Television Interview, Today Show

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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3 March 2023

SUBJECTS: Superannuation; Aston by-election; AUKUS.

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, there's only been one word on everyone's lips in the Canberra bubble this week:  superannuation. And as the Opposition sharpened its attack lines, the Prime Minister and Treasurer were forced to regroup after Jim Chalmers failed to rule out tax changes to the family home. Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton join us now. First of all, guys, hats off to you, you've made superannuation sexy again. Richard, a week, though you'd rather forget?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, this is a modest change, Karl. It only affects people if you've got $3 million in your superannuation fund, that's about 0.5 per cent of superannuates. So 99.5 per cent of people are unaffected. It doesn't come into play until after the next election. But the end of the day, we've got to make the system sustainable. We inherited a budget from Peter and his crew, which was a trillion dollars in debt, and there's nothing to show for it. And we need to be responsible, and that's what we're trying to do.

STEFANOVIC: It was a gift for you this week, Pete. You've got your super wealthy, Tesla driving, teal supporter base back.

PETER DUTTON, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, Karl, I mean, you break the story on the Today show with that train wreck interview with Jim Chalmers. Richard's reading from the old talking points there when he talks about a minor change. It was a tweak, as you pointed out, and the sheikh of tweak, old Jim Chalmers let the cat out of the bag. That was what happened. It was just a little tweak, just a tweak. And as it turns out, it's not 80,000 people, it's hundreds of thousands of Australians. And even if you're 25 years of age, with the $3 million not being indexed, in today's dollars, it's a cap of about $1.2 million. The government's making it up on the run. It now turns out that they want to tax unrealised capital gains. So if your shares go up in value, they want to tax you on the profit before you actually sell the shares, which is unbelievable. And I just think it continues to go from disaster to disaster for the government. You can't promise people – you can't, as a Prime Minister, look people in the eye and tell them one thing and do the complete opposite when you get into the job, I think that is a broken promise writ large.

STEFANOVIC: Ok, Richard, I do want to pull you up on that point, not ‘the sheikh of tweak’, which is a fairly good line, but I do want to pull you up on that point. Richard, if you can, can you explain this to me, how are you going to tax the increased paper value of an asset that hasn't been sold?

MARLES: Well, this is a tax in respect of earnings. And so it's a detail which goes to that question, and I think particularly people in self-managed superfunds. But let's be clear, this does not apply unless you have more than $3 million in your superannuation fund. What Peter has just said then is absolute rubbish. It's a whole lot of smoke and mirrors that he's trying to put around –

STEFANOVIC: Sorry, Richard. I know it's a technical question, but again, how are you going to tax the increased paper value of an asset that hasn't been sold?

MARLES: Well, as I say, this goes to the question of earnings in super funds with more than $3 million and the way in which that's put in place. And that is the issue here. This applies to a small number of people and what Peter has said, in terms of trying to make this seem like it's a broad thing which applies across the economy, it's the smoke and mirrors which you will hear from the Opposition time and again. But this is only applying to a small number of people. And at the end of the day it is a modest change. And it's a modest change which we need to put in place to make this system sustainable.

STEFANOVIC: Just one more time, how are you going to tax the increased paper value of an asset that hasn't been sold? If you don't know it's okay.

MARLES: Well a process will be worked through to work out what the earnings are on an ongoing basis.


DUTTON: Richard, you're the Deputy Prime Minister. You're on the Expenditure Review Committee. You were there for this conversation. You agreed to this crazy plan, which is going to cascade onto many other superannuates, and there's no question about that. So, I mean, if you don't understand the detail, how on earth can the Australian public understand what it is you're proposing here? It's a pretty basic question.

MARLES: Well, I do understand the detail. I mean, there is a process that will be put in place to assess earnings in respect of those superannuates who have more than $3 million. Now, if you're in a self-managed fund that's going to require a process for that to occur –

DUTTON: Where else in the tax system do you tax somebody on a profit that they don't actually make, that they don't realise, they don't sell the asset and you're taxing them before they realise the profit? So where else in the tax system does that happen?

MARLES: An assessment is going to be made in relation to super funds and their earnings so that there is a tax applied to those earnings and that is what will occur. Again, what you're now talking about goes to people who are in self-managed superfunds and a process will occur in order to enable that assessment to be undertaken on an ongoing basis. But again, this doesn't apply unless you've got $3 million in your super and there is a very small number of people who fit that category.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. I'll let you try and come up with a better explanation of that at a later date, like Jim Chalmers did the other day. We'll move on. Peter, this has put a little bit of a spring in your step. They're saying now the Victorian seat of Aston, it might be now a chance for you. Are you going to take Stuart Rob down there to help campaign – Robert?

DUTTON: Well, I was down there with Roshena Campbell yesterday. She’s a great candidate, she was out door knocking the day after she was elected –

STEFANOVIC: Not Stuart Robert?

DUTTON: Well, Stu’s very busy at the moment, he's at the Royal Commission and whatnot, he won't be able to make it down there. But I think the obvious thing to point out, Karl, is that in Aston, if you want to send a message to the Prime Minister, there's a by-election coming up on the 1st of April, you can do that. Because I think that, just walking here this morning, a couple of joggers pulled up, just average punters who said ‘don't let them touch our superannuation’. And the risk that this sends and the uncertainty that it creates across the market is really very significant. I don't think the government realises that, and you're meddling with something that's really important to people, and when Labor run out of their money, they come after yours. That's exactly what's happening now.

STEFANOVIC: Richard, Peter, on another note too, caused almost World War Three this week from a diplomatic point of view, with the old dart writing off the British subs. I just want to make sure this morning that you are still committed to those dodgy British subs, or are we going to go for U.S. subs? Are you going to have a change of heart there?

MARLES: Well, I can assure you of one thing, there's not going to be any change of heart based on anything that Peter is saying. The pathway –

DUTTON: We only negotiated AUKUS, Richard.

MARLES: But I'm a bit confused, Peter. I am confused now, because on the one hand, you're saying you're going to support the government on whatever it does, and on the other, you're trying to tell us exactly what we should do. So, I mean, I think there is a very simple question: when we announce the optimal pathway in a very short period of time, is the Opposition going to support it or not? I've listened to what Peter has said over –

DUTTON: Yes we will

MARLES: Well then I don’t get what the commentary has been.

STEFANOVIC: Richard, at the end of the day I know how to resolve this. According to newspaper reports this morning, you've got a new $800,000 office that you're not going to move into. So I reckon let Peter do all of his, you know, his subterranean Defence – you know, collecting his mail and instead of those three star generals, just let him go for it in that in that very clandestine Defence portfolio. Are you going to use that office?

MARLES: No, I have a very modest office at Russell, which I think is important, so that I'm actually present in Defence. And I'm not going to be in that office that is going to have to be used for someone else.

STEFANOVIC: All right, guys, good to talk to you today. I appreciate it. Thank you.



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