Radio Interview – ABC Brisbane
REBECCA LEVINGSTON, HOST: Fresh from a Matildas loss last night and hoping for a housing win this morning, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, good morning.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning. Good to be here.
LEVINGSTON: Briefly let’s talk sport. How was last night?
PRIME MINISTER: Look, it was an awesome game. I think the Matildas dominated everywhere except for on the scoreboard. If you look at possession, you look at passing here, look at corners, you look at shots on goal. But football’s a funny game like that. So 3-2, we went down, but it should give the Matildas confidence going into the Canada game on Monday night. It’s about building up the drama for bringing it home. And I think the women did Australia proud last night, and I’m sure they’ll do us proud on Monday night in Melbourne.
LEVINGSTON: Well speaking of winning and losing Prime Minister, are you going to call an early election?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, there certainly won’t be an election this year. What we want, though, is for our Housing Australia Future Fund legislation to pass. We have a mandate for it. I put it in my second Budget reply, it was the centrepiece of the Budget reply. All of the housing organisations, organisations like Shelter, everyone from Shelter, the Housing Industry Association, to the Master Builders Association to welfare groups, ACOSS, are all saying, pass this legislation. And the Coalition, the Greens and One Nation become the No-alition, just saying no to this from different perspectives, but with exactly the same outcome, which is that we have less housing built in this country and every day of delay is less social housing in Australia.
LEVINGSTON: So are you willing to compromise at all? You’ve just heard Max Chandler-Mather say they’re looking for at a number somewhere between $500 million a year and $2.5 billion a year.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I listened to his comments. And once again, he gets tied up in all of these statements about what state and territory governments are doing. We’re not looking at uniform rights in Australia, we are looking at issues in which states can look at what they’re doing on renters’ rights. And looking at best practice, and states are doing that. But we don’t have, essentially the power, which is what they want, which is to abolish the Federation, have a takeover of housing policy in this country, in order to get this legislation through. We have as well, he’s very disingenuous, he speaks about $500 million, but what we’re doing that’s in addition to everything else that we’re doing. We have the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, which is $1.6 billion a year currently, we’ve extended that by one year. But in addition to that, we have an additional $2 billion that was made available in June for states and territories for social housing as a result of the surplus that we’ve been able to produce, to strengthen the economy. We have the changes that we made to assist private rental investment that will result in between 150,000 and 250,000 additional private rental properties being built. We have community housing with $2 billion available for NHFIC through the National Community Housing Fund, effectively. We have all of these measures in place. But at the moment, the Greens are standing in front of what is a practical policy, that we have a mandate for, that has overwhelming support.
LEVINGSTON: Prime Minister, those strategies may be in place. But what is also true is that we have tens of thousands of people on the waitlist for public housing.
PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely.
LEVINGSTON: We have people sleeping on parks just up the road from us, under bridges, in houses, you know that, everyone knows that and acknowledges that. Just on the idea of a kind of a big radical plan on housing, do you want to be the Prime Minister who puts every Australian in a home?
PRIME MINISTER: This is a big radical plan that we have in place right now. This year, the $2 billion on top of the $1.6 billion, we’ll see the largest, in total is about almost $10 billion, we’re putting into housing policy this year alone. It’s the largest ever investment by any government in Australia’s history. And what the Greens are doing is standing in front of that, having this rhetoric about refusal to negotiate. We’ve negotiated with David Pocock to get his support, we’ve negotiated with Jacqui Lambie to get her support, as well as Tammy Tyrrell from Tasmania. They’re all supporting this legislation. The only thing that standing in front of it is the Greens political party, who Max wrote an article that essentially said, “Oh, well, if this is just wave through, we won’t be able to campaign, and we won’t be able to go out and door knock against Labor Party people in Labor seats.” This is all about politics. And quite clearly, if this legislation is passed, there’ll be more investment in social housing. You can’t say you for it, and then vote against it.
