Australian Prime Minister Radio Interview 21 May

Prime Minister

My special guest this morning, Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese. Good morning.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good to be with you. I’m sure it’s another sparkling day up in the Tropical North, but always great to chat with you, Murray.

JONES: It is. It’s a beautiful day and it is always good to talk to you as well. Two years in Government, so we’ve got a bit to cover this morning. And, you know, there’s been some big changes, some things happening just in the world in the last 24 hours. So, let’s try and cover a bit of territory. Can we start with the Budget? The balance between increasing housing, reducing migration in such a way that it doesn’t impact the skill shortage, particularly in healthcare and construction, but also impacting the Budget bottom line, I guess that’s been the real challenge for you and the Leader of the Opposition to find that balance, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, our big challenge was to provide cost of living relief for people, but to continue to have economic growth and to continue to put that downward pressure on inflation. So, I think we achieved the balance in a correct way. We’ve got tax cuts for every taxpayer, we’ve got energy bill relief for every household, we’re strengthening Medicare with increased Urgent Care Clinics and we’ve got more homes in every part of the country. So, $32 billion now we have for investment in new homes, for social housing, affordable housing, our Build to Rent incentives for the private sector as well. We need, as well, to make sure that we have a skilled workforce to build those homes. And that’s why the migration system, we are cutting to half what the former figure was, but doing in a way that’s responsible, that makes sure we continue to have skilled workers. There was a bit of smoke and mirrors from the Opposition Leader, no costed policies whatsoever, no economic analysis about the impact, just more a feeling out there, a vibe. After three Budget Replies, we haven’t had a single costed policy on anything. Now, what we need to do is to make sure that we continue to stabilise the economy. We’ve got real wages growing, we’ve got inflation on an annual level down to 3.6 per cent, so it’s almost halved. We’ve got productivity growing. We’ve got tax cuts coming, so people will be able to earn more and keep more of what they earn. And the Opposition Leader wants people to work longer for less, has a plan for nuclear reactors up and down Queensland’s coast that he won’t say where they’re going to be. And has this vague promise of migration being reduced. But for every sector, when he gets asked about it, whether it’s skilled workers, ‘No, well, that won’t come down’. Regional universities, ‘That won’t come down’. Where are the numbers coming from? It just doesn’t add up. We, I think, have landed a Budget that will deliver that cost of living relief as well as having a Future Made in Australia. Making more things here in Australia is really important that we be more resilient. That’s one of the lessons of the pandemic, and that represents an incredible opportunity for jobs growth. You know, Murray, we have created 820,000 jobs have been created since we came to government, more than any previous first term government in history. And today, of course, we’re only two thirds of the way through.

JONES: Look, let’s talk about boosting the housing supply. I guess that’s been the backbone of what you through the Treasurer has announced in the Budget. But along with disincentivising property investors and actually making these new homes primarily available to first homebuyers. Surely, that’s going to be the key to making the initiative work, too, because I guess it’s those first home buyers that we want in these new homes.

PRIME MINISTER: We do want first home buyers to have access to buying their first home. We think that is critical. And the key to housing affordability is supply. We know that is the case and that’s why we have a range of initiatives. Whether it be those incentives for private sector activity, for Build to Rent, whether it be our increased numbers of social housing, affordable housing, or whether it be the emergency housing funding that we’re providing for women and children escaping domestic violence. The key here is supply. And that’s what we’re doing in working with the private sector as well. The other thing we’re doing, Murray, is making sure that 20,000 additional places, almost $100 million for apprenticeships in construction. We need to train more sparkies and carpenters and to make sure that we have the skilled workforce going forward, as well as making sure that our migration program targets those skills that we need as well.

JONES: Look, as we just quickly wrap up on the Budget, in the Cairns Post this morning, actually, on the front page, more than 2,000 domestic and family violence charges have been issued in the Cairns Magistrates Court in the past ten months, the highest in the state, some brand new data has just revealed. Townsville not far behind and Brisbane, surprisingly, central Brisbane, far lower. DV continues to be a really, really big issue. People talk about, you know, issues with respect to youth crime, but I often believe that certainly DV can often be behind why kids are out on the street. Let’s talk a little bit more about the $925 million that has basically been set aside in the Budget to deal with DV victims.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Leaving Violence Payment, making that permanent is really important. $925 million that provides for immediate payments of $5,000. But in addition to that as well, increased support services, that’s one measure that we’ve done. The other thing that we need is somewhere for people to go, somewhere that’s safe. And that’s why we’ve allocated a billion dollars for emergency housing for women and children escaping domestic violence. On top of that, we’re providing funding for every state and territory to increase the number of workers who are providing that assistance. 500 right around the country. We’ve forwarded the first two payments to states and territories. In addition to that, the work that we’re doing on social media and on electronic media, essentially what’s online, dealing with issues like misogyny and some of the hatred that is available online. We’re working with the e-Safety Commissioner on making it a safer place, essentially, is the work that we’re doing. This is a national crisis. I’ve said that. The other thing that we need to do, of course, is recognise that governments can’t do things alone. This is a whole of society issue.

