SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER
Minister for Finance
Minister for the Public Service
Minister for Women
Date: Monday, 27 June 2022
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, let's go back to Canberra now and joining us is the Finance Minister Katy Gallagher. Minister good morning, thanks for your time this morning. So a short time ago, we had Peter Dutton on the program, he wants pensioners to be able to earn more and then work for longer periods. Will Labor stand in the way of that or support it?
SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Morning, Pete, and thanks for having me on. Yes, I've seen this idea over the weekend being talked about by Peter Dutton. You know, this is something that we will look at, I mean, against a range of other competing priorities in the Budget. I mean, we need to make sure that people are working, where they can work. We've got severe labour shortages at the moment. So where sensible ideas are made, we'll certainly have a look at it. But also after nearly a decade in government, if this was such a great idea, I wonder why it wasn't pursued by the government, the former government, when they were in power. But we have a range of issues that we need to look at in terms of making sure we're getting people in the jobs that we need them in, that we're addressing skills over the longer term and you know, this idea, if it has merit, we'll have a look at it.
STEFANOVIC: I did put that question to him, and he said that economic conditions have changed, and like you mentioned there, we need more workers in the workforce. So if people can work longer then they should be able to – it does make sense. And then it wouldn't be much of a cost to the government would it because you'll earn that back through taxes and GST because people will be spending more, right?
GALLAGHER: Well, I haven't had the idea costed at this point in time, but it was an idea raised over the weekend, we'd have a look at it. It does come with a cost, though, and we'd have to work through some of those. But we have a range of ideas. We've got our own election policies that we'd like to roll out in the October budget. And of course, as Jim and I've been saying, the Budget will be designed with the economic circumstances at the time front and centre. I mean, for us, that's going to be a cost of living package, it's going to be looking at how we can make sensible savings and getting rid of some of the waste and rorts and also, you know, making our election commitments, investing in those election commitments that we made.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, you've got these warnings overnight from the Bank of International Settlements, indicators flashing red, according to them, for stagflation in Australia. Do you believe that risk of stagflation is slowly becoming a reality?
GALLAGHER: Look, there's no doubt there's challenges facing the economy. I've seen that report, I think that report also outlines that the risk of stagflation is low, and we've got good monetary policy, we've got the Reserve Bank, who's, you know, monitoring this and making decisions as they can. But we have, you know, a really unique set of circumstances at the moment and challenges we've got, you know, cost of living going through the roof, we've got rising interest rates, we've got wages still stagnant, and that's presenting some real challenges to people. So the job for government, I mean we've got the independent Reserve Bank looking at the matter of interest rates, the job for government is to look at how we can make you know, our policies, our sensible investments drive the productive capacity of the economy. And that's why we went so hard on things, Peter, on things like childcare, on skills and getting the opportunities that come from renewable energy, they're things that will help the economy in the long term without adding to inflation in the short term.
STEFANOVIC: Given the economic environment at the moment, will you struggle to meet your election promise of real wage growth and budget repair?
GALLAGHER: Well, the job for budget repair has to be done. I mean, it's not one that we can just leave and hope that things get better in the long run, there is a structural deficit that our budget's facing, we've got a trillion dollars in debt, as interest rates go up the cost of servicing that debt gets higher. So it is a job we have to do. But that means we have to take sensible steps. We're not going to just slash and burn, there's you know, we're going to do a really thorough review and assessment of where spending is and where we can redirect it or reprioritise or make sensible savings, we will do that. And we will look at how we implement our election commitments. But the Prime Minister has been really clear, our election commitments are our election commitments, governments get elected to implement them, and we'll be doing that as well.
STEFANOVIC: Do you fear any retribution from crossbenchers after they've had to cut their staff?
GALLAGHER: Well, again, this is an area where we think everyone can make some sensible savings. I mean, I think it's unsustainable to argue that crossbench senators get double the amount of senators of other MPs in this Parliament. We're making savings in the order of over a million dollars, $1.5 million in terms of our staffing budget that flows through the government. The Greens are remaining stable with their staff despite having extra people elected to the parliament. So, you know, we'll engage in talks with the independents, but this is a sensible step. I mean, four staff on top of your electorate staff is double what other MPs get, and it's not sustainable.
STEFANOVIC: Yeah. Just some final reflections here as Minister for Women Katy, on Roe v. Wade, is there any chance some people might be concerned about this looking forward? Is there any chance that Australia and its states reverse their position?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think the message out of America over the weekend for Roe v. Wade is that women around the world have to remain vigilant about access to safe and legal abortion and to laws that protect their rights to access health care services. It's you know, it's only in the last 20 years or so that state and territory Parliaments have dealt with this issue and decriminalised it in almost every state and ensured that there's a legal framework for women to access safe and legal abortion. And you know, I think what we saw in America reverberating around the world is a major setback on women's rights to access health care and I think vigilance is the key. But I would also say this hasn't been front and centre of Australian politics and that's a good thing. This matter has been dealt with at states and territories and there's laws in place to protect women going through this very difficult process.
STEFANOVIC: Do you have any concerns about women in regional areas in Australia, who are or aren't able to get access to abortion in those regional areas?
GALLAGHER: I think this has always been a challenge around women who live outside the major cities and how they can access those termination of pregnancy services. I think there's work to be done to make sure that, you know, those health services that are operating in rural Australia have, you know, are skilled and able to provide the services or advice to women, but it is a challenge. I mean, many of the termination services are located in major cities and that does require travel for women and at a stressful point in time and it's costly, and that is an added burden when they're already going through a difficult time. But I think for health, rural health services, it's not just in this area of health care. I mean, it's a challenge across the board to make sure people living in rural and remote Australia get access to the health care services they need.
STEFANOVIC: Okay, the Minister for Women and Finance there, Katy Gallagher. Appreciate your time this morning. Thank you. We'll talk to you soon.
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