SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER
Minister for Finance
Minister for Women
Minister for the Public Service
Senator for the ACT
Date: Friday, 26 January 2024
MICHAEL ROWLAND: There watching the [Prime Minister’s] speech yesterday was the Finance Minister, Katy Gallagher. She joins us now from Parliament House. Minister, very good morning to you.
SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Good morning, Michael. Thanks for having me on.
ROWLAND: Always welcome. I guess politically, the government's banking on the fact that more than 11 million Australians will get a tax [cut] from these changes and hoping that will cancel out any anger, any discontent, about the government clearly breaking a key election promise?
GALLAGHER: Well, Michael, can I first just say that we're thinking of the people of Townsville and the surrounding area. And obviously the Commonwealth Government is going to work very closely with the Queensland Government with any assistance they may need. And happy Australia Day as well. Look, on the issue you raised around tax, we've taken this decision because it's the right decision. But it's also about putting people first. I mean, your audience knows there's been many stories around cost-of-living pressure, particularly over the last year. And this plan gets more money into more – bigger tax cuts into more Australians’ pockets from 1 July. And that's what's resulted in us taking this decision. We accept that there's got to be some politics around that. And we don't take this decision lightly. But at the end of the day in government, you've got a couple of choices on this regard. We could have done nothing and kept on that track. Or we could have changed our position and made a difference to millions more of Australians, including women and young people who are going to benefit from these changes.
ROWLAND: You're banking on, as you mentioned, the politics being favourable to the government?
GALLAGHER: I mean, we knew going into this, Michael, that there would be a lot of commentary around changing our position. So, we're aware of that. But at the end of the day, it was really about what is the best way to reach people and provide some cost-of-living relief now or from 1 July. And the Treasury advice and other advice was very clear that this was an option available to the government. And we took it. And as I said, we don't go into this decision lightly. We understand that. The Prime Minister has fronted the Press Club, as you said, yesterday, to explain our change in position. But ultimately, it was the right decision. And you know, that's what made us take this decision. It was actually about what's doing right, acknowledging that there will always be politics around that.
ROWLAND: And on that front, the Opposition leader, Peter Dutton, wants the government to go to an early election to take this to the people. What do you make of that?
GALLAGHER: Well, I don't think it's any surprise that Peter Dutton puts – plays the politics rather than the people. I mean, Peter Dutton has an opportunity here to acknowledge that the changes that we're making are better for 11.5 million Australians. Including 2.9 million Australians who were going to get nothing on 1 July. And there's an opportunity there for him to do the right thing as well. But I imagine, and from the commentary I've heard from him and his team – negative politics, it comes pretty natural to them, is going to be played. As opposed to doing the right thing and trying to ease some of these cost-of-living pressures on Australian workers.
ROWLAND: Okay, you need to get this legislation through the Senate where, of course, the government does not have the numbers. You know the workings of the Senate quite intimately. You'll need to strike some form of a deal with the Greens and two crossbenchers. With the Greens, is the government prepared to do a deal? They're pushing for extra cost-of-living relief for more low-to-middle income Australians. Is that something that's a possibility?
GALLAGHER: Well, the easiest way through the Senate is for the Opposition to back these in and back in bigger tax cuts to millions more Australians. But if they decide to oppose that – and we'll leave that with them to explain that – then we will work with other senators to get it through. This is the proposal we will be taking. There is no other proposal. The proposal we are taking is the one that the Prime Minister outlined. And I think at the end of the day, when the Senate has to vote on this, the Senate will support millions and billions more dollars going into people's pockets from 1 July because every senator knows just how tough people are doing it, particularly in middle Australia.
ROWLAND: A couple of other issues. You tipped on the fact that today is Australia Day at the start there. And this week, we had in many people's eyes, the second most prominent Australian after the Prime Minister – that is, the Australian cricket captain, Pat Cummins – coming out and saying squarely he thinks the date should be changed. Do you sense there is an air of inevitability, Katy Gallagher, about Australia Day eventually being moved from today, 26 January?
GALLAGHER: Look, I accept that people have different views about it. Australia Day is on 26 January. I'm looking forward to a full day of commitments here in the ACT. It's a day where people celebrate, but they also remember our shared history. And certainly, from the government's point of view, there are no plans to change Australia Day. It occurs on 26 January.
ROWLAND: And finally, one of your close colleagues Pat Dodson – today's his final day in the Senate. How do you see his legacy?
GALLAGHER: Michael, I remembered this at about four o'clock this morning. I was thinking, was it the day before Australia Day or Australia Day that he was leaving? And I thought, I've got to send him a message today to tell him how much we miss him. Because he's a great colleague to work with. A huge – the father of reconciliation. A giant in public policy and community service. And we're going to miss him as a work colleague point of view, but we know he's got a lot more to contribute. He's a real hero. And I hope he’s fishing off the coast of Western Australia, which is one of his favourite places to be.
ROWLAND: Well, consider your message sent to Pat Dodson, live on national TV. Katy Gallagher. Thanks for joining us this morning.
GALLAGHER: Thanks very much, Michael.