LEVINGSTON: It’s 9:45, this is ABC Radio, Brisbane. You’re listening to the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, my name is Rebecca Levingston. A couple of quick questions, short answers, please, Prime Minister, do you want house prices in Australia to drop?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s a product of the market. And we’re not about to have government regulation of all of the market. But what we know is we need to increase supply.
LEVINGSTON: Okay, do you want rents to drop?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we need to increase supply. Of course I do. We need to increase supply. That’s the key. It’s not a matter of –
LEVINGSTON: Okay, so just to clarify, you do want rents to drop?
PRIME MINISTER: Of course, I want people to be given rent relief. That’s why we added in rental support, the largest increase in 30 years. But you don’t get it through, with respect Rebecca, through a wish list in a q&a. What you do is you get it through real investment with real dollars, that makes a real difference. And that’s what we’re about.
LEVINGSTON: Next Tuesday, the RBA board meets. What do you want to happen with interest rates?
PRIME MINISTER: What I want, Rebecca, is to not read a headline tomorrow which says “government overrules independent Reserve Bank of Australia”, which you would expect.
PRIME MINISTER: But what we’re doing, I’ll tell you what we’re doing. They’re responsible for monetary policy, we’re responsible for fiscal policy for the Budget. The fact that we are returning a budget surplus, which will be around about the $20 billion figure, will certainly assist in inflation in taking pressure off inflation.
LEVINGSTON: So are you promising more cost of living relief?
PRIME MINISTER: What we’re promising is to continue to do what we can.
LEVINGSTON: Well what are you going to do with that $20 billion surplus, Prime Minister?
PRIME MINISTER: What we’re going do is pay down debt and take pressure off inflation. On top of the support that we’ve given, be it increases in rental assistance, increases in JobSeeker, in changing the criteria for single parenting payments, the difference we’ve made in energy price relief plan, the Medicare bulk billing incentive that we have tripled, the additional measures that we’ve got that have taken pressure and prices off medicines, cheaper child care for 1.2 million families. They’re all things that we have done, that are being rolled out right now.
LEVINGSTON: And you’re saying there’s more to come, off the back of that $20 billion budget surplus?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, no, the budget surplus will go towards paying down debt. But what we will do, because what we want to do is to provide cost of living relief without putting pressure on inflation, that’s the key here.
LEVINGSTON: Just on cost of living. really that commitment ahead of the election, which 14 months ago, thinking, wow, that time has gone fast, Prime Minister, that reduced power bills by $275 by 2025. Is that still on the agenda for you?
PRIME MINISTER: What’s occurred, as you know, Rebecca, I’m sure you’ve noticed there’s a war going on?
LEVINGSTON: Yeah, I know. I’m just wondering where that is it.
PRIME MINISTER: That’s had an enormous impact on global inflation, global energy prices, and Australia isn’t immune from that.
LEVINGSTON: Okay. The other element of policy that’s a hangover from Scott Morrison is the Stage Three tax cuts. And again, you know, as my listeners are hearing you this morning, and you know, big dollar figures, we’re talking about $10 billion for the housing fund, they are seeing that figure being dwarfed by things like $243 billion for Stage Three tax cuts, $368 billion for submarines in the AUKUS deal. And they are long term deals, I understand that.
PRIME MINISTER: Very long term.
LEVINGSTON: Yes, true, but still big dollar figures that people are hearing and trying to trying to get across. The stage three tax cuts, do you actually support that policy or just not dropping it because you don’t want to break a promise?
PRIME MINISTER: Where do they cut in Rebecca?
LEVINGSTON: You tell me.
PRIME MINISTER: $45,000, I’m sure you’re on $45,000 a year, and the concentration on the top end, they cut in at that figure is what occurs. And it is stage three, there was stage one and stage two, that had a different impact of course. Stage Three, they are legislated tax cuts. Our policy on that hasn’t changed. And we said that. And we haven’t re-examined that. But they do cut in at $45,000 a year, not at $200,000 as sometimes I hear.
