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
LISA MILLAR, HOST: Tributes have poured in for Labor MP Peta Murphy from all political sides, with the Prime Minister describing his party as broken hearted. She was surrounded by family when she passed away aged 50 yesterday after a battle with breast cancer. She was first diagnosed in 2011. It's a sad moment, of course, for her colleagues and people who knew her and I wanted to have a chat to Finance Minister Katy Gallagher. Thank you for coming on. I didn't get the chance to know Peta but I understand from all accounts that she was a pretty remarkable person.
SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Thanks, Lisa, and thanks for the opportunity to say a few things about Peta. All of us, her colleagues, are just shattered and devastated by her passing yesterday. And of course, we are just feeling and sending love out to her family and loved ones. And her constituents, who she worked so hard for. But just an incredible human being. Very intelligent, very determined, brave, courageous, hilariously funny, very kind, and I was certainly the beneficiary of her kindness in recent months. And a mad dog lover as well. So, we feel for her puppies Bert and Ernie as well today. We’re all still, I think, just coming together and wrapping our arms around each other.
MILLAR: Our thoughts from News Breakfast go to all of you. And I'm sure there'll be lots of time to continue discussing amongst friends the incredible work that she did. Including in Parliament, turning up just recently, even though the situation she was facing.
GALLAGHER: Yeah, she was – I last saw Peta in our caucus meeting last Tuesday, so just a week ago. And obviously she was just incredibly hard working and always had her constituents front and centre of her mind, regardless of her own health challenges. She turned up to work every day and worked hard. Here last week, just incredible. And she contributed so much. It wasn't just her work in advocating about breast cancer and secondary breast cancer, but she did an incredible job on the gambling and advertising in gambling industry, chairing a committee and handing down a report just a few months ago. There was a whole range of areas of interest for Peta. She was just - just incredible. We're still obviously coming to terms with the fact she won't be sitting in our caucus room again.
MILLAR: Katy, I’m going to have to turn to the politics of the day because there's a bit going on. I want to start with the news of these charges against two detainees. I mean, should – do you, for starters, have faith in your colleagues Andrew Giles and Clare O'Neil, given what we're now seeing, what the Opposition had warned would happen?
GALLAGHER: Well, firstly, of course. These are two incredibly hard working ministers who have been thrown, as you do in government, an incredibly complex and complicated situation. We should remember that we were legally required to release this cohort from immigration detention after the High Court overturned a law that had been operating for 20 years. And since that day, and I've been working closely with those ministers, you know, they've been working around the clock to put in place arrangements to keep the community safe. Including legislation that we've got and we are trying to pass through the Senate this week that further strengthens those.
MILLAR: Why were we given assurances, though, by Andrew Giles about Australians being safe before that legislation had even existed, when clearly, based on these charges, that was an assurance from Andrew Giles that didn't have weight behind it?
GALLAGHER: I think, again – we were legally required to release this cohort, and as a result of that, as a result of a High Court decision, there was no choice. It wasn't discretionary. This cohort had to be released from immigration detention.
MILLAR: But could the government have moved faster though? The Opposition says you were slow off the blocks.
GALLAGHER: They were released with conditions on their visas to ensure that we kept track of those people. So that happened. We then passed legislation in order to strengthen that, within a week. Then we got a High Court decision. They released their written decision a fortnight ago and we've got legislation to respond to that, to put in place a preventative detention arrangement that would allow people to be returned, in certain circumstances, to detention. And that's before the Parliament today. And we want it passed. It can be passed this week. It can be passed tomorrow. But we need the Opposition to agree to pass that. And that's what we're calling for them to do, so that we can further strengthen the arrangements that exist now.
MILLAR: So, just to clarify – there are two men that have been charged. You're saying the government could not have done anything more than it did?
GALLAGHER: Well, I mean, I can't comment on operational matters. But we've got a taskforce in place, the ABF, the AFP have been working with States and Territories to monitor and put in arrangements on this cohort. There've been two individuals that have been arrested for different offences. And they're being handled in accordance with state processes. And that is what has happened. We want to strengthen the laws to make sure that we can put some of these people, well, through the preventative detention order arrangement that would be covered in the legislation and allow them to be returned to detention. We don't have that power at the moment under the laws, and as a result of the decision of the High Court which struck down a law that had been operating for 20 years.
MILLAR: Can I turn to the interest rate decision that we're expecting today. Most people are tipping it will be kept in place at 4.35 per cent. But there’s a lot of people who are still coming off their fixed rate mortgages. What are you hearing from people, how much are they hurting out there?
GALLAGHER: Well, Lisa, we can – I'm certainly hearing and I think every person in this place hears the cost-of-living pressures are really biting. They're biting in particular for people with mortgages, I think. We’ve seen those interest rate increases. And the job of government is to provide cost of living relief where we can, in a targeted –
MILLAR: Will we get more next week when the review, the budget review comes down?
GALLAGHER: Well, the MYEFO, the midyear economic update is more of an economic update, essentially. It will have some spending in it. But we've got $23 billion worth of cost-of-living money flowing through the economy at the moment. We are very mindful of our responsibility not to add to the inflation challenge that exists. We're seeing good progress in terms of inflation moderating. We're seeing that in the monthly figures and we're very mindful of the job we have to do, which is to provide cost-of-living relief where we can in a targeted way, that doesn't add to inflation. In fact, our child care and our electricity bill relief has put downward pressure on inflation. And of course, we monitor the economic situation all the time. We're making sure that we are doing that and we'll respond as we need to. But the challenge at the moment is to fight inflation. Because we don't want to see, you know, mortgage holders go through more pain and we know that they are and we're seeing those signs across the economy.
MILLAR: Last question, we're going to be talking to the Transport Workers Union very shortly because Virgin cabin crew have voted to strike in the lead-up to Christmas. This is just breaking this morning. Katy Gallagher, as a member of the government, I imagine you want to support people being able to take that action but that is going to be a big headache for people travelling in that time.
GALLAGHER: Yeah, I'm not – I have only just seen a bit of this, Lisa. I would say, I mean, I think, we would hope that industrial disputes could be resolved, there's good negotiations and everything is done to avoid disruption to people on their Christmas travel.
MILLAR: Katy Gallagher, thanks for joining us.
GALLAGHER: Thank you.
Media contact: Gallagher.Media@finance.gov.au