Australian Prime Minister Radio interview – ABC News Radio

Prime Minister

We’ve had almost a week now to digest all the details in the federal Budget. Tackling the nation’s cost of living crisis and addressing the rise in violence against women were at the top of the Government’s agenda. I noted some new polling out by Resolve Strategic. It shows 40 per cent of respondents believe the budget’s good for them. And to put that in perspective, that’s up 31 per cent in last year’s Budget. But when it comes to the battleground of affordable housing, the Coalition’s plan to cut migration seems to have struck a nerve, with some 66 per cent of voters in that survey believe that last year’s migration intake was too high. The Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, joins us now. Good morning. Thank you for your time.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning. Good to be with you.

ORITI: Can I ask you first about migration? We heard Peter Dutton in his Budget Reply on Thursday night announcing part of his plan to reduce pressure on Australia’s housing crisis and his view is to cut permanent migration to 140,000 a year. What do you make of the Coalition’s plan?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, they don’t have a plan. That’s the point. And James Paterson was on radio on ABC indeed this morning again saying, they just wanted to cut it just a little bit. You’ve had the leader of the National Party saying that whilst they wanted to cut education places, none of them would be cut from the region. So, it’s not clear exactly how that happens either. This was just about responding to what is essentially a failing of the settings that they left in place that the Government is addressing. We are halving migration numbers back to a more normal number. But we inherited system that was broken, a system where people were enroling in courses, not really with that objective in mind, but as a way of getting into Australia. And we know that higher ed can play a really important role. We know that we need skilled workers, we know that we want to get the numbers at the right level. And that’s precisely what the Government is doing.

ORITI: There’s a lot I want to get through with you in this interview. But does he not have a point, though, that the numbers they were at just adding to the housing crisis there was simply not enough, you know, roofs to go over everyone’s heads.

PRIME MINISTER: We’ve halved the numbers. I’m surprised that that figure’s at 66 per cent, given that the Government itself is out there saying that we want to reduce the numbers to around about half of what they were. But he has a vibe, not a policy. And with like all of the so-called announcements that he’s made, when you look at the detail, it simply isn’t there. No costings, no understanding about impact on the economy. Everything from nuclear reactors, where they won’t say where they’ll be, where they won’t say who will pay for them, where they won’t say what the economic cost will be to taxpayers or to the national economy. This is an Opposition that have had three budget replies and not put out a single costed policy on any issue whatsoever. They’re not an alternative government. They are someone, they’re a group that just appeal to their own base, say things that their own base want to hear without putting forward clear, fully costed policies.

ORITI: Prime Minister, a lot we need to get through it in the limited time we’ve got. I just want to ask you about domestic violence. You announced measures to help combat Australia’s rising issue with violence against women. But we did hear from some domestic, family and sexual violence organisations at the back end of last week warning that, you know, they need to start winding back services. They feel as though your Government hasn’t invested enough in frontline services in this Budget. Why isn’t there more funding? Do they have a point there? Are you worried that they’re concerned they have to wind back services?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have, the services that you’re talking about will be, by and large, services of state and territory governments, by definition, look after community services. What we did in the Budget was to deliver $925 million for a Leaving Violence Payment, to make that permanent. We’ve delivered $1 billion for emergency housing for women and children escaping domestic violence. We have already put forward funding for 500 additional community service workers working in this area. The first two payments have gone through to the states and territories. And what we did when we came to office for community services in places like Alice Springs were about to run out of funding, it was dropping off the cliff. We’ve ensured that funding is ongoing. And in addition to that, I just heard your news report about the additional action that the NSW Government is taking on DV perpetrators. We’re working with state and territory governments on those issues that they have primary responsibility for, but working out how we can have more concerted action, more coordinated action and more consistent action across the jurisdictions.

ORITI: Can I just quickly ask you about the energy rebate in the Budget as well. The energy bill rebate, rather. $300 for everyone. A lot of talk as to why everyone, including yourself, including, you know, Gina Rinehart, they’re all getting it. Why wasn’t it means tested? Still trying to get my head around that.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we make no apologies for the fact that every single taxpayer will get a tax cut as a result of this Budget. And every household will get energy bill relief, every community will get stronger Medicare, there’ll be more homes in every part of our country.

ORITI: But every household didn’t need, sorry to interrupt, forgive me, but every household didn’t need energy bill relief. There are millionaires getting this money. And when I spoke to the Minister for Finance last week, she said that everyone’s getting it because that was the most efficient and effective way to do it. Just sounds like a lot of money is going to people who don’t need it because it was easier to do it that way.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s not right. But it is absolutely correct what the Finance Minister said, that it is the most efficient way of doing it. You essentially had two choices. Because it’s a rebate paid through energy companies, you can either do it just to people who are receiving some sort of payment from the Australian Government.

ORITI: Like a concession payment.

PRIME MINISTER: Like a concession payment. You could do it there. Or you could do it for everyone. What you, the alternative is to go to every energy company, get them to sort out what are the tax arrangements, the income arrangements of every Australian household, and try and do it that way. And you know what? It would end up costing you more and be far less efficient than saying that every Australian will get this just as every Australian is getting a tax cut. I find it extraordinary that an Opposition said when the Government changed the tax cuts that were in place under the Morrison Government, so that people like myself won’t get $9,000, we’ll get $4,500. They said that was an outrage. And they’re still saying they need to look after people on that above $190,000 income level. But at the same time, $300 represents something that is a major issue. Well, it is 15 times that, what people are getting in the form of a tax cut who are high income earners. What we do in this country in a range of services, just like Medicare is available to everyone, just like every family can send their kids to the local public school, is by doing it in a universal way, it’s more efficient, it’s clear. And it is clear, just like every Australian will get a tax cut, every Australian household will get energy bill relief.

ORITI: Prime Minister, I know you’ve got a dash, I just want to quickly ask you about New Caledonia. Noumea airports closed, commercial flights have stopped. What’s the Australian Government doing to help stranded Australians find a way home?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we are very concerned. And can I take the opportunity to say to those concerned about their family, they can call 1300 555 135 within Australia or from overseas, +61 262 613 305. French authorities are providing regular updates for us. The situation is really concerning. We’re doing everything possible to help Australians who are on the ground. There are 300 registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. And the Australian Defence Force is certainly ready to fly, pending commercial flights resuming. So, we want to work with partners as well, so that those who wish to leave can do so. The situation on the ground at the moment is preventing flights, but we continue to pursue approvals and we continue, our officials there in New Caledonia, continue to work with people on the ground.

ORITI: I appreciate you giving us the time, Prime Minister. Thank you very much for joining us.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much, Thomas.

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