Transcript by The Hon Scott Morrison MP

Press Conference Sydney


MINISTER MORRISON: It is my pleasure today to announce that in further measures to support the government’s actions to address domestic violence that sporting codes can now apply for grants to help fund violence prevention activities. This is through the National Action Plan where the government agreed to invest $1 million in the Sports Grants Bank to assist national sporting codes to improve their activities to prevent violence against women and children. This comes on top of course of the government’s announcements to reverse the changes that were made to legal support as well as the government’s decision to fund $230 million over two years – a new National Partnership Agreement on Homelessness that would have a principle focus on domestic violence. This programme will be managed through Our Watch, a foundation created to drive nationwide change in the culture, behaviours and attitudes that lead to violence against women and children. Clubs and codes are in a very influential position right across the country to help change public attitudes and change behaviours. There are many issues we need to address as part of the National Action Plan which is being led by Minister Cash and this will become a further important component of this programme. Our Watch has developed the Sports Engagement Program and funding of up to $250,000 over three years will be provided to each organisation selected as an Our Watch partner. For further information clubs and codes can go to

I would also like to make a comment today to welcome those contributions that have now been made by Senator Xenophon by Senator Xenophon, as well as Ian Yates from COTA that come in addition to the contribution already made by ACOSS in this important conversation we are having about the need for a fair and sustainable pension. The government is building a Coalition of ideas when it comes to a sustainable and fair pension, but it’s quite clear that Bill Shorten and Labor want no part of it. Labor is in complete denial it would seem on the need to have a sustainable and fair pension. The current projections, if we do nothing, means that by the end of the projection period in the Intergenerational Report, we will have 3.6% of GDP which is going on these outlays. Under the government’s plan that is currently before the Senate, that would result in just 2.7% of GDP. The difference between these figures in today’s terms, if it were applied to today’s budget, would be some $14.4 billion.

Now the government by the end of this decade will need to absorb the full contribution costs of the NDIS into the budget, the most important welfare reform in a generation. To absorb this important reform in the NDIS, we need to get sustainability into our overall welfare sector and the payments that are being made. We know this challenge, we know that this needs to be addressed and we don’t walk away from it. That’s why I welcome the contributions that are being made by ACOSS and now Senator Xenophon and now also Ian Yates from COTA and I’m sure others who will join this Coalition of ideas on a sustainable and fair pension that Bill Shorten is being left behind by and it’s important that Labor get over their denial when it comes to these issues and join this important Coalition, this important conversation and accept the need to do things in the future that can deliver a sustainable pension for future generations.

We are not going to walk away from the goal of having a sustainable and fair pension. We have a measure that was put before the Australian Parliament in the last budget and I said when I came into this portfolio that we are open to alternatives that achieve the outcome and I am encouraged by the response we have been getting from many different and registered interests who have a real interest and stake in this future debate for their members and for those they care about.

It’s important that we make very clear that the government has completely honoured its pledge before the last election that there would be no changes to pensions or superannuation in this term of Parliament. That was the commitment and that is the commitment we’ve kept. Any changes under consideration by the government would not take effect until the next term of the Parliament after which time there would have been an election.

The Coalition has increased the pension since coming to office by more than 6%. $78 for a couple per fortnight and over $51 per single pensioner per fortnight and we have maintained the carbon tax compensation while getting rid of the carbon tax which is worth $14.10 for a single pensioner per fortnight and $21.20 for couple pensioners per fortnight. So we’ve delivered higher pensions, higher than wages and this puts to lay the claim by Labor that they say that the government is cutting pensions. Scaring pensioners is not a policy, that’s my message to Bill Shorten. If Bill Shorten wants to show that he has a Party of ideas rather than the reactionary Party that wants to go down the low road of fear campaigns, that was outright rejected by the people of New South Wales here on last Saturday in the State election, then he needs to stump up when it comes to ideas on a sustainable and a fair pension. At the moment he is engaged in reactionary politics along the lines of what we’ve seen from his State counterparts whether here in New South Wales or in other places.

This is too important for Bill Shorten to continue to play politics with and run fear campaigns – scaring the most vulnerable in our society with the sorts of lies which he is putting before them. We have a plan and we are engaged in a conversation with serious people who believe in trying to get a fairer and sustainable pension for the future. I would encourage Bill Shorten to join that Coalition of ideas and stop being left behind in his land of reactionary politics where he seems so comfortable. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: So are you considering reducing pension payments to wealthier Australians?

MINISTER MORRISON: ACOSS has put forward a proposal which outlines the alternative to doing something on indexation and that is to address issues around the assets test and the taper rates for the assets test which would see people qualify for the pension. Nick Xenophon I think has made a very astute observation which said that it was actually Paul Keating in 1993 who changed the taper rate for pensions to have the system where you got $3 less per fortnight for every additional $1,000 in capital assets you held.

Now that position was held right through the Keating government, all the way through to the Howard government in 2007 when it was changed to the current rates of taper drop offs. This is what Nick Xenophon has put on the table overnight and today and I think that is also a very useful proposal that is worthy of consideration but what we all agree on, what Nick Xenophon, ourselves, ACOSS, COTA and I suspect many more organisations is, that there must be action to address the long term sustainability of the pension. Otherwise it won’t be there for future generations.

