Transcript - Television Interview - Sunrise - Monday 15 July 2019

Subject: Pension deeming rates.

NATALIE BARR: For their take, let’s bring in former Nationals leader and Member for New England Barnaby Joyce and Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Resources Joel Fitzgibbon. Barnaby let’s start with you. Why has it taken the government so long to make these changes and is it enough?

BARNABY JOYCE: Well we always want to make sure we do whatever we can to help pensioners and this deeming rate taking down the amounts below $86,200 to $51,800 our deeming rates for lower amounts go down to one per cent and deeming rates for the higher amounts go down to three per cent it means the applied investment that comes back off your savings even from gifts is now, the return is now deemed to be lower. That means you get a higher pension and means more money back in to pensioners’ pockets. This is vitally important of course. As we get the budget into a better position as we continue to drag it into surplus then we have a greater capacity in the future to do more but we are dealing with the cards that have been dealt to us and making sure we get a surplus and making sure we deliver money back to pensioners.

SAMANTHA ARMYTAGE: Joel we’re only talking about some pensioners in the country here and Labor says some of them are being short-changed but surely doing something here is better than doing nothing?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Barnaby just made an unfortunate point, he said that if we get more money into the Government coffers we might be able to do more for pensioners but that’s not the way it should work. We should not be assuming pensioners are making money they are not capable of making back from their investments. This is not rocket science and it shouldn’t take four years to make the adjustment. It’s not just Labor politicians saying this, that it’s too little too late, it’s the leadership of the various seniors groups who are saying that and now of course they are concerned that if the RBA moves the cash rate down once again, therefore interest rates fall further, the government may take another year, two three or four to adjust it again. This is a legitimate concern they hold.

NATALIE BARR: Barnaby, seniors groups are talking about moving it away from government and having an independent body set the rate. Surely that sounds fairer doesn’t it than having politicians do you think?

JOYCE: I think the issue is that we’ve got to make sure, we want to make sure that we get to pensioners, those who have done so much for our nation, the best possible lifestyle and the most money we can. But we of course – I disagree with Joel we have to do it within the budget constraints. If we start giving people money from the MasterCard, then of course the nation runs out of money. We are turning the financial position of this nation around, we are going back into surplus. This gives us the opportunity to give more money back to pensioners which are doing.  Now I don’t know, maybe Joel can tell me and maybe they did, whether the Labor Party put this in their budget that they took to the election? Their alternate budget I never heard about, so I think the Treasurer is to be commended in this step as we continue to bring the budget back into surplus we have more capacity to do more.

ARMYTAGE: Joel did you put, did Labor put deeming in your budget and what would you do differently now?

FITZGIBBON: Well two points there, sure over the last three years we’ve criticised, rightly, the government for not further adjusting the deeming rate. We can’t make an adjustment from Opposition when we don’t know in advance what the reserve bank is going to do with the cash rate but Barnaby has just doubled down. He is saying you should continue to reduce the pension on interest that doesn’t exist because your main focus is the budget surplus. You can’t be taking money away from pensioners and assuming they are earning money they are not earning because you are more concerned about the budget surplus. That’s a ridiculous statement to make Barnaby. Pensioners shouldn’t have their pensions reduced because of income they are not receiving.

JOYCE: I have to take you up on that Joel, I have to take you up on that. Joel you are factually wrong. We are actually giving more money back to pensioners. That’s why we are having this interview. We are actually giving more money back so when you say you are giving less money back you’re wrong you’re saying.

FITZGIBBON: What you are saying is that you should restrict the amount you give back.

JOYCE: you have clearly stated that you never had it in your budget so now you have sort of turned up at the 11th hour saying well you guys are doing it and we would have done a better job. Well if you were going to do a better job then in the alternate financial position that you took to the election you should have expressed it as such, but you didn’t. And we are giving more money back to pensioners and it’s not a case of doubling down it’s a case of saying the bleeding obvious that we are taking the budget back to surplus, we are giving money back to pensioners as we continue to improve the financial position of this nation that was so recklessly taken so out of control by the previous Labor government, we will have the opportunity to give more, more money to pensioners on top of this.

FITZGIBBON: No No, you’re saying it’s alright to continue to take money off pensioners on an interest rate that doesn’t exist because your priority is the budget surplus.

JOYCE: We’re not taking it off pensioners you goose we are giving it back. I don’t how you are saying

FITZGIBBON: You have been assuming interest that doesn’t exist.

JOYCE: We are changing the deeming rate that is giving it back. Can’t you understand that concept? It’s very simple.

FITZGIBBON:  For four years you have held the deeming rate too high.

BARR: Okay, I think we just cut them off.

ARMYTAGE: We have to go, gentleman, thank you. Stay warm out there.

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