Subjects: Budget in Reply; gambling advertising; Labor’s Big Australia Migration Policy; Tasmanian Government; Minister Farrell’s visit to China.
It’s terrific to be here Peter, with you, as Leader of the Opposition, to meet Anthony in his café to hear his personal story. It’s terrific when I meet small businesses that do what they do as well, if not better, than anyone else in the world. I know this because I have been from Townsville to Toorak, from Perth to Penrith, and everywhere in between, talking to businesses just like this and understanding from them their cost of living crisis that they’re experiencing in their business and that they’re hearing from their customers: less coffees a week, less lunches a week, and just the anxiety that so many people facing, which small businesses understand so well.
We didn’t see much in the budget for small business. We didn’t see much for middle Australia. But I just want to acknowledge what small business does each and every day – to keep this country going, to connect with community, to support community, to employ people, many like their family and often a small business has its business anchored on a home mortgage. And we know how hard that is for people who are seeing those mortgage increases. So, thank you to Anthony, thank you to small businesses of Australia and thank you Peter Dutton for delivering an outstanding budget in reply speech that backs in the values and aspirations of small business and middle Australia.
Sussan, thank you very much. Great to be here this morning with Sussan. I just want to say thank you very much to Anthony, to staff – they’re very, very busy this morning, which is a good sign for their business. But Suppetós here is like a lot of businesses around the country. When we look at the electricity bill here, about $9,000 for the quarter, that’s a lot of money and it’s going up and up under this government. The input costs otherwise are going up because the farmers are seeing higher increases in their input costs, which means that they’ve got to pass that on to the cafe owner who then has to pass it on to the consumer and that’s what happens in an inflationary environment.
I think a lot of Australians were really expecting some support out of the budget and there’s been very little. We’ve got a lot of families who are working across the country, working long hours and working for their family and they’re seeing a really difficult situation. There are a lot of families at the moment who are under an enormous amount of stress just trying to work out how they can pay all their bills and where they can cut back and what’s going to happen in this environment. As the government points out, 175,000 people will lose their jobs over the course of the next couple of years. Unemployment is forecast to go up in this budget and inflation is still a problem. Most economists have reported that they think the budget will be inflationary which will mean interest rates go higher, or they stay higher for longer.
I think we should be really concerned for a lot of Australians who I think at the moment are the working poor, Labor’s working poor. These are people who continue to work hard but they just get less bang for their buck in an inflationary environment.
It’s also important to point out that Australia’s core inflation rate is higher than any G7 nation. That is very important to understand because the problem therefore is not just the global environment as all the G7 nations are impacted by global events, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But you’ve got a situation here where in our country inflation is coming out of Canberra and it’s landing in the form of higher bills, impacting people’s budgets, both in small businesses and families.
Last night I was able to deliver I think what was a very responsible measure and announcements in relation to some key areas. This is not an environment where you want to be spending a lot of money and we want to make sure we do spend money, where we do commit, it can be targeted and make a difference to families. The government has put forward some good ideas in relation to providing more support around general practice which were support. They put some ideas on the table in relation to relief otherwise which we supported.
But we also had an important announcement in relation to what we think is a better approach to the JobSeeker situation. We’ve got 438,000 vacancies in our country at the moment. There are a lot of small businesses who just can’t find staff and we’ve got over 800,000 people who are on the JobSeeker payment and 75 per cent of those people don’t do any part-time work.
So, we think if you offer an arrangement similar to what we announced last year in relation to pensioners and veterans, allowing people maybe a shift or two a fortnight will give them lot more than the $40 the government is proposing, and it also gives them the opportunity to move then into maybe three or four shifts or maybe full-time work, particularly for those who have been long-term unemployed on the JobSeeker payment.
So, we had a number of announcements, I think also the announcement in relation to sports betting on television, when you’re sitting there with your kids watching the footy, watching any sport. It’s frustrating and it’s annoying, and what we announced last night was that the Coalition government would stop the ads between the period of an hour before the game started through the game and for an hour afterwards. I think that will be welcomed by a lot of families. We’ve got to be careful in our country that we’re not creating a culture where we’re introducing kids at a younger and younger age to a betting and gambling culture, and it needs to be done in a responsible way, and I think our response last night was measured.
I’m happy to take any questions.
Mr Dutton, new analysis shows bracket creep is eating away at the benefits of the stage three tax cuts, does the government need to look at altering that package so that middle income earners are actually better off?
Well, the government has to consider a few things. I mean, firstly, the government’s taken decisions and avoided some decisions which see us in a higher inflationary environment and the decision around bringing in one and a half million people in an unmanaged way over a five year period is going to be inflationary in the current environment. So, the difficulty with inflation is that it goes up very quickly and comes down very slowly. I think the government will have to look at all of their options available, as to how they’re going to provide support for families. Stage three tax cuts are legislated. The government went to an election with that promise. And we would expect them to honour it.
Mr Dutton, you mentioned that you would work with the government to make aged care funding more sustainable. Are you advocating increased user charging of residents, or some other solution?