This affects not just the age pension, it affects many other pensions as well so it’s important that we accept the need to take action, the government is not walking away from that action, Bill Shorten wants the government to walk away from a sustainable pension. Well we won’t be doing that, because the alternative is to run the pension of the edge of a cliff and to force a future government to have to introduce a short, sharp, shock measure that would be quite catastrophic for pensioners and that’s not something I want to see happen which is why I believe we need to take action in a modest and incremental way and I think that is reflected in the various proposals that are now before us.

QUESTION: Which other crossbenchers have you consulted over this proposal?

MINISTER MORRISON: I have had many conversations with crossbenchers since coming into the portfolio, going back as early as January and this has been a topic of conversation. I have raised other issues in the course of those conversations and I think what ACOSS has put on the table, what Nick has now outlined a different end of the spectrum of that proposal is all very useful but it is important that we understand that action needs to be taken in this area otherwise the sustainability of the pension for the long term is not something that can be taken for granted, particularly when you accept the fact that the budget must absorb the NDIS before the end of this decade. It is a complete denial by Labor to suggest that the NDIS is fully funded. It is not fully funded, it is 40 per cent funded by the levy that has been agreed to, to support the NDIS. That means within the next ten years the Commonwealth will have to put a net more than $10 billion in a year. Now that has to be absorbed into the budget, we believe in the NDIS, the Labor party of course would believe in it. But believing in it is not enough, you have got to deliver it and what the government is working to do is to create the space within the welfare budget to ensure we can accommodate this once in a generation reform. That means being honest and practical and purposeful in ensuring that we have sustainable welfare payments for the future.

QUESTION: ACOSS has been advocating these proposals for several months now, why are you only considering them now?

MINISTER MORRISON: It would be not true to say that we haven’t been considering them and ACOSS has made their position very public over the last 24 hours or so and I thought it was useful for us to be able to say that the government, as I have said from the outset, is very open to alternatives. I have always said that we are happy to take something off the table if something can be put on the table. So we will work through these measures in careful detail and seek to cost them fully and it is important to also consider what Nick Xenophon has put on the table today and that is going to the position of an assets taper rate along the lines of what was in place under both the Howard and Keating governments. So these are real ideas, these are all real options, that is what I expect from serious people. What we get from the Labor party is denial and fear, denial and fear. They are not part of a Coalition of ideas on a sustainable and fair pension for the future. They are on a fear ticket, a fear ticket just like we saw rejected here in New South Wales on the weekend and that is not a responsible way to deal with vulnerable people in our community.

JOURNALIST: PM has flagged the pension bonus scheme, what are your thoughts?

MINISTER MORRISON: Well look, all of these issues as we go forward to the budget will be addressed in the budget. What I am talking about specifically today are the issues relating to the proposal put forward by ACOSS and those put forward by Senator Xenophon, and I think the more broader comments made by Ian Yates.

JOURNALIST: So you don’t have a comment on that?

MINISTER MORRISON: I don’t have a comment on that today, no.

JOURNALIST: Do you intend to remove the current Bill before the Parliament given that you are now considering proposals from ACOSS and Senator Xenophon himself?

MINISTER MORRISON: My commitment is the same that I have given since coming into the portfolio, something only comes off if something goes on. If we are prepared to take on an alternative proposal then that would be the only conditions under which any current proposal would be removed because the option of doing nothing is not an option. That is the option that Bill Shorten is clinging to, that is the zero ideas proposition from Bill Shorten in his year of ideas. There are no ideas coming forward from the Opposition on an issue of a sustainable and fair pension.

JOURNALIST: In terms of money are you likely to find savings in the ACOSS proposal, is that – how does that stack up [inaudible]

MINISTER MORRISON: We are looking at the costings of ACOSS’ proposal and they are suggesting quite significant savings from their measure and that would not be surprising given the nature of the measure. I note that Bill Shorten’s proposal which is just simply to put up the superannuation guarantee levy would cost the government. It would actually cost more to introduce the measure that he is proposing and it wouldn’t just cost the government more, it would cost employers more. It is not free money when it comes to superannuation guarantee levies that are paid into people’s accounts. That money comes from businesses and there are also revenue implications for the government. So what Bill Shorten is putting forward is a measure that will actually deteriorate the budget not improve the budget. What the Coalition of ideas which we are leading when it comes to a sustainable and fair pension is doing is going to deliver a better pension for the future, a more robust pension for the future, a fairer pension for the future and at the same time address the very serious fiscal situation we have. But it will also allow us to accommodate and absorb this incredible reform measure in the NDIS which is so important for disabled people around the country, their families, and their carers. We want to deliver on that. That has to be implemented. It is not good enough just to have an idea or introduce legislation into the Parliament, you have to at the end of the day be able to implement the programmes and that is what we are committed to doing on to the NDIS.

JOURNALIST: Have you invited Bill Shorten to come and meet with you and discuss the proposals that you are looking at?

MINISTER MORRISON: I am constantly speaking to members of the Opposition; I have just been in the last 24 hours in Adelaide speaking to the Shadow Minister on early childhood development on issue of the childcare proposals. My own office today was involved in briefings with Jenny Macklin on a range of other matters. So there is no shortage of conversation that takes place between the parties. But what is clear is Bill Shorten’s position on the pension is this – do nothing. He will just do nothing and he will drive the pension off a cliff. He wants to scare pensioners rather than try and come up with ideas and more importantly support ideas that will provide for the security of the pension into the future. You can’t pretend to be Prime Minister with your head stuck in the sand and that is where Bill Shorten is when it comes to the sustainability of the pension and a fairer pension for the future.

Ok, thanks for your time.