Transcript - ABC Afternoon Briefing [25 November 2020]

November 25, 2020

SUBJECT/S: Abdul Nacer Benbrika; Mathias Cormann’s OECD campaign; superannuation

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Federal Liberal MP Tim Wilson and Labor MP Anne Aly join me this afternoon. Anne Aly, let’s just start on this breaking news this afternoon, some significant news. The Home Affairs Minister has confirmed that the government has cancelled the citizenship of terrorist Abdul Nacer Benbrika. You, of course, have a background in studying terrorism. What’s your reaction to this decision?

ANNE ALY: Well, good afternoon, Patricia, and my understanding is that the action taken by Minister Dutton is in the... as a cautionary measure, in the instance that he is unable to be kept in detention, and the fact that he still poses a fairly high risk to the safety and security of Australians. Look, on principle, I think there are times at which the cancellation of citizenship is appropriate, an appropriate measure and an appropriate response to an imminent threat of an attack, or where somebody presents an ongoing threat to Australian national security. I haven’t looked at the intricacies of this one in enough depth, Patricia, to make a... I guess, a final judgment on this. But I will say that I share concerns about this individual, and the ongoing threat that this individual poses to Australian safety and security.

KARVELAS: Tim Wilson, it is quite a significant announcement that’s been made by the Home Affairs Minister this afternoon for a number of reasons, also because it’s actually the first time it’s happened. It’s the first time these laws have been used to revoke citizenship. What’s your reaction to this decision? I mean, you’re obviously somebody who has often talked about human rights issues, individual rights. He’s now losing his citizenship. What do you make of it?

TIM WILSON: Well, firstly, we need to put into context that the Parliament passed laws where Australians who are dual citizens, and they have to be a dual citizen, can have their Australian citizenship revoked in... really what are extreme circumstances, where they pose a threat to the Australian community. And the Minister has clearly identified that this is the case. Obviously, I haven’t seen the full detail of it, but based on the media reports, it would seem to me justified, consistent with the law, and consistent with the spirit of what the Parliament set out.

KARVELAS: Look, let’s move to another issue. Penny Wong was on the program earlier. She told me that the Government should disclose the cost of Mathias Cormann’s OECD campaign. Tim Wilson, should there be greater transparency? Why does he get to get this sort of special treatment of going on RAAF special flights, whereas everyone else gets to fly around commercially?

WILSON: Well, it’s quite clear he’s doing a job on behalf of the Government and against the problems of commercial flight availability, as well as the COVID crisis and the risk to people’s health. That’s the basis. It’s an exceptional circumstance in an exceptional environment. And of course, all of these things are reported in the normal way. There’s Senate Estimates, who oversees the Parliament and different Department activities, and I’ve no doubt this will be included with it.

KARVELAS: OK, I’ll give it away to you, Anne Aly. Labor has been critical of the way that this has been handled, even though you’re supporting broadly Mathias Cormann’s tilt. What do you make of those arguments that it’s, you know, obviously commercial flights are an issue at the moment, COVID-19 is an issue. Is it worth the cost?

ALY: Well, I noticed that Natasha Stott Despoja managed to secure her position using... In such extraordinary times, as Tim Wilson points out, without having to get on a plane and charge taxpayers what’s estimated to be four thousand dollars a day. I simply don’t think it passes the pub test, and particularly, Patricia, when we have so many Australians stranded overseas - where Labor called on the Government to undertake a number of measures, among them, the measure of putting out special chartered flights. And the Government didn’t do that. But the Government now sees fit to have Mathias Cormann travelling around at a cost of around four thousand dollars a day on special chartered flights to what amounts to a campaign for his own ambitions. I just don’t think it passes the pub test.

KARVELAS: You say, for his own ambitions. But Labor has actually backed his ambitions, as being good for the country. Are they his ambitions or are they good for the country?

