SUBJECTS: Robodebt Royal Commission – Stuart Robert, Superannuation tax concessions
LISA MILLAR, HOST: Was that your recollection of how Cabinet solidarity worked, that you would have to not tell the truth in certain circumstances to maintain it?
BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: No, I was I was amazed. I thought this. I thought this was peak bizarre. I must say the Royal Commission hasn't made its findings. Mr Robert has put his case. I don't want to. I'm not in a position to second guess everything that Mr Robert’s has said under oath and, you know, deserves to be taken, he said. This is under oath. You can take that. You can believe that. But the essence of yesterday's hearings there are two to three big issues. One is there's been two senior respected public servants who've said that they advised Mr Robert that there was a major problem, a leak, a lawfulness problem with the scheme as early as July of 2019. He says no, that within hours of having it confirmed that it was unlawful. So there's contested evidence, as David just said, but that's one issue. You've got two people saying one thing, another person saying another thing. That'll be up to the Royal Commission to determine. But this issue of Cabinet solidarity, leaving aside his particular sequence of events, not even a crocodile would swallow that you are allowed to just mislead and tell false statements on facts. Cabinet solidarity is a simple concept. When you have 22 Cabinet ministers, you argue for your issues in Cabinet. But once the decision is made, you all support the decision. And that's important so that the government doesn't look like it's just tilting, you know, having big arguments all the time. But in supporting the Cabinet decision, that's not a warrant to tell facts you don't think are right. That's not a licence to mislead the public. I think this is a pretty major issue.
MILLAR: And having made that admission at the Royal Commission, regardless of what the Royal Commissioner finds, should there be immediate consequences for Stuart Robert, do you think?
SHORTEN: That's for Peter Dutton to decide. There'll be consequences perhaps depending on what the Royal Commission says, but that's that process. But Mr Robert's only telling Australians that he made misleading statements, not because he's chosen to correct the record, it's because we called a Royal Commission and you're required under oath to tell the truth. Mr Dutton's going to have to explain does he think Mr Robert lived up to the ministerial standards? There's the Royal Commissioner, who's got a very economical but precise turn of phrase, who said, you know, words to the effect that you're really saying that Cabinet solidarity entitles you to mislead Australian people on statistics and facts. Mr Dutton, because Mr Robert has landed this big sort of issue in his lap, is going to have to say, does he think the Cabinet solidarity allows you to mislead the Australian people? Yeah.
MILLAR: So do you think Stuart Robert should not be on the Opposition frontbench?
SHORTEN: I don't think he'd survive on the Labor frontbench and I think there must be a lot of former Coalition ministers who would think when given this fact situation, but that Cabinet solidarity, it's, it can be stretched, but this is stretching it far further than I think anyone has tried to stretch it before.
MILLAR: Let's turn to superannuation. Is the Government going to have to consider indexing this $3 million cap because and the point about taxing unrealised profit in a moment, because that is and other key issue with it. But it does seem that you're sort of effectively saying now, look, a lot of people aren't going to join it, aren't going to suddenly be earning $3 million within the next year and a half in their superannuation. The Financial Services Council says it's going to be half a million people eventually. But by saying not a lot of people are going to be in it, aren't you sort of undermining the whole purpose of it, which is.
SHORTEN: I see the two points you're making to, you know, get some more revenue I see the two points you're making. The Financial Services Council says we might be making too much. And you're also saying we mightn't make very much at all. I haven't seen the Financial Services Council number, so I won't be so, you know, arrogant as to, you know, debate a number that I haven't seen. But again, I have to say I will be quite amazed that if there's half a million people with $3 million in their superannuation, that's a lot of people and you know, good luck to them. But if you've got $3 million plus in your super and your earnings are still going to be taxed less than if you were earning your income going to work every day, this is not a disaster. And then we go to your other point here. It seems a lot of fuss, over $2 billion. I must live in a parallel universe. $2 billion is a big tonne of money. And with that $2 billion, that's, you know, the tens and tens, maybe 100 nurses have to go to work each year to pay that much tax to the government so that then we can forego that amount of tax from one person. I just, you know, at a certain point, $2 billion is a massive amount of money and it's a massive amount of concession to forego from a very few people who are already, by any standard, very comfortable.
MILLAR: Well, we'll see where this argument lands. I suspect we're going to be talking about it for a lot longer. Bill Shorten, thank you for joining us on the couch this morning.