In what would, if we were indeed in an election campaign, be considered a major gaffe, shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey today committed the Coalition to reversing the increase in compulsory superannuation from 9% to 12%, then hastily backflipped.
At a doorstop to heap contumely on Wayne Swan’s announcement that the mining tax had only raised $126 million in its first six months (contumely richly deserved given the gestation of the MRRT), Joe Hockey badly overplayed his hand. According to his own transcript, he said:
The mining tax will not raise $956 million this year to pay for all the things the Prime Minister has been talking about in Parliament this week. The Superannuation Contribution Caps. Increasing the Superannuation Guarantee from nine to 12 percent. Phasing down Interest Withholding Tax on financial institutions. Expanding the definition of exploration to include geothermal energy. Supplementary Income Support for low-income earners. The Prime Minister said she had to redistribute the benefits of the mining boom to those most vulnerable. That is now all borrowed money. It says the Government is committing expenditure and we can not pay for it any more. Tax Loss Carry Backs. Accelerated Depreciation for Motor Vehicles, and the list goes on.
Then, when asked if the Coalition was committed to scrapping the tax (why they’re scrapping a tax that they say raises no money is a separate question), this exchange ensued:
Yes, the tax is going to go under the Coalition
What about the hole in the money?
The expenditure against it is going to go. We are not going to consign Australia to living beyond its means. Just look at Europe.
So what would you cut?
I just outlined them. I can go through them again if you want.
So you would cut all those initiatives?
Absolutely, you can’t afford them.
So there it was in black and white – the Coalition was cutting the increase in the super guarantee.
Except, apparently not so: a couple of hours later, Hockey was complaining on Twitter about being misrepresented. “What an MRRT debacle… Despite Govt’s failures we remain committed to not rescinding the increase in compulsory superannuation from 9-12%.” Hockey tweeted. After the Nine Network had accurately reported his remarks, he followed it up with:
Would be nice if Nine News had checked the facts…Coalition remains committed to keeping increase in compulsory superannuation from 9-12%.
Crikey understands Tony Abbott’s office moved immediately after Hockey’s doorstop to indicate there was no change in the Coalition’s support for the move from 9-12%, which is already difficult enough to believe given the Howard government welshed on a similar commitment in 1996.
If this were an election campaign, Hockey’s “gaffe” would be dominating political coverage for a full 24 hours and probably longer — well, it would if a Labor minister had made a similar stumble. Fortunately for Hockey (on whom Crikey lavished praise only a couple of days ago), it appears the febrile campaign atmosphere of earlier this week has now faded…
Still, at least he had the courage to release the transcript. Others, including his own leader, have been known to skip releasing accounts of embarrassing interviews.