SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER
Minister for Finance
Minister for Women
Minister for the Public Service
Senator for the ACT
Date: Tuesday, 5 December 2023
JOURNALIST: Are we going to see any further cost-of-living relief in next week’s Budget update?
SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR FINANCE: The mid-year economic update will be more of a routine economic update. Obviously, there'll be some spending in it. But we have $23 billion worth of cost-of-living measures being flown out through the economy at the moment. And we are very mindful of the need to ensure that the decisions we take don't add to the inflation challenge and put further pressure on interest rates. So, we're very conscious of that. Obviously, we monitor the economic situation all the time. But we have substantial amounts of money flowing through the economy right now to deal with some of those cost-of-living pressures.
JOURNALIST: Is the government open to a conversation on GST reform at National Cabinet tomorrow, particularly in regards to NDIS?
GALLAGHER: Well, there's a number of issues on the table at National Cabinet tomorrow. Big issues facing both the states and territories and the Commonwealth. You know, areas of NDIS but health, obviously. The states and the territories are advocating around certainty on GST. And all of those discussions will happen. The Prime Minister leads a very collaborative National Cabinet process. We're trying to get outcomes. We need outcomes on NDIS to make sure it's sustainable and affordable into the long term and we understand the pressures the states are under. So, hopefully we'll be able to reach some agreement with them.
JOURNALIST: With your Senate hat on, how confident are you that the detainee laws will get through the upper house before it rises for Christmas?
GALLAGHER: Well, we're ready to go. We were ready on Monday with the legislation and the amendments. We've been offering briefings to the Opposition. Some of which have been taken up, so we'll work through that with them. But these laws need to pass this week. This is part of our response to the High Court decision and to make sure we can keep the community safe. Preventative detention arrangements, looks like, since we've got the decision of the High Court, the written decision -- to be constitutional, and we want those in place before the Senate rises.
JOURNALIST: You just spoke about keeping the community safe. The ministers -- both the home affairs minister, the immigration minister -- said that that was the utmost priority. Given that two detainees have now been charged. Can you say that the community has been kept safe?
GALLAGHER: Well, I can say that we've done everything that we can to ensure that we are keeping the community safe. It's been front-and-centre of our response since the High Court threw out a law that had been operating for 20 years. The government didn't have a choice about whether this cohort of detainees were released. It was legally required of us and since then, there’ve been conditions put on visas. We've passed legislation. We've got additional legislation in place for debate in the Senate to do everything we can to keep the community safe. We've had a task force. We've had ABF and the AFP working around the clock, ministers working around the clock to make sure that we are doing everything we can.
JOURNALIST: Israel just released a travel warning telling people not to come to Australia because of the anti-semitism. Isn’t that a sad state of affairs for Australia?
GALLAGHER: Well, we want Australia to be a welcoming country for anyone to come and visit. And that's, I think, what people find so attractive about coming to Australia. And our tourism industry is really important to our economy. So, obviously other countries make these decisions about advisories for their own advice. But we think Australia is a welcoming country. And obviously we've all got a job to do as leaders – whilst we're in this, watching some of the events in the Middle East – to keep, you know, harmony across our community as much as that is possible.
JOURNALIST: The Opposition has described the detainee issue as a catastrophic failure. They want ministers Giles and O'Neil to go. What do you think of that?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think the Opposition has been pretty happy to play politics with this for the past few weeks. If the Opposition are serious about keeping the community safe, they need to pass the legislation that is in the Senate this week, and will be passed by the House of Representatives. This isn't a time for politics. This is a time to make sure our laws are as safe and as strong as possible. And that's the laws before the Senate. We're working with the Opposition to brief them, to provide them with information, to make sure that they understand the complexity of what we're dealing with. And I'm hopeful that that will occur throughout the day and that we'll be able to get onto these laws tomorrow.
JOURNALIST: Have they already put forward amendments the Opposition? And are you willing to countenance changes to this if it means it gets through?
GALLAGHER: Well, there's two different laws that we're considering. There's one on citizenship and one on migration. We have amendments to the migration legislation to further strengthen it to introduce the preventative detention arrangement. I haven't seen amendments from them on that. They were briefed on that legislation yesterday. There's further briefings to happen. I understand they have some amendments on citizenship. We are trying to work with them to resolve those so that we can pass the laws as a priority.
JOURNALIST: Is the NDIS on a pathway to failure?
GALLAGHER: Well, the NDIS – we have to contain growth in cost in the NDIS. Because it will become unsustainable. At the moment, it's growing at a rate that is around 14 per cent. We've said that we want to see that reduced to eight per cent growth. That's still pretty high growth over time. But if we don't constrain the growth, it will continue to take larger parts of the Budget, which means other areas of government miss out. So, we take this really seriously. That's why it's one of the big issues on National Cabinet’s agenda tomorrow. And we will continue to work through to make sure that people with a disability get the care they need, but in a way that the Budget and you know, State and Territory budgets can afford.
JOURNALIST: Are you anticipating fireworks with the states tomorrow?
GALLAGHER: Well, look, it's a full agenda. It's a full agenda. And I think everyone has a range of views. And I'm hopeful that something can be landed.
Media contact: Gallagher.Media@finance.gov.au