ALY: Of course, they’re good for the country, but there are ways of doing things without having to charter aeroplanes at a cost of around, the estimation, four thousand dollars a day, for Australian taxpayers, particularly when we have so many Australian citizens stranded overseas and the Government has failed to ensure that they are returned home. They didn’t take up the idea of chartering planes for those people. Why can’t Mathias Cormann campaign using technology and using telephone and using Web facilities? I just don’t see why that’s not possible.

KARVELAS: Tim Wilson, I want to change the topic, if I can. You’re among a growing number of Coalition MPs urging Cabinet to prioritise home ownership over super saving...

WILSON: Proudly.

KARVELAS: Good, proudly, so I got it right. Look, I spoke to Jane Hume, who’s the Minister responsible, yesterday, and she made the point that there’s an existing scheme. She believes it should be better used. That should be the strategy. Why isn’t it being better used if it’s such a good idea?

WILSON: Well, because young Australians have their superannuation locked up, their savings locked up, away from them being able to use. So the money they can then use to save to buy a home is in addition to their superannuation. Currently under the law, we treat super first, and home second. It should be the reverse: homes first, super second. And that’s the basis that I strongly support a change, because it provides a pathway for young Australians to get into the market earlier and cheaper. One of the dishonest misinformation campaigns, which is a polite way of saying lies, that’s been pushed by, particularly industry fund super managers, is that they say it will increase the cost of housing. The reality is, the longer it takes for young Australians to buy a home, means they’re more likely to buy at a higher price, and super is the one that’s creating an increase in the cost of housing for young Australians.

KARVELAS: What do you think of that, Anne Aly? I mean, home ownership is a huge issue, of course, for young people. Is that, should that be a bigger priority than, than their super nest egg?

ALY: I think what Tim is doing here is creating a false dichotomy, and he wants us to believe that there has to be a choice between owning a home and...

WILSON: But they don’t have a choice Anne, that’s the point.

ALY: ... and their retirement savings. No, no, I don’t think that’s the case at all, Tim, if you’ll let me finish. The fact is, and let’s put aside hypothesis and conjecture for a minute and look at the reality. I asked a number of young people in my office how much they have in super that could be put towards a home loan if, as Tim says, they have access to their super for a home loan. I asked my own two sons who have been in a fairly insecure employment since joining the workforce as well. None of them have the level of savings in super that would enable them to put down a deposit on a home in today’s current environment. And I’m struggling here to understand Tim’s logic for this, because if the logic, if the end game, is to make housing more affordable, to get young people into homes sooner, then surely, it makes sense to deal with the supply side and not the demand side. Surely, it makes sense to look at making homes more available, more social housing, more affordable housing, as opposed to the demand side. Getting young people to access their super... Tim would have us believe that that’s without consequence, and that’s simply not true. There is a huge consequence to pay, if you access and wipe out your super at a young age, and that consequence is the prospect of living in poverty as you age.

WILSON: That’s just simply dishonest...

KARVELAS: Tim, I’ll give you a response there. Well obviously, Tim, it’s logical one part of the point that Anne Aly is making is that if you take some of it away, you don’t get it later. That is true, isn’t it? I mean, that’s the point of super. You accumulate it for you to rely on in old age.

WILSON: Well, for starters, the most significant and leading indicator of poverty in retirement is not the size of your super balance. It’s whether you own your own home or not. And that’s the critical point. Now, I agree with Anne, we should focus on supply issues. I just wrote a whole book called The New Social Contract on the importance of housing, and why we should make it a much bigger part of the national discussion. But when you lock at people’s savings away, it inhibits their capacity to be able to contribute, with their own savings, to buying a home earlier and cheaper. And, you know, the average 30-year-old has about $38,000 in superannuation that they could be contributing towards a deposit. The tradeoff has been, because they’ve had their money locked away, the average age that young Australians have bought their home has got later, which means it comes at a higher price, because they’ve had to save more after superannuation. It should be homes, first super second.

KARVELAS: All right. We’re going to have to leave it there and keep having this debate, as we will over the next year. Thanks to both of you, Liberal MP Tim Wilson and Labor MP Anne Aly, joining us this afternoon.