LEVINGSTON: The Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Brisbane this morning. Got to have lunch with some American defence bigwigs, I think a little later this morning?
PRIME MINISTER: Indeed.
LEVINGSTON: I’ll try and get you to tell me what’s on the menu there PM. Just in terms of dollar figures and things changing, everyone in Queensland has noticed that the figures in relation to the Olympic spend has changed. Whether it’s the Gabba or other stadium infrastructure. Everyone, I think it is fair to say, assumes the budget, the Olympic and Paralympic budget will blow out. Where do you draw a line on games spending for 2032?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think that the games will bring enormous benefit, that’s the first thing. It’s an investment. The investment that occurred in the Sydney Olympics led to, when you look at housing, for example, the housing that was provided for athletes, just like housing that’ll be provided here in Brisbane, it doesn’t then get knocked over and not used. It’s an investment that can then be used for social housing, community housing, private, it being sold off. As a mix occurred in Sydney. And in addition to that, I think Sydney still benefits from the overhang of the Olympics. Brisbane’s Olympics in 2032 I think will be a magnificent event. It will showcase Brisbane as a global city. It will showcase Queensland. There are benefits, not just for Brisbane, but there are events, will be held throughout Queensland. There’s 19 separate venues that the Commonwealth is providing some funding for, as well as the major funding here in Brisbane.
LEVINGSTON: Yeah, but like I said, Prime Minister, there’s a lot of people in support of the Olympics, who want it and see some of those benefits but are also going what at what point is a line drawn? They’ve seen, you should see my phones light up when Dan Andrews, the Victorian Premier announced that he was cancelling the Commonwealth Games, the immediate tsunami of people saying can we please reconsider the 2032 spend? And they’re asking you and they’re asking the Premier.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I support the Olympics being held here. I was with the Premier last night. Every time we talk about the Olympics, whether formally or informally.
LEVINGSTON: So did you have that conversation, Anastasia Palaszczuk, gee, I’m hearing that, you know, some people are concerned about the spend here.
PRIME MINISTER: Before the Sydney Olympics were held, a whole lot of people were concerned about that, too. I’ll tell you the other thing that happened too, a lot of people who left Sydney because they said I don’t want to participate in the games, regret it. Because they didn’t feel the buzz that was there. You look in this city last night, there was such a buzz in this city for the Matildas playing. Just like I’ve been here on magic round, and seeing people come to this great city and from all over Australia, but particularly from the southern state where I’m from, and enjoy that weekend. It contributes to the economy as well. It’s not just outgoings you could look at ingoings, incomings, which last for a long, long period of time as well.
LEVINGSTON: In an existing stadium though, and I think what my listeners are telling me is that they want you as the Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER: Suncorp had to be built though, it wasn’t there in 1788.
LEVINGTON: No, but it was upgraded 20 years ago.
PRIME MINISTER: And that’s what has to happen.
LEVINGSTON: An upgrade versus a demolition, I guess. But I think what listeners are, or people that I talk to are also listening for is for you and the Premier to concede, like we acknowledge you are worried about this, this event.
PRIME MINISTER: Of course. Of course people always look at these issues of expenditure, like they look at the issues of the expenditure on Cross River Rail or on road projects, but infrastructure that lasts that delivers for people is something that will be a long lasting benefit of the games. The other thing that will be a benefit is the human benefit. And when I saw it last night, particularly seeing young girls being inspired by the Matildas, is something that is a spin off from the World Cup. That is so important. If you had of said Rebecca, if we had done this interview 10 years ago, and if I had have said there’d be 48,000 people at a women’s football game at Suncorp, following on from 75,000 at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney last week, you would have thought, gee, that’s ambitious. Well guess what? It’s happened. And it’s making an enormous difference. And when you get people participating in sport, you get better health outcomes. The health budget therefore goes down. There’s all sorts of tangible benefits.
LEVINGSTON: Five to nine, the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Brisbane today, my name is Rebecca Levingston, this is ABC Radio, Brisbane. The Voice, Prime Minister, what’s your 30 second pitch on the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, to those people who are undecided.
