Transcripts → 2024


Radio interview - ABC Canberra

Minister for Finance
Minister for Women
Minister for the Public Service
Senator for the ACT


Date: Monday, 12 February 2024

Australian Institute of Sport; Light rail; Help to Buy; Industrial Relations Legislation; Right to Disconnect; Barnaby Joyce.

ADAM SHIRLEY, HOST: Get on with other stuff. Well, let's do that with Senator Katy Gallagher, who is the Finance Minister of the country, the Minister for Women and Senator for the ACT. Senator, a very good morning. Thank you for your time.


SHIRLEY: So, an important announcement for Canberra and the region as much as the Australian Institute of Sport. Its headquarters are staying right here where they always were. I wonder the point or even the need for a review, which has come to the conclusion that many in the sport industry always thought was the right decision.

GALLAGHER: Yeah well, the review was looking at a number of things, including how to optimise support for high-performance athletes under a national approach. And so, one of the terms of reference was location, to make sure that we had the best location to deliver what the AIS needs to deliver. And that recommendation has thankfully, come back saying that it should stay in Canberra which is a great result. And we'll consider the rest of the recommendations through the Budget process, because obviously that facility, like so many in Canberra, had been neglected under the former government for the last, you know, 10 years. Issues hadn't been addressed, like every other national institution in this town. And that needs to be worked through, obviously.

SHIRLEY: I mean, my question is though – if most in the sporting and elite sporting, know, were saying, don't know whether it should be moved, why did the federal government feel the need to review its current location rather than just work on improving it?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think there are – I mean, I'm not sure who you're quoting there, but I certainly know from discussions I've had, there are mixed views across the sporting codes.

SHIRLEY: I was thinking about Kieren Perkins, head of the Australian Sports Commission amongst others.

GALLAGHER: Yeah, sure. I mean, he's been very vocal, and I sit with Kieren at Estimates and we chat about these matters. So yeah, fully understood his position, but you know, sport is diverse. And we already have a number of the codes, you know, located in different places across Australia. So, I don't think it's unreasonable when you do realise you've got to make some significant investments, to have a look at the best location, the best, you know, how to make those investments, what's needed to make sure the AIS performs the role it did when it was originally conceived. And that's what the review’s done. And it's confirmed that Canberra’s the place. So, that lays that argument to rest and we move on. And it's a great outcome for, obviously, for our hometown, Adam.

SHIRLEY: So, the key question, and it is welcomed by so many in this greater region, of course, is what will it take now to make this a state-of-the-art facility? Kieren Perkins, amongst others, has stated the improvements that need to be made. The key issue is how much federal government money can be put into improving this precinct beyond the coffers of the ACT Government.

GALLAGHER: Yeah, well, I agree. You know, there is significant investment needed. Anyone who goes up and has a look around that part of Bruce will realise that the facilities you know, have fallen in disrepair. Particularly the athletes’ accommodation, places like that, that look like they haven't moved on for decades. So, we've got this report now. We'll consider it through the Budget process, you know, but we wanted to make sure while we're doing that work, that we were able to give certainty around the location, which is why that announcement was made on the weekend.

SHIRLEY: So, tell me then about the consideration for decent funding from the federal government for that Bruce precinct as well, which the ACT Government has laid out its plans for, in terms of a vibrant area that can be something Canberra and Australia can be proud of rather than a touch embarrassed about.

GALLAGHER: Yeah well, obviously we will work closely with the ACT Government. That's the approach that we've taken in being the Commonwealth Government. We don't want to fight with states, we want to work with them. And you know, we'll continue talking with Yvette Berry and Andrew Barr about what's needed up there. I know there's a lot of commentary about stadiums. But obviously this review focused on the facilities needed for, essentially, a National Centre of Excellence.

SHIRLEY: And the Chief Minister says, the Chief Minister says he cannot do it without federal government money that a partnership is definitely required. So, I just wonder, early days I know, but what responsibility as well as percentage you will kick in here?

GALLAGHER: Well, there's a couple of things there. There's the stadium and then there's the AIS. So obviously, this review’s looked at what's needed to, you know, ensure that the AIS is the National Centre of Excellence and that. So, we will consider that during the Budget process. On the issues around the stadium and other priorities that the ACT Government has, we work under our partnership on that front. So, it's a matter of, I think, the ACT Government also prioritising, you know, what’s the area that it wants help from the Commonwealth on. Because, you know, there's a number of facilities and a number of infrastructure projects, and this is the same with every state and territory that wants support from the Commonwealth. And we have to manage that in our Budget as well.

SHIRLEY: The other key budgetary issue that's come up last week locally, light rail stage two. I mean, there, there are all sorts of figures bandied about. The local Opposition here saying up to $4 billion to make the full stage 2B complete. Has the ACT Government approached you at all as Finance Minister, or Jim Chalmers, about a percentage of money they'll need? What numbers we are actually talking? Because it seems very difficult to get a fix on what this is actually going to cost Canberra.

GALLAGHER: My discussions with the ACT Government have really been around light rail stage 2A and we are contributing about $300, over $340 million to light rail stage 2A. I haven't had any further discussions with the Chief Minister on that. I'm not sure whether that, you know. The infrastructure minister would be the one that would normally have those discussions, though, before it came –

SHIRLEY: But you're the key link point in some way, being a Finance Minister and a Senator for the ACT.

