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20 November 2019

Interview with Steve Price, The Steve Price Show, 2GB

Note

Subjects: Australia’s ageing population; pension age; 

STEVE PRICE:

Thanks very much for your time. 

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Good to be with you, Steve.  

STEVE PRICE:

Were you surprised that the burden call got such a reaction in the last twenty-four hours?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Look, I think it has started an important debate about the economy and some of the challenges we face. Let me be absolutely clear; it’s a wonderful thing that people are living longer. What my job as Treasurer, though, is to ensure that we plan for the economy for the long-term. As you said in your introduction, I made it very clear in the speech it’s not about forcing people to stay in the workforce, but rather, giving them the opportunity and the choice to pursue life-long learning and skills training if that is what they choose and this is where Government can play a role. This is where employers also have a role, I have to say, to ensure flexible workplaces so that they can capitalise on the skills and experience of senior Australians. 

STEVE PRICE:

We’ll get swamped by calls, we were yesterday. I mean the obvious question is, you make the point that we need to give older Australians who want to stay in the workforce, and I reiterate want to stay in the workforce, an opportunity to have some skills training and learning. But my audience would say for what jobs? They find it increasingly frustrating that once they reach a certain age, they’re just dumped on the scrapheap and no one wants to employ them. 

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, the figures will actually show that the participation rate in the workforce has increased for those aged sixty-five or over. It’s actually increased, Steve, from just over 12 per cent to nearly 15 per cent over the last five years and the participation rate for this cohort was less than 6 per cent twenty years ago, so jobs are available and what we’re saying is that the Government can help in terms of the skilling of people who choose to take on that opportunity. But again, it’s about choice, it’s about opportunity. It’s not about forcing anyone to do something against their will. The other thing that we have done in this year’s budget is we increased from $250 to $300 a fortnight, the amount of money that people can earn and still not affect their pension; that’s called the Pension Work Bonus and I think that’s another way that governments can help.

STEVE PRICE:

Yes, you announced in the budget that you would fund support for people aged between 45 and 70 re-tooling for the workforce. Do we have any numbers on how many people have taken that up?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

A number of people have. Actually, that came from last year’s budget not this year’s budget. That was part of a broader $200 million skills package in that budget. We have seen people take it up, we’ve also announced in this year’s budget, Steve, a number of measures to ensure Australians of all ages can benefit from pilot programs that look at the digital sector, that look at human services, that look at mining because, as we know, people are living longer and that is a good thing.

STEVE PRICE:

You spend a lot of time in the last couple of months travelling around Australia, particularly visiting places that have been beset with the drought. You talked to a lot of people out there who are older Australian’s working. What do you say though to our listeners, people like truckies and labourers and builders, all tradies, saying look, we just can’t work past retirement age because physically our bodies are worn out?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Well, that is totally understandable and nobody is asking them to do that. What I am saying…

STEVE PRICE:

Well, we are pushing up the age of the pension.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

But what I am saying is that when it comes to that age that you referred to, that was legislated by the Labor Party back in 2009 and we haven’t said that we would change the retirement age, so we’ve been very clear about that…

STEVE PRICE:

But it goes up to sixty-seven, right?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

It does. And again, the Labor Party legislated that in 2009…

STEVE PRICE:

But you’re going to leave that there?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

We haven’t said we’re changing that legislation…

STEVE PRICE:

So the pension age will become 67?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

It does move and, again, it was legislated in 2009. But what we are focused on is ensuring people have the opportunities to get those extra skills, to get that lifelong learning if that is what they choose. When it comes to the Australian economy, we have our fundamentals in a pretty good place; namely the labour market has seen unemployment come down from 5.7 per cent when we came to Government to now 5.3 per cent, we’ve maintained our AAA credit rating, importantly, we’re coming back into surplus which will see us pay down the $19 billion of interest payments that we have each year on our debt, as well as ensuring we can keep spending on infrastructure and the Prime Minister made some very big announcements earlier today.

STEVE PRICE:

Are you ageist?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

That’s ridiculous. It’s like asking me if I’m a racist. Of course I’m not. I’m very proud of the contribution that senior Australians are making to the economy and I want to encourage them to continue to do so. When it comes to policies that would have hurt senior Australians, there’s no better example than what the Labor Party took to the Australian people six months ago with their retirees tax. That was not a policy we endorsed, in fact it was a policy we campaigned heavily against and that was emphatically rejected by the Australian people on May 18th.

STEVE PRICE:

Had your parents on the phone saying leave older Australians alone?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

My parents are enjoying the speeches that I’m making and the contributions that I’m making. And in their case, they work a few days a week and they enjoy what they do and they are also grandparents too. My kids and my sister’s kids and they do a lot of helping in that regard. They do a lot of community work and that’s no different, I’m sure, to all your listeners who are contributing to their families, to their local communities, not just in any paid capacity but in a voluntary way and that makes our community stronger and the health of our society even better.

STEVE PRICE:

Just before we go, former Victorian Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett has backed the compulsory super rising to 12 per cent, it’s currently 9.5, What’s your view on it going to twelve?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

We’ve said we’re not changing that, it’s been legislated. The Prime Minister and I have both repeated that publicly. One of the challenges we have is how do we put that money in superannuation to work to support our economy? And I for one would like to see more money invested by the superfunds in infrastructure, for example, because I think that would be a good way to boost the productive capacity of the economy. 

STEVE PRICE:

Thanks for your time.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Good to be with you.