Radio interview – Triple M Newcastle
TANYA WILKS, HOST: And coming to Newcastle today is our Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. And he’s on the phone with us now. Good morning, PM.
ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning. Good to chat with you again.
WILKS: You too.
STEVE GRAHAME, HOST: Word is that you’re in my suburb of Carrington today. I’m sorry to do this PM, but could you put my bins out, please?
PRIME MINISTER: Word is, mate, that I need your permission to come in. That you’re the unofficial mayor of Carrington.
GRAHAME: That was only during COVID.
WILKS: Why are you choosing Carrington above all others to visit today?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’ll be going to the Varley train manufacturing site. I went there before the election as Opposition Leader and I’ll be going back there today with Sharon Claydon. I see manufacturing in the Hunter as being absolutely critical to its future and it’s very much a part of our plan. We had the first meeting of the National Reconstruction Fund Board met on Monday and it’s about how we allow existing industries to transform, but how we create new industries as well. And I want, speaking of the pandemic, one of the lessons of the pandemic is that we need to be more resilient, we need to make more things here. And the last time I was there on site, you had the carriages or containers being cut for size here in Australia to fit our locomotives. Now, it would be better if we made more things here. And I know the NSW Government are committed to that as well, as are now the governments in all mainland states and it makes an enormous difference. So, I’m really looking forward to meeting the workers there, talking with management as well about the opportunities for expansion. It’s a great company based there in Carrington. And it’s very much a part of our future made in Australia.
WILKS: It’s interesting that you are going to Carrington because, look, Carrington is one of those suburbs like a lot of inner city suburbs, that once upon a time you could get a house and you could afford a house for a couple of hundred thousand, and that’s not so long ago. Now, you’re looking at a million plus. You’re also visiting a suburb where two years ago their insurances were affordable. But now, because of the way insurances are structured, we’ve seen people’s insurance go up to $14,000 per year just to insure their home and contents, forcing them out of the suburb. So, there’s so many cost of living pressures on people, which I know you’re aware of, but it’s just we’re exhausted by it. Risey who’s sitting across from us has got a $1,600 energy bill. We’re talking about so many things that are putting pressures on families, but we know that you’re going to want to talk about the Voice as well, but can we focus on cost of living for a minute?
PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely. And that’s why just today it clicks in, the increased support that we have for JobSeeker, increased support for Single Parenting Payment, increases in the Pension. Why in September? Of course, we had at the 1st of September our cheaper medicines policy of 60 day dispensing rather than 30 days, cutting the costs in half. Why our cheaper child care began in July. And why we worked with the former NSW Government to deliver our $3 billion energy relief plan as well. We understand the pressures that are on families. That’s why across the board on each area, whether it be fee-free TAFE, where we’re delivering over 200,000 places. We promised 180,000 this year, we’ve exceeded that by a significant way, we’re up to 220,000 and counting. And why, when you go see a doctor, tripling the bulk billing incentive will make an enormous difference as well for people to be able to see a doctor for free will impact some six million Australians.
GRAHAME: Do you see any time, I know you can’t give a figure, but of course the inflation rate steadying and interest rates, let’s face it, I think it’s the interest rates that’s really knocking everyone silly at the moment, PM. Do you see a brighter future there?
PRIME MINISTER: I certainly do. Look, inflation’s going down and houses are going up. The announcement yesterday by the NSW Government was about housing supply, was a major part of their Budget and it’s a major part of our plan as well. We finally got our Housing Australia Future Fund through the Senate. Finally the Greens voted for it last week, which meant that it was just the Liberals and the Nationals and One Nation left opposing it. Now, that’s about 30,000 additional affordable and social homes that will make an enormous difference. We need to deal with supply, and we’ve got almost $10 billion this year for social and affordable housing programs at the national level, why we increase rental assistance as well. But we need to tackle inflation. And the good news is that inflation has come down, it’s moderated, it’s not down to where we want it to be but it is heading in the right direction. And that in part is because of the responsible economic management that we’ve had. That’s why we were so determined to turn a $78 billion deficit into a surplus that will be around about $20 billion. To take that pressure off inflation so that then the Reserve Bank responds appropriately with that lower inflation rate.
