example, you can only gift $10,000 a year, a maximum of $30,000 over five years, otherwise it’s counted. The suggestion that people would just blow $300,000 to get a couple of weeks part pension a fortnight I think runs against common sense. We haven’t seen those things happen before and I think Australians do have common sense when it comes to managing the money they’ve worked hard to save.

STEFANOVIC: Ok, so the Greens look like backing it at this point, even though we’re still waiting on all the details you will release sometime today, as well as several cross benchers. Labor won’t back it because they won’t back any changes to the pension, do you think it will get through?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well I’m confident about that, we’ve been working consultatively with the crossbench and I haven’t had any discussions with the Greens but this actually reverses a change that was introduced at the end of the Howard Government era which saw a billion extra dollars in costs and around 100,000 more people go on the pension at that time. But we have $40 billion in the bank and a $20 billion surplus now thanks to Labor that doesn’t exist anymore. Now the Greens voted against those changes back in 2007 so if they were to be consistent they’d support what we are putting forward now.

STEFANOVIC: You have been busy; also this morning you have discovered $500 million age pension public service double dipping rorts and you’re about to plug that hole as well, right?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well we are because the pension has got to be fair and it’s not there for people to plunder. Now this applies to about 48,000 people who are in defined benefit schemes. Now I stress it doesn’t relate to retail schemes like AXA or AMP and things like that or small APRA Funds, it’s mainly those who are on big state super schemes or big company schemes. What they were doing was basically discounting how much income they were earning so they could creep in under the radar on the pension income test. Now it’s not – the pension isn’t for people drawing down $120,000 a year in income. That’s not what it’s for, it’s for people who really need it and to make is sustainable we’ve got to ensure that’s where it’s targeted.

STEFANOVIC: Well you’ve found that one well. There’s also GST and online shopping they’re talking about this morning that’s the other thing, online under $1000 so Canada and the UK already have this its pegged at around about $25-$30, we’ll be going the same route won’t we?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well I’ll leave that to the Treasurer and the Assistant Treasurer to talk about those things, they fall fairly in their bailiwick. But it is important that we have a fair system. We are insuring that with this Budget that we seeking to be measured and responsible and fair and I think the initiatives particularly on the pension I’m announcing today will certainly tick all of those boxes.

STEFANOVIC: Josh Frydenberg’s already leaked that to a paper as well, you guys have leaked everything to everyone, you’re only looking after yourselves, poor old Joe Hockey has to get out there next week and announced nothing! He’s got no good news!

MINISTER MORRISON: Look there will be plenty for Joe to announce next week and we’re one big happy team which is trying to do a very important job for Australia and that is to fix Labor’s mess, to support superannuants, those who’ve saved for their own retirement. We’re not going to tax them like Labor is, we’re not going to rip away the negative gearing incentives that Labor plans to, but those on the pension if you’re on modest assets you’re going to get a better deal.

STEFANOVIC: As long as there’s something for Joe. He’s been a bit stressed lately; I want to see a smile on his face.

MINISTER MORRISON: Joe will be fine, he’s doing a great job and we’re 100 per cent behind him.

STEFANOVIC: Good on you Scott, thank you mate.