Transcript - NAIF (Mach 2017) [Parliament House Doorstop]


SUBJECT/S: NAIF, Minimum Wage, Superannuation

WAYNE SWAN: Just quickly on the recovery and reconstruction of North Queensland post Cyclone Debbie, we're still in the event but what we learnt during Cyclone Yasi is that we need all tiers of government working together.

The federal government, the state government, the local government working very closely together and we also need the federal government to be really clear about the resources that it will make available in the medium term and the long term because when critical infrastructure is destroyed unless it's put back in place in the long term not only are individuals lives affected but the economy of the region is affected too.

So I think we will get, learning from what happened during Yasi, quite close cooperation between federal, state, and local government and so I certainly hope that all of the people in the region get the very best that they deserve from all tiers of government.

On Monday night in the Parliament, I spoke about the Northern Australian Investment Facility (NAIF), this is effectively now a Liberal Party slush fund, which is controlled by Minister Canavan.

I compared the NAIF to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) which is another Australian Government investment facility which operates as the gold standard of governance and operation [and] are the highest they could possibly be, but when you compare it to the NAIF. $5 billion [is] sitting there in what effectively looks like a slush fund and it's got a governance arrangement that looks as dodgy as Lehman Brothers.

There is no independence written into the mandate of the NAIF, it has no responsibility to produce a set rate of return such as the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and just to show you how dodgy the NAIF is, this is the application form that people fill out for grants from this fund.

So there is speculation that they may be about to make a grant of $1 billion. Well that’s the application form for a fund of $5 billion expecting to, receive $5 billion worth of taxpayer’s money.

If you’re an applicant for that fund, that’s the application form.

This is an application form for drought assistance, seventeen pages, so if you're a farmer in Queensland that’s seeking drought assistance this is the application form that you have to fill out, seventeen pages. So clearly what we have here is an investment facility which is as dodgy as Lehman Brothers, which doesn't operate to the highest standards that are expected of a Commonwealth authority.

So I have now written to the Auditor-General asking the Auditor-General to investigate the arrangement surrounding the NAIF so we can ensure that the taxpayer funds are protected.

We all know there is some speculation about what funds from the NAIF will be used for. There is some speculation that it may be about to make a loan to Adani, what I would say is this; that project needs to be able to operate on a profitable basis and should not be subsidized on a non-profitable basis by the NAIF. Any questions?

JOURNALIST: Just wanted to take you to a few issues kicking around today the first is Sally McManus will be down at the press club later on pushing for a $45 hike to the minimum wage do you think that is a reasonable ask?

SWAN: Well I certainly think we need a strong minimum wage in this country. We need a strong minimum wage because we all know the distribution of wealth and income in this country is becoming more equal over time. More unequal overtime so a strong minimum wage is an important part of a fairer Australia into the future. So the Labor Party has always had a strong commitment to the minimum wage. The Liberal Party are always out there arguing against any rise in the minimum wage but I'm a believer in a fair determination of these matters over time by the tribunal and this will be argued out there.

JOURNALIST: Is $45 a bit rich though?

SWAN: Well we'll have to see, let’s see the arguments, let's see what the unions submit, let’s see what employers submit and let's see what governments submits.

JOURNALIST: And the Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been obviously hot on it today...

SWAN: Well the Chamber of Commerce of Industry and all of the other employer bodies in this country have never found a decent level of the minimum wage that they could ever support so let's have a strong debate about what’s a fair minimum wage in Australia.

JOURNALIST: And have you had time to digest the productivity commission’s recommendations around reforming super and what sort of appetite do you have towards those?

Well I think we need to have a close look at them. The one thing that we have to ensure is we don't let the fox into the henhouse. That is let the banks take over superannuation system.

So let's have a look at these proposals as you know the big banks have been trying to muscle in on the superannuation system so they can stuff it up like they stuff everything else up.

So let's have a look at these proposals I'm sure that there are some sensible recommendations in there let's take the time to debate it.

And company tax cuts go to the other chamber today is there any wriggle room from Labor's perspective or is it hard and fast that two million is the threshold?

Hard and fast. This a $50 billion unfunded give away to some of the largest companies on earth this is not about jobs and growth it's just about a huge giveaway to some of the strongest supporters of the Liberal Party. The economics behind the claims of a $50 billion unfunded tax cut are flimsy. It's not going to drive jobs and growth. It's simply going to be a big increase to the bottom line of some of the most profitable corporations in the world.

If the government was serious about jobs and growth it would be getting stuck into some decent investment in critical economic infrastructure and driving demand in the economy which is nowhere near as strong as it needs to be. This economy suffers from high levels of unemployment and chronic levels of underemployment. What our economy needs is a decent boost to demand. Not an increase in wealth concentration by huge gifts of money to the largest corporations in the world. 

Can I just bounce back to the super issue again; do you think there is merit in the argument to loosen the industry super funds and union super funds grips on the super market?

Not at all, the industry funds in superannuation are the best operated, most effective, highest return funds in the system. The ones that are generally operated or sponsored by the banks are nowhere near as profitable or as effective. But we've seen here in this country for well over a decade continuous attempts by the banks to smash superannuation and particularly the role of industry funds so they can get their hands on it and use it for their own purposes so we ought to be very careful about the reforms we put in place in the superannuation system it's a very big reform that the Labor Party put in place that was a substantial benefit to our economy for a long period of time and we ought not to endanger it by letting the fox into the henhouse.

Thank you.