WILKS: One of the other topics that’s been rolling around of late is obviously air fares and the desire of Qatar to come into our country. You’ve got two people that you’re talking to, one, I’m Irish, with Irish family, and for my husband and I to get back to Ireland at the moment, it’s about a $9,000 return two economy airfares out of Sydney. Steve’s children live in Holland. Same for you to go and visit the kids. And we’d love to see more competition to bring those fares down. So, why can’t we?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we can. And we do. Airlines are coming back to Australia. Just in the last week, we’ve had increased announcements of Emirates. Qatar have not even taken up the former flights that they used to have. I’m talking to you from Canberra, they used to fly to and from Canberra. They haven’t returned to that route yet. After the pandemic, what is happening is the airlines are coming back. This is about just the flights to the gateway airports, to four airports, they’re free to fly as many flights as they like into other airports. And this was a status quo decision. The former Government took from the application in 2018, it took four years until in 2022, they were granted an additional, just seven additional flights. This is business as usual to consider carefully the air services agreements with different countries. And it’s perfectly consistent with what other governments have done in the past.
GRAHAME: Do you think, PM, too, and we know you’re busy and got to go, we though just touched those subjects, vital subjects to every Australian. And we’re probably watching debates with the Voice and we’re watching the energy that’s been put into the Voice, as important as that is and we do wonder sometimes, hang on, are we focusing on something far stronger than what really needs to be focused on. If you understand my question is, can you see that Australians may well be looking and going, ‘Hey, we got bigger fish to fry here?’
PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’re doing the lot.
PRIME MINISTER: Focusing on environment, the economy, but we also think after 122 years, the simple proposition that we recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as Australia’s first people in our nation’s founding document is a very modest request. That’s all it’s for, and for an advisory committee that will give advice on matters affecting Indigenous people so that we can get better outcomes. When we talk about budgets, there’s been a whole lot of money put into Indigenous affairs. It clearly hasn’t been effective. The system hasn’t worked up to now. And so that’s why we need to do better rather than the mess which is there. And listening to people is the start of a solution to talk to people who are directly affected by decisions.
WILKS: Well, that’s where my head was. Those undecideds that still say, ‘I don’t know which way I’m going to vote’. When we talk to those undecideds, the reason they keep saying is because I want it to work, but I just don’t have faith that it will because we don’t want to just give this big Yes tick and then suddenly find out six months down the track, it’s either been forgotten or it doesn’t have enough teeth, if you like. What do you say to those undecideds who aren’t undecided because they don’t want it, they just don’t have faith that it will work?
PRIME MINISTER: Sure. Well, we’ve been trying for 122 years to do things from Canberra here for Indigenous Australians, often with the best of intentions, but it’s not working. We can see that with the gap that’s there in so many things – life expectancy, education, health, housing. So, what I say is that, just like in other matters, if we’re going to have a decision that impacts on people, if you ask them, you’ll get better results. And that’s all this is. It won’t change our system of government. It’s just a really generous request to walk with Indigenous Australians, to do things with Indigenous Australians rather than to them or for them, if you like. That’s really what this is about. And I sincerely hope that Australians do vote Yes, because it’ll be like the Apology or like marriage equality, when it happens, people will wonder why it wasn’t done before, because there’s no downside here, only upside.
GRAHAME: All right, we’ll let you go, Prime Minister. I got to say, I think Tanya and I both agree, though, you’re heading towards the most times we’ve seen a Prime Minister in Newcastle in quite some time. So, thank you for coming.
WILKS: Yeah, that’s true. We never used to see anybody in our neck of the woods, and you’ve paid us many visits since, well, both in Opposition and in power, so we appreciate that.
PRIME MINISTER: Well, I love the Hunter, it’s a great region and I’m very jealous of all of you who live there. It’s such a fantastic community. And good luck to the Knights in the NRLW now.
WILKS: Thank you. Actually, who’s your second team now that Souths were obliterated, unfortunately?
PRIME MINISTER: No, that’s harsh language. You’re hurting me.
GRAHAME: They were crushed.
PRIME MINISTER: Gee whiz.
GRAHAME: You’re going to go for Auckland?
PRIME MINISTER: I’m shocked. Well, the Roosters are out, so that’s a good thing.
PRIME MINISTER: I was cheering for the, I love the way that Knights fans are so passionate.
WILKS: Yes, exactly.
PRIME MINISTER: And they turn up no matter how their team is going. They went real well this year. But I also never forget, I was on the Souths Board when we got kicked out of the comp. And I’ll never forget the busloads of Newcastle fans coming to support us getting readmitted back into the comp.
WILKS: Listen, have a good day in Carro, and it’s called Carro-dise, by the way.
PRIME MINISTER: Carro-dise, that’s a good one.
GRAHAME: I personally renamed it.
WILKS: Talk to you soon. Thanks, PM.
PRIME MINISTER: See you.