Sky News Interview with Tom Connell

Tom Connell: We're live now with Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg, thanks very much for your time. I know you like following superannuation and, well, some interesting policies in this and interesting debates of late, but we've got the figures on this government policy to allow people to access super, particularly during COVID. More than half of those that access the money had no net income drop. So wasn't actually needed by these people, was it?

Andrew Bragg: Well, Tom, I think as the history books will show, the superannuation release scheme was one of the most successful policies of the pandemic because it allowed people to access their own money. And the bulk of the money that was taken out was used to pay down debts, for example, like mortgages to improve people's personal balance sheets. So I think that was very empowering and it helped a lot of people get through the pandemic, which otherwise would have been a lot more stressful.

Tom Connell: What did you make of the people that gambled with it, maybe bought a big TV and plonked it on the wall to watch the footy?

Andrew Bragg: But as I say, the vast bulk of the money went in to improve people's personal balance sheets, mortgages, debts, credit cards, and about 30 percent of that money went into savings. So the vast bulk of it, I think you could say, was very well spent. And for the remaining components, that is really a judgement for the people. It is actually their money. And I have to say that I think the super trustees who charge their super high fees necessarily do such a great job with the people's money.

Tom Connell: So when you say the vast bulk, I mean, how much was spent on what you're saying, they're paying down debt and mortgages?

Andrew Bragg: 60 percent, according to the ABS, went into people's personal balance sheets.

Tom Connell: So that's a lot of money, though, isn't it?

Andrew Bragg: Well, it is, after all, their money, I mean, we underwrite Australians with a pension scheme, the whole idea of the super is to try and improve people's retirements. But we've had a one in a century recession where the idea that super wouldn't be deployed to help the country get through this is ridiculous. Would have been absurd.

Tom Connell: Let me just ask you finally, because I know that you're right in this debate as to whether we increase super, the compulsory super contributions. Is it at least something the Coalition, if it were looking at not going ahead with legislated increases that you should take to an election given last time, there was no hint of changing your mind on this?

Andrew Bragg: I mean, we've had a very serious economic event called the coronavirus recession, and I think as part of that, the superannuation release scheme has been very popular. Three million people have used it. It's been very engaging. I think it has imbued a sense in people that this is real money. It's not monopoly money that falls out of the sky, it's part of their wages, part of their salary, which is exactly what the Reserve Bank Governor, Philip Lowe, has said in testimony to the parliament. So there is a real trade off between super and wages. And that is real,so that is a judgement that we need to make as a government as to how to make a final judgement.

Tom Connell: I just want to ask you about the retirement.

Andrew Bragg: Yeah.

Tom Connell: Yeah, sorry I just want to ask about Net Zero. Finally, Senator, some Nationals MPs, pushing back against this even before well we have a commitment to plan anything, really. What have you made of some of the contributions?

Andrew Bragg: Well, when we need to put forward a plan for our country, a country that takes climate change seriously and it needs to be a complete offering that we will take to Glasgow. Now, if there is a case for additional assistance for regional Australia or particular industries, and I think you look at that as a secondary issue. I don't think you start this issue looking at it from the perspective of what you can carve out, because, of course, our objective is to get the best deal possible for the planet.

Tom Connell: All right.

MEDIA | John Mangos | 0401 392 624

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