VAN ONSELEN: Well his latest message has been that we may need to see an increase in the aged pension age up to 70, perhaps. Do you worry about people in manual labour? That seems to be where Labor is going, they’re drawing a distinction there. Tony Burke did it on Australian Agenda on Sunday. They’re drawing a distinction between people in manual labour and having to be very carefully about them; versus keyboard warriors like yourself and me, who could perhaps retire at 70 no problem.
SMITH: Well, two points. Labor are, as usual, trying to run a scare campaign. There is quite rightly, as Joe said yesterday, a need for a national discussion about the future. It’s not about people on a pension today and it’s not about people on pension tomorrow. But it’s quite right we have a discussion about people in the decade ahead. And as many people have pointed out throughout the course of the day as this debate has unfolded, we need to look at the long term. When the pension came in in 1909, life expectancy was much lower. And we’re facing a situation where the number of workers per those out of the workforce is shrinking. In 1970, it was about seven workers for every person out of the workforce…
VAN ONSELEN: But that should be about bolstering things like superannuation then, shouldn’t it? On your side of politics, they ultimately came on board. But you fought, for a long time, the increase in superannuation, particularly through the Howard years, when you sat on your hands.
SMITH: Well I wouldn’t say we sat on our hands but the thing about superannuation is it’s in transition. For most of the workforce, it’s existed for about 20 years only, so it is something that is in transition. But Labor wants to keep the Budget blindfold on, Peter. That’s the situation…
VAN ONSELEN: ...I agree they’re just playing politics. But my worry is that your side of politics won’t be tough enough and it will be rhetoric and not reality. But hopefully you’ll be honest with me, Tony Smith, when we talk post-Budget about that. Let’s move onto electoral matters before we run out of time. My producer’s worried that we’re overtime on this interview but I guess that’s what happens when you talk about Oscar Pistorious for too long, I guess. Electoral reform—you’re heading up this inquiry, if you like, as chair of the Committee, working your way around the country. Are you going to make some harsh recommendations, particularly in light of the debacle in WA and perhaps what some people would say is the wider debacle of minor parties in the Senate? What are you expecting?
SMITH: Well look, Peter, we’ve got some hearings tomorrow and the next day. And as you rightly point out, we’ve had a few already. We were in Perth last week. The two main issues we’re focused on initially; Senate voting, and the performance of the AEC following the debacle in Western Australia. So, the Committee will bring down a report on Senate voting before we get back to Canberra for the Budget. That will be released out of session. We’ve had a number of submissions on that. And on the AEC, there clearly has to be major changes in terms of their culture, so that in the future we won’t see a repeat of what we saw in Western Australia.
VAN ONSELEN: Alright, Tony Smith, as always, appreciate your company. Thanks very much.
SMITH: Thanks Peter.