PRIME MINISTER: It’s about recognition and it’s about listening in order to get better outcomes. When you listen to people who are directly affected you will get better outcomes and you’ll get better value for the investment that you’re making.
LEVINGSTON: Do you need to put some more emphasis on the fact that this Voice is about being permanent? Because there’s a lot of people who hear yep, recognition, listening, but outcomes we all want that, haven’t we got a whole heap of bodies that already do that? The cut through is not there.
PRIME MINISTER: We don’t have we don’t have an elected body. We don’t have a permanency which is why Aboriginal people themselves, this has come from, it’s come from them. It’s a gracious request to advance reconciliation by giving them a voice to be able to be listened to. And we know that when programs work, like Community Health Programs that have been run by Indigenous people here in southeast Queensland, have had an enormously positive difference. Indigenous rangers.
LEVINGSTON: Are you worried, though, Prime Minister, that the referendum is going to fail?
PRIME MINISTER: I am very positive that Australians will take up what is a generous offer of reconciliation to make a difference. And if we keep doing things the same way, we should expect the same outcomes. We need to do things better. This provides an opportunity, a once in a generation opportunity to make a difference.
LEVINGSTON: The polls are pretty dire, though at the moment.
PRIME MINISTER: Well they’re not, actually, the spin is dire. If you actually look at what the polls are saying and what our polling is saying, as well. And our poll, the polling for the yes campaign has been done by Mark Textor who’s been doing work for the Liberal Party for the entire time I’ve been in politics, he’s pretty good at it. And what he says is there’s a whole lot of people haven’t made up their mind. There certainly is, it’s always a challenge to get a referendum pass. But I’m confident that we can do just that.
LEVINGSTON: Why not just set the date? The uncertainty begins there. When’s the referendum going to be?
PRIME MINISTER: The referendum will be in the last quarter. And I gave notice of that a year ago, of when it would be, we know when it’ll be. It’s a matter just of settling on the date between October and December, which is when it will be held.
LEVINGSTON: The Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who will be having lunch today, I understand with the US Secretary of State.
PRIME MINSITER: And the Defense Secretary.
LEVINGSTON: Defense Secretary. Queensland, why Queensland? Beef on the menu, PM?
PRIME MINISTER: I hope so. We’re going to a little place, so here in in Brisbane, we’re doing it, we’re doing Italian here in Brisbane this morning, which is appropriate given my heritage.
LEVINGSTON: Tip of the hat to your heritage.
PRIME MINISTER: We’ll have Richard Marles and Penny Wong, of course, will be with us. And it will be an opportunity for us to discuss national security issues with our friends from the United States.
LEVINGSTON: We go from national security to the movies in the last 30 seconds, PM, have you seen Barbie?
PRIME MINISTER: No but I’d like to. The problem with my diary is getting, I have not been to the movies since I’ve become Prime Minister.
LEVINGSTON: That’s a travesty.
PRIME MINISTER: It is.
LEVINGSTON: Someone could that out for you.
PRIME MINISTER: Someone should sort that out.
LEVINGSTON: And finally, who should win the Gold Logie? Hamish Blake, Julia Morris, Osher Gunsburg, Sonia Kruger, Mark Coles Smith, Shaun Micallef, or Leigh Sales, who should win the gold?
PRIME MINISTER: Rebecca Levingston. I’m going to have a write-in campaign.
LEVINGSTON: Oh my gosh, right.
PRIME MINISTER: You’ve got a camera here.
LEVINGSTON: Let me get in front of it. Anthony Albanese, very much appreciate you taking the time to come into the studio.
PRIME MINISTER: My absolute pleasure.
LEVINGSTON: When you are in town, come back again soon. Thanks so much.
PRIME MINISTER: Indeed. Have a great day.
LEVINGSTON: You too. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, off to lunch with the US Secretary of Defence and Secretary of State.