Transcripts → 2024


Radio interview - ABC NewsRadio

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


Date: Wednesday, 15 May 2024

Labor’s Budget; energy bill relief; inflation; cost-of-living; violence against women.

THOMAS ORITI, HOST: We’re going to return to our top story now, though, and that is the Federal Budget. The Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has described helping Australians with the cost-of-living crisis as the government’s number one priority. And with more now, we’re joined by Katy Gallagher, who is the Minister for Finance and Minister for Women. Minister, good morning, thank you for your time.

SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Good morning, thanks for having me on.

ORITI: So, there’s a lot of money here. $7.8 billion earmarked for cost-of-living relief. Of course, we already heard about the announced changes to the stage three tax cuts before the Budget. What are you hoping people take away from all of this?

GALLAGHER: Well, we’re hoping that the Budget can provide some relief from some of the pressures that they have been experiencing. We know cost-of-living is the main issue for every Australian and I think it’s right that the Budget seeks to help households with that pressure without adding to the inflation challenge, as you say. So, we’ve looked at how we can do that in addition to the tax cuts. There’s energy bill relief, there’s rent assistance for those who receive it and then some help with things like medicines and some relief on the HECS debt front. So, we’ve tried to put together a package that goes to those really pointy areas of people’s household pressures but doesn’t add to the inflation challenge in the economy, which we know is continuing and certainly in the front half of this budget.

ORITI: You mention cost-of-living relief is a priority for every Australian. That may or may not be the case, but it’s certainly not something that every Australian is dealing with. Was it right to give $300 in energy relief to absolutely everyone? I mean, you know, with due respect, you’re a federal parliamentarian on a fairly I imagine comfortable salary. You will be getting it, Clive Palmer will be getting it, Gina Rinehart will be getting it, does that make sense?

GALLAGHER: Well, it’s not about me or Clive Palmer. I mean we looked at the way that we were trying to – the best way, the most efficient way, that we could provide that relief over the short term – so, it’s over the next 12 months – in a way that reached more people than concession card holders. And there are people up and down the income scale, you talk at the extreme ends, but there’s millions of households in between, and the best and most efficient way to reach those households was through a broad-based energy rebate. And that’s why we’ve taken the decision to do it that way, because we acknowledge people who sit above the concession thresholds but don’t receive any of that support deserve support as well. And this is the way to try and reach those households.

ORITI: Millionaires? Millionaires deserve $300 for their energy bills?

GALLAGHER: Well, again, you talk at the extreme end.

ORITI: There’s a lot of people at that end though.

GALLAGHER: Well, when we look at the most efficient and most effective way to roll out support like this over a short period of time, doing it and through energy retailers – this is the best way to do it. That’s the advice that we have from the Treasury and others about reaching households. Millions and millions of households who aren’t at that extreme end, who aren’t millionaires but also don’t receive concession arrangements.

ORITI: I note you know remarks from Angus Taylor who perhaps predictably, as Shadow Treasurer, is saying there needed to be restraint here, you know? But in saying that, does he have a point? We’ve been told by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer there’s something for everyone here. Is it fair enough to say wait a minute, is this now the time for a something for everyone budget when you’re trying to tame inflation?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think it’s recognition – and I mean if Angus Taylor is going to say show restraint, then I think he should come up with where they would choose to show restraint. So, it’s very easy to go out and give interviews like that. Harder when you’re actually looking at the issues facing Australians and working out what’s the best way to do it within the resources available. And this budget does show restraint. We’re delivering a surplus, we’ve found savings, our debt is lower, the interest bill on our debt is lower because we have been banking the upward revision to revenue and finding savings that the former government never did, to make sure our budget’s in better shape. And that provides room for things like super on PPL, for example. So we’re trying to make investments in areas that benefit the nation over the long term by dealing with some of these short-term challenges. But I completely reject the argument that this budget doesn’t show any restraint.

ORITI: And how does it address inflation concerns, though? Is there are risk there?

GALLAGHER: Well, our advice is – and inflation is certainly the primary focus, particularly over the next 12 months or so – is that the relief that we’re providing will put downward pressure on inflation. And then in the same time as we’re seeing in the economic forecasts with growth slowing, because of the impact of interest rate increases and other sort of global effects, we’ve got our eye on the growth agenda as well, which is appropriate. So this budget does – it’s got a lot of challenges, there’s a lot of opportunities in it, and we’re trying to find the right and strike the right balance across the forward estimates with what do we do in the short term with inflation, but also looking to what are the opportunities over the longer term for the future of the economy and transition to Net Zero.

ORITI: I just want to ask, given your other portfolio of Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher – over the past few weeks there’s been a lot of talk and rightly so about violence against women, what’s been announced in the Budget to address what’s been called a national crisis by many people, certainly those who work in the sector?

GALLAGHER: Yeah, sure and I mean this is something that’s ongoing and has been for years, unfortunately. I’d prefer if we didn’t have to have a focus on it and that there wasn’t violence against women at the levels that there are. Or at all. So, this includes the Leaving Violence payment, which is about $1 billion over five years, which is ongoing now. It was only funded for two years, so we’ve sorted through that. It’s a better program. It’ll provide more support to people. There’s the housing allocation that we’re negotiating with the States and Territories to have a bigger focus to provide accommodation for women escaping violence, particularly, and women with children. And there’s a range of other programs including some support for the community legal centres in – just before their big agreement expires. So, some short-term support there. And there’s a very small allocation, but I think it will be very important, particularly for future budgets, about looking at the latest perpetrator research. You know, what drives them, how do we deal with perpetrators, what’s the best interventions. And we’re going to do a very rapid review of all of that. Because I think particularly the debate over the last month has really shifted from, this is a women’s issue that women have to deal with, to how do we stop violence happening in the first place. And we’re going to put a bit more effort working with States and Territories into understanding that and then responding to it.

ORITI: Yeah, I feel like that’s something I’d love to talk to you about at length at a later date, don’t mind that idea of shifting that dial. Not just leaving violence and providing legal support when it’s already happened, but you know prevention measures as well. But I just want to ask you about Paid Parental Leave though before I let you go, and you mentioned this a moment ago, but super will now be paid on top of Commonwealth-funded PPL from July next year. $1.1 billion over four years, it’ll cost for the government. $623 million each year ongoing just to implement it. Just can you give us some clarity on why that’s been such an important measure to introduce?

GALLAGHER: Well I mean I feel like I’ve got a to-do list on the women’s policy front that I keep crossing them off, one by one. Super on PPL was one of those. It’s really the only employment condition in the National Employment Standards that doesn’t have super paid on it. So, it’s sort of been an outlier. We know women retire with much less super than men. That’s partly because they’re in jobs where, you know, they get paid lower wages. So the Budget tries to deal with that as well in the care economy. But also because they take time out, usually as the primary caregivers when they’re having children and no super being paid on that means you know, they have a compounding and early gap in super and in their earnings. And then consequentially on super. So, this will fix that and I know it’s a slow burn, that one, but it’s going to certainly help women in generations to come get a better deal through the super system.

ORITI: Minister, thank you for joining us, appreciate your time.

GALLAGHER: Thanks very much, Tom.