JONES: It is.

PRIME MINISTER: We need to raise awareness. And you raising it and it being on the front page of the Cairns Post today is a part of that, of people taking responsibility. Men talking to their friends. If they see some behaviour that’s disrespectful or inappropriate, to try to have this social discussion. Too many women and then children are living in fear. This is something that is bad for women, bad for kids, but it’s also bad for men if you have relationships that are not respectful. This is a national crisis. And it’s been something that has been building for some period of time. The figures have been increasing. Now, whether the role of social media is having an impact there or not is something, I think, worthy of discussion. But every Australian and every woman and every child should feel safe in their home.

JONES: Look, let’s talk a little bit more. And that was going to be one of my last subjects to quickly talk to you about. The Queensland State Chief Health Officer John Gerrard has come out overnight and said a self harm epidemic killing young Queenslanders because of unrestricted social media. And the figures that he’s actually put forward, in 2008 and 2009 through to 2021, the rate of girls aged 14 and under admitted to hospital for self harm injury tripled, and it nearly doubled for boys in the same period for the age up to 14 years of age. I don’t know whether you saw Four Corners last night and it talked about kid-fluencers and some of the impacts there. But look, let’s just broadly talk about social media. You know, in your position as a Labor Prime Minister, obviously you’re more than aware, you deal with on a daily basis, that the, you know, social media has now become the platform of choice for particularly the spread of misinformation and disinformation. It’s becoming a real threat to our democracy. Having an age of 16 years of age, possibly, having people licenced to go on social media so they’re properly identified, so people don’t have to, so they don’t hide behind fake profiles and put up misinformation and disinformation. It’s a difficult one. Has the beast got away with this? What can be done? And particularly when you’re dealing with something that’s, I guess, an international jurisdiction, we can deal with what we do here in Australia, but of course, there’s so much influence from the rest of the world. Has the beast got away with this, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, Murray, this is something that we need to discuss and then act on. We have quadrupled funding for the e-Safety Commissioner in last year’s Budget. And in this year’s Budget just last week, we provided funding for a trial to go ahead of age restricting technology. We want to make sure that any mechanism that is put in place actually works and is effective. The second thing that we’ve done as well in the last week is to announce, through Michelle Rowland, our Communications Minister, a joint parliamentary inquiry into age restrictions and social media. It is a scourge. We know that from our experience. You just got to look at some of the comments on anyone’s feed in public life or indeed in private life. I don’t look at my comments. If I do, it will be difficult to leave home. People are prepared to say things online that they would never say to your face. And often that’s behind anonymous accounts where people aren’t held to account. People are prepared to promote quite violent statements, often make all sorts of accusations that are simply not true. You know, I’m stunned that it’s allowed to be, there’s one account in my name that isn’t from me, that is a parody account, so called. But people who see it don’t know it. And mainstream media has reported on some of these comments that are not from me, as if they are, and quite reprehensible statements. It is just shocking that people can get away with this stuff. And the impact on young people in particular is something that is of real concern. Every parent is talking about this on the sideline of every netball game, football game and after school pickup. There is no question about that. And it’s something that I first raised in a vision statement I gave as Labor Leader way back at the end of 2019. And since then, the problem has just got worse. And so I think, you know, we do need to look at what action we can take. It is difficult because the Internet is global and some of these accounts and companies are international. You can have registrations that are outside the normal system, which is why we need to look at this seriously and come up with reform that I think every parent wants. And I think that our society wants. Most of your listeners would want as well. You know, people don’t ring into your program and make outlandish, libellous statements that they can just make things up.

JONES: That’s right.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s on normal media. Why is it that on social media, people feel that they can say what they like? And that is, I think, also the other thing. I hope that this whole debate leads some people to think twice before they send, press send on some of the outlandish statements that are made.

JONES: And, look, it is a real concern. And also my underlying concern is that it’s such a threat to democracy. Look, we better wrap up. You’ve been very generous with your time this morning. Obviously, some big changes in the world that we could have spoken about. We might leave it to another time with the death yesterday of Ebrahim Raisi, the Iranian President, and of course, the developments from the International Criminal Court when it comes to Netanyahu and some of the Hamas leaders. So, we’ve certainly got some serious stuff on the horizon. But thank you for your time this morning. And I didn’t mention in the Rabbitohs, but Anthony Albanese, have a great day.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Murray.

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