I want to see what the government can come forward with, because I want an aged care system which respects our elderly. All of us have heard horror stories. There are a lot of other stories of good experiences and we need a better level of care and a sustainable model for aged care to work for an ageing population. A lot of people are being diagnosed in our country with conditions like early dementia, and that high-need care is more prevalent as the years go on. So, the government has, I think, mooted some change in this area and we’re happy to sit down and talk with them about what options might be available but I want a dignified system. I want people to be treated with respect. Those who have worked hard, they’ve raised their children, they’ve paid taxes, they’ve made our country the great country that it is. I think as they age, and particularly when they can’t take care of themselves, we have to have a system that treats them with dignity and with respect.
Mr Dutton, do you support the $40 increase to JobSeeker? And on migration, if 1.5 million migrants is too many, what should the number be?
Well, I just make the point that this is the biggest migration intake in our country’s history, and it’s done in an unplanned way. We live in an amazing country, with a great multicultural story. The success of our country is based on a number of firm laws but one of those is the successful migration story, bringing people from the four corners of the earth. We want that to continue, but it has to be in a managed way. At the moment we’ve got Australians who can’t find rental accommodation. People are sitting in congestion every morning, every afternoon – going to work, picking their kids up, dropping them off at sport, whatever it might be. If we’re going to bring more people in than the entire population of Adelaide, just within a five year period, there needs to be some plan. I mean, Anthony Albanese’s Big Australia policy wasn’t something that he announced at the last election, and when you look at the averages over the Rudd-Gillard period, the Howard period, over a long period of time, we just haven’t seen numbers of this magnitude and it’s without the planning. It’s the lack of planning that, I think, particularly in the period of a housing crisis, that’s particularly concerning.
So, you’re saying that it should be half that number, or?
Well, I think you should look at what served us well in the past, both under Labor and Liberal governments, and particularly when it’s done in a managed way. We’re in a very different period than we are today. I just think we’ve got to recognise that there are a lot of Australians who are really doing it tough and over the course of the next six months, all of the estimates are that it’s going to get harder for people. If you’re living in an environment where people can’t find rental accommodation now, and they can’t buy a house or are finding it difficult to buy a house now, you bring in 6,000 people a week extra in, I just don’t understand where those people are going to live, and if the government hasn’t planned for that, then, you know, it’s something for them to explain.
Sorry, just on JobSeeker?
Oh, sorry, the JobSeeker part. So, we made it clear last night that we think the better approach is to allow people on a JobSeeker payment to work, say, five or 10 hours a fortnight. It would give them a lot of extra money in their pocket compared to the $40 that the government is offering. It allows people an introduction to work because we know in our country we’ve got 438,000 job vacancies and over 800,000 people on unemployment benefits. So, we want to get them off welfare and into work and we want to have that conversation with the government, as we did last year. In June of last year, I announced our policy which would make it more generous – the work bonus arrangements – more generous, and encourage people on an Age Pension or who are veterans to work a few extra hours as without it affecting their pension. The government picked that policy up in part, and I hope that they’ll do the same here. So, we’ll have that conversation with them before we make a final decision in relation to the payment.
Mr Dutton, you were critical last night – a couple of times in your speech – about Labor letting the LMITO expiring and a tax increase of up to $1,500 for people earning $126,000 or less. Are you looking at bringing back that, should you form a government? And given that the government in this budget is sort of focused on looking after the welfare end, do you expect in the next budget they will then tackle the issue of middle-class Australians?
Well, look, Andrew, I mean, the government’s not quite 12 months old. So, we will have policy announcements closer to the election and I think that’s a responsible approach because we want to consider where the economy is at that stage, whether Labor’s made more decisions that mean that inflation has either gone further or it’s staying higher, longer, than what we would want. So, we’ll make all of that in a considered way in due course.
I think it’s important for the government to be able to respond to events which is the reality for any government. The government only a couple of years ago had to deal with the unexpected situation with Covid. Labor supported all of the spending in JobKeeper and the supports that were provided to businesses and to families during the course of the pandemic and they promised another $81 billion in spending. Governments before that have had to deal with wars, with avian bird flu, with tourist downturns, with airline collapses. The government of the day has to be able to respond. I think what we’ve seen in this budget is the inheritance that this government has received from the last government. That’s been the reason they’ve turned a surplus in this budget. I think they could achieve a surplus next year as well. I think that’s very clear, particularly given the revenue numbers but we’ll see how much of spending they undertake and what they do over the course of the next 12 months.
Can I ask for your reaction to the Tasmanian Government falling into a minority with two Liberal MPs planning to quit over this stadium decision?
Well, I saw Premier Rockliff in Tasmania last weekend. I’ve known him for a long time, and I think he’s doing a great job as the Premier of Tasmania. I am sure at the next state election there will be a lot of support for him because I think he has demonstrated, as his predecessors have, that they’ve been able to manage the economy well in Tasmania. The economy in Tasmania under Labor was a complete basket case. Unemployment was high and confidence was very low and I think he’s doing a great job as the Premier and I think there’s no doubt that he’ll deserve support at the time of the next election.
What does Don Farrell need to get out of his trip to China?
Well, look, firstly I welcome the fact that Minister Farrell has been able to travel, but it has to be an honest conversation. Of course, we want to see the unfair restrictions that have been placed on exports lifted, but there needs to be an honest conversation about other issues, specifically security issues, and we’ll see what comes out of the trip.