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Television Interview - Flashpoint WA

Television Interview – Sunrise | Prime Minister of Australia

NATALIE BARR, HOST: Now, the Reserve Bank has left rates on hold. While that sparked hope we’ve hit the peak of the cost of living crisis, there could still be tough times ahead with expectations the country is heading for at least a shallow recession.

MATTHEW SHIRVINGTON, HOST: It comes as the Opposition accused the Government of relying too heavily on interest rates to tame inflation and fuelling the fire with extra spending. For more, let’s go live to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Good morning to you. Well, let’s talk about the economy. On the whole, at the moment, it’s slowing. Are we headed for a recession? Is there more widespread pain to come?

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Well, I’m very hopeful that there are positive signs in the economy, but as well, of course, we know that for many Australians they’re doing it really tough at the moment. The Government is focussed on doing what we can each and every day to make a positive difference. But we have had record jobs growth, 465,000 jobs created in our first year. Inflation is coming down. And we do have surplus that is higher. So, those three things combined are positive. We know that people are doing it tough. And that’s why, as of July 1, measures like cheaper child care, tripling the Medicare bulk billing incentives so people can see their doctor for free, cheaper medicines, fee-free TAFE are all aimed at taking pressure off inflation and taking pressure off the cost of living which is out there as well as our Energy Price Relief Plan of $3 billion of support for households and small businesses.

BARR: We know inflation is coming down. But it’s not coming down fast enough. We hear this morning, Prime Minister, that students are pretending to go to the toilet at school, then they are rummaging through other kids’ bags to steal their lunches. That’s coinciding with the interest rate rises. This is under your watch. How do you feel about that?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, I know what it’s like to do it tough, Nat. And for many families out there, they are doing it tough. And that’s why my Government will work each and every day to make a difference. We have had global inflation. It has had a real impact here, as it has around the world. Our interest rates are still lower, of course, than they are in Europe and the United States, even across the ditch. And that’s why we are working each and every day. We do have record jobs growth. We do have an increased surplus. And we do have lower inflation. They’re all positive signs. But for people out there, they are doing it tough. I notice in the introduction you said that the Opposition are calling for increased spending but lower inflation. Well, those things don’t really match together. You need to make sure that every dollar of spending is done in a way that takes pressure off inflation. That’s why our Energy Price Relief Plan will take three quarters of a per cent off inflation. That’s why our cheaper child care plan will boost the economy by boosting productivity and boosting workforce participation. They’re all measures designed to provide cost of living relief, while taking pressure off inflation. That’s the task of the Government. We will look at any other measures that we can to make a difference. Because we know that people are doing it tough.

SHIRVINGTON: All of those rebates are amounting to potentially more money. But it’s being sucked up by increased mortgage rates. So, at the end of the day, they don’t have the money. We don’t have the money. Australians don’t have the money. Talk about child care, there are child care centres sending out letters saying, ‘We’re going to increase the rates’. That will suck up the subsidies.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we’re doing there, Matt, is making sure the Australian Competition Consumer Commission makes sure no-one takes advantage of the increased support we’re giving families. And child care companies know that is a watching brief that we have. But overwhelmingly, the increase in our child care subsidies will benefit 96 per cent of families who have their children in child care. That will make a positive difference to families. We know, though, that people are doing it tough. And that’s why we had that range of measures across health and education and other areas as well. Fee-free TAFE for 480,000 Australians to give them the skills they need for free. What we’re doing is seeing increased numbers go into areas of skills shortage, like nursing and aged care, through the TAFE system as a direct result of the support that we put in there, as well as, of course, the bulk billing incentive in Medicare will make an enormous difference. We want to strengthen Medicare and allow people to see their doctor for free. That’s why Australians have benefitted, six million Australians have already benefitted from that cheaper medicines plan.

BARR: Prime Minister, on interest rates, a third of Australians have mortgages. And they are being smashed. They are writing to us every day. They are barely able to cope. We know that. But someone is still spending. Retail spending is up. What else can you do for the people who are still spending, because it seems the people with the mortgages are just the ones being hit all the time? What’s your message to the Reserve Bank?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, you are right, Nat, that some people are doing okay while others are doing it really tough. And that’s why the Government has a difficult task to manage. That’s why we have to target our spending in a way that doesn’t put pressure on inflation, that targets that relief plan that we have. That’s why, when we were conscious about the surplus, we put additional money into public housing, $2 billion of additional money above what we were doing already in the Budget in May. Because we knew that we wanted to put that investment into housing, to increase supply, to make sure we made a difference there in a way that didn’t add to inflation, but supported the construction sector and jobs when it’s needed over the next year ahead. It is a difficult task, but one of the things that we have to make sure that we do is that monetary policy, that is what the Reserve Bank have been doing, works with fiscal policy. And that’s why we banked those revenue upgrades to the bottom line so that we didn’t provide the Reserve Bank with any more arguments that they should have further increases. That is why we welcomed yesterday’s decision, which I think is in part a response to the fact that inflation is going down and that the news that our surplus will be in excess of the $4 billion we predicted in the Budget in May.

SHIRVINGTON: We had Mark Bouris on, the finance guru, saying maybe it’s time to abandon the two to three per cent inflation rate and revisit it and look at it again. Let’s move on though, because I need to speak to this. We spoke about the Ashes briefly when we spoke last time. A lot has changed since then. It’s all become controversial.

PRIME MINISTER: We’re 2-0 ahead now, Matt.

SHIRVINGTON: That’s exactly the frustration right coming from the UK because they’re upset that we are leading the way. However, this Jonny Bairstow dismissal doesn’t go away. We acted in the spirit of the game. Do you agree? Rishi Sunak, the PM of the UK, said that he agrees with Ben Stokes, and he didn’t want to win the match in that manner. Do you agree with that?

PRIME MINISTER: I’m a mate of Rishi Sunak. We get on very well. We will get together at the NATO Summit next week. On this, I understand the disappointment. He’s 2-0 down in the home series for him. I think if you look at Jonny Bairstow’s actions himself, he tried to run out Marnus Labuschagne just a couple of days earlier.

BARR: Yes.

PRIME MINISTER: And when I learnt cricket like everyone Australian, you would be like this, Matt and Nat, as well there, the nuns at St Joseph’s Camperdown, when I was a little boy told me, ‘Put your bat in your crease. Stay in your crease’. It’s not hard. Jonny Bairstow wandered off. Wandered off. He paid a price and he should have learnt a lesson. But the Australians have performed magnificently. I think Patrick Cummin’s leadership was extraordinary. I stayed up and watched the Cummins-Lyon partnership at some cost to myself in question time the next day. I was pretty tired, I have to say.


PRIME MINISTER: But the other night, too, I will give the English a bit of advice. What they should be doing is praising Ben Stokes’ innings. That was absolutely magnificent. And just copping the fact that they were beaten by a team that performed better over the five days.

SHIRVINGTON: Yep. Well said.

BARR: We all grew up like you.

PRIME MINISTER: And the women’s team as well are two up. Don’t forget the women’s team. Alyssa Healy’s team are nailing it as well. They have both won the first two games. I look forward to welcoming them back home, the victorious teams, at the end of these series.

BARR: We grew up like you, stay in your crease or there’s trouble.

SHIRVINGTON: They invented the laws of the game.

BARR: They have just forgotten many years later. Prime Minister, thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much guys.

BARR: Thank you. We will let him go.

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