SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER
Minister for Finance
Minister for the Public Service
Minister for Women
Date: Monday, 25 July 2022
KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Joining me live in the studio is the Finance Minister Katy Gallagher. Thanks for your time. Ahead of the 47th Parliament, do you think the government can lead the way on a better discourse, as the Prime Minister hopes to do?
SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR FINANCE: I definitely think so. That's certainly the Prime Minister's instructions. I think that's what the Australian people voted for. They wanted less division, more collaboration, working together, reaching compromise where you can. And respectful dialogue, including when you disagree. And that's the approach that we'll be bringing to the Parliament. And I think for many of the Teals and other independents who have been elected, that's certainly what they've reflected back to us as well. I think it's what Set the Standard and all of the inquiries of the previous Parliament with all of the conduct and some of the behaviour issues also reflected.
GILBERT: So it can be achieved?
GALLAGHER: Yes, I’m very —
GILBERT: Because we've heard sort of the optimistic language at the start of other governments and Parliaments and then it sort of descends into the adversarial nature of Parliament, as we've seen over decades. Can, are you optimistic about it again?
GALLAGHER: Well, I definitely think it will be achieved. But I mean, politics isn't a picnic either. I mean, it is a contest of ideas. People come, they're very passionate, people can argue very strongly, so we're not expecting it to, everyone to be sitting down and sort of hugging each other and all those kinds of things, but definitely a step up.
GILBERT: Well, we've seen that already today, haven't we, already with the Building and Construction Commission to go? The government moving immediately to rein in its powers. The Opposition says you're not recognising the history of intimidation from the construction union by this act.
GALLAGHER: Well, it's a clear election commitment of ours, so, yes, the Prime Minister has said repeatedly, we are going to do exactly what we said we'd do. So that's the first thing. I think the second thing is ensuring that all workers and employers within the industrial relations system are treated the same. They have the same rights and responsibilities. We feel that this certainly the ABCC — you'll get plenty of people who tell you how politicised and political that organisation came — we need to fix that. But that's not a free pass for anyone either. There needs to be proper workplace conduct and that's what I think consistency across the industries will allow.
GILBERT: So the government will still resource the Fair Work body sufficient enough so that the Fair Work Ombudsman can look at cases of misconduct, intimidation, harassment, whatever else, on building sites?
GALLAGHER: Well, we're going through, I mean, that forms a fair bit of my work at the moment, going through sort of appropriate resourcing of government priorities across the board. It requires some rebalancing and reorganising and we need to find some savings in there as well. But yes, at a general level, we want to make sure that all of our agencies are resourced appropriately to do the job that we are asking of them.
GILBERT: The economic statement coming on Thursday by the Treasurer, inflation pressures remain red hot in the economy. Does it make the promise of boosting real wages almost impossible right now?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think what you'll see from the Treasurer’s statement, an important statement, is an honest assessment, an honest picture of where we are right now. We inherited increasing interest rates, rising inflation. I mean, that was baked in well before the election. And we'll get some updates from that. The inflation figures will be out the day before and then they'll run through the statement that he outlines to the parliament. I think the point we're making is we need to get wages moving. A lot of our policies will do that. Obviously, there isn't anyone are saying that we'll get wages moving to the point that it will match inflation. At the moment, that's certainly not the case, and we won't see that. But we do need to get wages moving so that people can get some help with the cost of living pressures that they’re under right now.
GILBERT: On that help, would you consider looking at extending the cut to the fuel excise?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think we've said a number of times, the Treasurer has certainly said and I have, that that is not our intention. We go into the Budget looking at ways that we can assist with cost of living pressures, but we need to be doing that in a sustainable and long term way. So that's where our policies around child care, around jobs and skills, lowering the price of medicines, that gets rolled into that discussion and that's what we'll focus on in the Budget. We get that people are doing it tough. We need to look at what we can do. But the Budget is under enormous pressure at the moment and we need to rebalance and make sure that everything we're spending is quality and it's driving those productivity improvements across the economy.
GILBERT: The Prime Minister has made a big focus on the climate bill and the targets of 43% emissions reductions. The Greens have given no guarantee they will back it at this point. How damaging would it be if it tell flat once again?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think the Australian people voted for a better action on climate. Without a doubt, you can see that from the change in the House of Representatives, the Greens, and with the policies we took to the election. So, I think the whole of the country is hoping that we can just get this done, end the climate wars that have really plagued the country in this policy area for the last ten to twelve years. We need to stop that. This legislation gives us the opportunity to do that and I would hope that the Greens would come reflect, perhaps, on that and make sure that we can work across the Parliament to make a difference here. It might not be everything they want, but it's a massive step forward on where we've been for the past nine years.
GILBERT: But they're not always the most pragmatic of parties sometimes, as we've seen in the not so distant history.
GALLAGHER: That’s right. Yeah, that's right. A lot of the dysfunction in this policy area goes back to the decision not to back the Rudd policy agenda in this space and it's caused problems ever since. Highly politicised. But the Australian people have spoken. They want action. This legislation allows us to provide the certainty for business about our policy settings and I'm really hopeful that we'll be able to get it through the Parliament this fortnight.
GILBERT: Finance Minister Katy Gallagher. Thanks for your time, as always.
GALLAGHER: Thanks, Kieran.