Transcripts → 2023


Television interview - ABC News Breakfast

Minister for Finance
Minister for the Public Service
Minister for Women


Date: Monday, 8 May 2023

Budget; Inflation challenge; Cost of living; JobSeeker.

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Minister Katy Gallagher joins us now from Parliament House. Minister, good morning.


ROWLAND: What more can you tell us about this close to $15 billion worth of cost of living relief about to be announced in the Budget?

GALLAGHER: Well, it's a significant package, Michael, not just in the scale, but in the reach that we're trying to have with it. So, you know, you'll see different measures as part of that cost of living package. But I think what it shows, is that that really has been front and centre of our thinking as we finalised the Budget. You know, how to provide that sensible and affordable cost of living relief against, you know, an environment of high inflation. And that's been certainly a challenge as we've been making our decisions. But people will see the full details of that on Tuesday night.

ROWLAND: And can Australians be assured that won't further fuel inflation?

GALLAGHER: Well, we've been really mindful of that as we've been putting, finalising the decision. So you can see it's very carefully calibrated, carefully targeted. It's affordable because we've been making savings on the other side of the Budget. You know, we've been very clear that we've tried to do a few things in this Budget - cost of living relief, investing in the future, productive side of the economy, but also repairing the Budget at the same time to deal with the debt and deficit that we inherited. So, you know, Budgets are always, you know, hundreds if not thousands of decisions working together to produce the final outcome. And I think people will judge that on Tuesday night. But we've been very mindful of those cost of living pressures for Australians as we've been finalising it.

ROWLAND: Well, speaking of decisions, we're learning this morning about more government decisions ahead of the Budget. You're announcing that the Government has reprioritised close to $17 billion, $18 billion rather, of spending over the next five years, taking out the Defence cost shifting already announced that's $10 billion over five years. What is being cut as part of that?

GALLAGHER: Well, we'll be clear on that tomorrow night. People will be able to see that in the Budget Papers, where we've made a save through, you know, assessment from ministers in the ERC, but also about where that's being reinvested. So part of our thinking has not been, you know, slashed and cut and burned in a sense. It's been around how do we look at the existing money we have flowing through the Budget and how do we reprioritise that into, you know, current pressures or future needs, because this can't be an exercise in adding on all the time. We can't just think ‘we want to do something new, therefore we added into everything we're already doing’. And I think that's very good fiscal discipline. Ministers have been very cooperative with that approach and it'll be clearly shown in the Budget Papers. But it's across, it's across the board. Michael you'll see that it's a -

ROWLAND: Yeah, I'm sorry for interrupting, but $10 billion is not chump change. We are talking about potentially swingeing cuts to some programs here. Right?

GALLAGHER: Well, it's not, absolutely it's not a small amount of money. I mean, it builds on, we found $22 billion in the October Budget. So it is possible. And the Commonwealth Budget is, you know, has a huge a lot of money running through it. So, you know, this is sensible. It's, I think it's across the board, but it's not just, you know, it's not anything like you'd see us just removing a program and leaving people in the lurch. It's where we've been able to make those sensible decisions, looking at reinvesting as well. So it's about, I think, the exercise, not only from a fiscal discipline point of view, it's about making sure our money, we get the best bang for buck that we can, that it delivers the outcomes we want, that it's tailored to current pressures and that we're being really thoughtful about the current expenditure as opposed to just adding in new expenditure that we can't afford.

ROWLAND: Katy Gallagher, given all the speculation over the weekend and as you know, there's been plenty of it, won't the biggest surprise tomorrow night be, if Jim Chalmers does not get on his feet and not announce a Budget surplus?

GALLAGHER: Well, people can see the Budget balance, what it looks like tomorrow night. So 36 hours away almost. But we have been clear for some time that we're seeing significant improvements in the short term, but the longer term pressures on the Budget remain. And so the Budget's, the sort of challenging circumstance that the Budget is in, despite the welcome upgrades, is not a long term solution to some of the pressures we're seeing. And we know all of those areas like Defence, Health, Aged Care, NDIS, you know, the pressures there are increasing, not decreasing. So there's a still a very much a Budget repair story and more work that we need to do.

ROWLAND: But at least this financial year surplus or much smaller deficit this financial year, the Budget is clearly looking good. So clearly there is scope for argument's sake for across the board increases in the JobSeeker rate.

GALLAGHER: Well you will see, I mean, you will see an improvement in the Budget bottom line, Michael. But as I just said earlier, like, the Budget is a range of decisions. You know, hundreds, if not thousands of them that work together to produce the outcome, where we can provide sensible and affordable cost of living relief. And we've talked about that package. We will, we've been very mindful of that. But we've got a whole range of other pressures on the Budget that we're juggling as well. We can't do everything that everybody wants, but you will see this is a very strong Budget in terms of support for vulnerable Australians to doing what we can, where we can afford it, to investing in the future, and also putting the Budget on a more sustainable footing going forward.

ROWLAND: Okay, Katy Gallagher, see you in Canberra. Thanks for joining us.

GALLAGHER: Thank you.


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