GALLAGHER: Yeah, and look, I know that under the discussions we've had where we've talked about, you know, national investments – whether it be, there’s ideas around the convention centre, there's ideas around the stadium, you know, light rail often comes up in that context. So, I mean, from our point of view, we want to keep investing in Canberra. We've done it with the national institutions, you know, we will continue to look at where we can help. But there is a finite, you know, envelope on that front as well from our point of view, because we're balancing things right around the country. And so, it's really, we're trying to work with the ACT Government on what is their priority for Commonwealth investment.

SHIRLEY: Katy Gallagher is the Finance Minister of Australia, the Minister for Women and ACT Senator. My name is Adam Shirley. 7:21. Another budgetary measure, and it's a key measure that you want to get through the Senate, Finance Minister, is your housing Help to Buy policy. And the Greens are saying no dice unless you have a proper overhaul of negative gearing and capital gains. Now, given you need the Greens’ support to clear this legislation, are you going to consider, at all, a look at capital gains or negative gearing?

GALLAGHER: Well, that's not something that we are proposing or doing any work on at all, Adam. And it is not unusual for the Greens to put demands like this on the table around legislation. And the reason they do it is because Peter Dutton and the Opposition withdraw, you know, vacate the field by just saying no to everything, you know and that’s the situation we’re in.

SHIRLEY: But they have a strong, I would even say ideological view, the Greens, on changing negative gearing, capital gains. It's not a fly-by-night threat they're putting up all of a sudden. So, how much would you consider, at any point, changing that taxation system on capital gains and negative gearing?

GALLAGHER: Well, we're not trading on Help to Buy. We want that to go through on its own, on its merits, which is about making sure we can get more Australians into home ownership in a way that they can afford. And I'd be very surprised if at the end of the day, the Greens political party stands in the way of that. I mean, we have a housing shortage in this country. We need to ensure people have a range of options about how they can get into home ownership. And I would hope that the Greens at the end, when it comes to a vote, would support that. We got the Housing Future Fund through in the end. There was a bit of tussle over that one, and a few months delay, unfortunately, but we work through these matters. But again, you know, we’re not going to have our policies dictated to by the Greens and the Liberal Party.

SHIRLEY: No, but compromise is what happened in what you’re talking about, when the last legislation did pass. So, is it necessary to compromise in some way if the Greens stare you down on this and stick fast to their want on these tax changes?

GALLAGHER: Well, we've got our legislation that we will take forward. And, on Housing Future Fund, we ended up putting some additional money into the fund to make, you know, to get it through the Senate. But these are unrelated, you know, demands. They’re demands about the tax system.

SHIRLEY: They’re related to housing, though.

GALLAGHER: Well, they’re unrelated to the Help to Buy scheme. And we work with the Greens, you know. I work closely with the Greens on a number of pieces of legislation, and the reason I have to do that is because the Opposition just completely vacate the field. And you know, that is not something that we did in Opposition. We worked with the government of the day where we could, but that is not something that Peter Dutton’s negative Opposition engages in. They just completely withdraw, because they want to put politics ahead of everything else. And we see that in everything that's done under Peter Dutton’s leadership.

SHIRLEY: Couple of brief but important ones, Senator, at 7:24. The right to disconnect legislation that the government has proposed and is wanting to put through – you had to, I guess, identify a mistake which could have seen bosses facing criminal prosecution for contacting employees out of hours. I know the bill will be corrected when Parliament next sits, but how much of an oversight is that given that’s something you wanted to push?

GALLAGHER: Well, look, it was an amendment that was minutes late in being circulated. So, there's all these technical, kind of procedural reasons in the Senate. And, again, the Peter Dutton Opposition refused to allow that amendment to be moved that would have sorted this at that time. So again, politics over everything else that's happening. So that's really unfortunate. It will be fixed up. And look, there's a lot of, I guess, interest in the right to disconnect because it is a new kind of feature of the IR system. But I think most people would understand that it doesn't, you know – it’s about unreasonable demands being placed on people and their right to have some time away from work.

SHIRLEY: What about Mr. Dutton’s claim it is a threat to productivity, and that's why he would remove this legislation were they elected to government?

GALLAGHER: Well, again, I think this is more about the politics and political grandstanding. And sure, they've got to differentiate, and it's no surprise that they're anti-employee rights. You know, like that's their signature IR position. But, you know, after seeing the worst productivity in the decade that they were in government, I think they're hardly going to be ones to lecture us. We have to work on productivity, Adam, we absolutely do, but to say that someone can have, you know, a position where if a boss is contacting them, and it's unreasonable, and they're not at work, that they don't have any rights to say look, hey, I'm actually on the weekend break, is unreasonable as well. Particularly as we're living in such a digital and connected world, the demands on people are only going to get greater and there should be some regulation of it.

SHIRLEY: Some very varied views on that issue this morning on breakfast. Lastly, Senator, I appreciate your time, Barnaby Joyce, and the situation he was in late Wednesday night, I think it was? Last week during sitting week. Does he have anything further to explain to the ACT, to the ACT and Australian people?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think he's been on the TV this morning seeking to do some of that. Look, I think it's just incredibly sad. I hope he gets the help that he needs. Obviously, there's an issue there. And you know, these things do nothing for the profession of politicians. I think it confirms you know, in people's minds, the public's minds, negative association with politics, and I think that's a real shame. But personally, I hope he gets the help he needs because it's a very unusual position, I think, for someone of that age to be in.

SHIRLEY: Finance Minister, do appreciate your time. Thank you.

GALLAGHER: Thank you.