Australian Prime Minister Radio interview – Triple J Hack

Prime Minister

Anthony Albanese, welcome back to Hack. Good to be back with you. We just heard from Luca, she’s saying she’s on the verge of homelessness. She can’t afford her rent, can’t find another place to rent. She gets rent assistance but says this increase in the Budget is nowhere near enough to make a real difference. She’s struggling mentally and she wants to know from you why there’s not more support for people like her in the Budget, Prime Minister, what do you say to Luca?

PRIME MINISTER ANTHONY ALBANESE: Well, I’m very sympathetic with Luca. Of course, there are many Australians who are doing it tough, which is why we designed so many measures in the Budget to provide assistance, including a 10% increase in rent assistance. Last year, we increased it by 15% so it’s 25% since last May is the improvements that we have made. We, in addition to that, will provide additional support aimed to students. So we’ve taken $3 billion off people’s HECS debt. I’m not sure what Luca is studying, but we’ll pay people to do their prac if they’re doing teaching, or they’re doing social welfare or they’re doing nursing or childcare.

MARCHESE: Prime Minister, the situation with Luca is that she thinks she’s going to have to drop out. She’s not going to be a student much longer because of the poverty that she’s living in. You know, Youth Allowance, 45 bucks a day, people are still battling under the poverty line, and she says this increase to rent assistance won’t get her much more than a couple of coffees a week. How can the Government expect young Australians to stay afloat without giving them a lot more?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have increased Jobseeker by $120 a fortnight since we came to office –

MARCHESE: But they’re saying it’s not enough.

PRIME MINISTER: We have and everyone will always say there will always be more demands in a budget than can possibly be met.

MARCHESE: But is it fair to expect people to live below the poverty line? Prime Minister, that’s the question students are asking. They’re saying, ‘we can’t even afford to be students anymore.’

PRIME MINISTER: The task for us, Dave, and I know what it’s like to be a student. And when I was a student, I worked through multiple jobs in order to work my way through university. I know that it can be difficult, I wasn’t in a position to have parental support because my mum was an invalid pensioner, and there was just us. So I know what it’s like to do it tough. We are doing what we can, whilst, of course, importantly for the economy, making sure that we have handed down a responsible Budget.

MARCHESE: With respect Prime Minister, today, the situation for young Australians is unimaginable for a lot of people of different generations, like average rent has climbed from $400 to $600 in the past four years. Rental affordability is at its worst level in 17 years. Almost a million Australians are working more than one job like Australians are saying they need more help.

PRIME MINISTER: Yeah, and I worked more than one job when I was at university, and I know that many Australians will do that. The nature of the labour market is changing, but we also have $32 billion in the Budget to provide support for increased social housing, increased emergency housing. We have a range of programmes aimed at dealing with housing supply for students. We also in terms of student accommodation, we introduced a change last night so that for international students, when universities want them coming, they have to provide a higher level of student accommodation in order to be able to admit those international students to campuses.

MARCHESE: Prime Minister, what about the three quarters of renters who don’t get rent assistance? What about those people who are battling to hang on to their rentals or can’t afford them, but also can’t find anywhere else to live?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, we are doing what we can as a Government to deal with the challenges which are there. We are very conscious of the challenges which many people are facing. That’s why we have put in place a range of measures, including those supporting young people. People would like us to do more. That is the case any time a Budget is handed down. But my Government has a range of measures, some of which I have gone through, many of which are targeted, particularly at young people, the $3 billion being taken away from HECS debt is something that has been argued for for a long period of time, we’re putting changes –

MARCHESE: Absolutely, Prime Minister. A lot of students are very happy about the reforms that we’ve seen in terms of HECS, in terms of indexation. They’re not denying that, but they’re saying ‘we need support now.’ I just want to go to some of the changes you mentioned, some of the announcements in the Budget. You said some are targeted, targeted to young people, but some aren’t. Like your government spending three and a half billion dollars on energy rebates for every Australian. This is going to go to the richest Australians as well as the poorest. Why give rebates to those who don’t need them?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’re giving energy bill relief for every household because we know that Australians under financial pressure.

MARCHESE: What about billionaires like Gina Rinehart? Why should she get a $300 rebate, the same rebate as Luca?

PRIME MINISTER: Because the way that the system operates with the rebates is that it is through a reduction in people’s energy bills, through the energy companies. Energy companies do not have people’s tax returns. What energy companies have been able to do last time around was to target the payments, because we have – it’s to easy to provide the figures for people who are on welfare, receiving Government assistance. So we can do that. In order to provide assistance to working people, who might be a mum and dad with a mortgage, that are dealing with the financial pressures from those increases that we’ve seen as a result of inflationary pressures. We want to make sure that middle Australia didn’t miss out, and that’s why, that’s why it’s been designed this way, just as every taxpayer will receive a tax cut as well.

MARCHESE: All right, all right. We’re hearing from you loud and clear on the text line, Alicia from Ballarat says, ‘I want to see the wealthy pay, not save,’ someone else, though, says ‘the Government aren’t magic wizards, and they can’t fix the world in one swoop. Some people need to get real.’ You’re listening to Hack. I’m Dave Marchese. I’m speaking with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese about the Budget. What’s in it for young Australians? Prime Minister, does your Government have a longer term plan to address generational inequality in this country? Because at the moment, a lot of young Australians are seeing nothing except debts and Budget deficits well into the future.

PRIME MINISTER: Yes, we do. We’re addressing opportunities through a range of measures, be it the higher education changes, some of which were announced last night. Fee-Free TAFE has seen more than 300,000 young Australians get the opportunity of a job in in the traditional trades or in new industries as well that are emerging, in the services sector –

MARCHESE: I guess the point though –

PRIME MINISTER: – that has made an enormous difference and is providing that opportunity to be spread, which is very important.

MARCHESE: I guess the point is that many young Australians feel like they’re more financially stressed, more burnt out than ever before, and it’s been getting worse under your Government. So what can you say to young Australians to assure them that things are going to get better for them under your Government now, and potentially under another Albanese Government in the future?

PRIME MINISTER: That what my Government has done is always concentrate on dealing with immediate pressures, which are there, such as providing some support and relief for people who are under pressure. But we always have our eye on the future as well. What we need to do is to make sure that governments are prepared to look beyond just a 12 month period or the next political cycle – which quite often can be 24 hours in today’s world – and always have our eye on the future. Intergenerational equity is something that my Government is very concerned on, which is why we have those specific measures in the Budget last night, as well as leading to longer change.

MARCHESE: Prime Minister on to another issue, students are protesting at uni campuses around the country right now, demanding your Government do more to end the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. And today, your own colleague, Labor Senator Fatima Payman has been speaking to SBS, and she has broken ranks. She has accused Israel of conducting a genocide in Gaza. She has criticised our leaders for performative gestures. Is she talking about you?

PRIME MINISTER: The Middle East is a conflict where the Government has had a very clear position of our opposition to what occurred the terrorist atrocities of October 7, but also our calling out of Israel for actions and saying that how it defends itself very much matters as well.

MARCHESE: Is it a concern though, that members of your own Government are calling out inaction over Gaza?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’ve called for the release of hostages. We’ve also voted for in the United Nations going back a long period of time, we have voted for cessation of hostilities, for that to occur. We’ve called for humanitarian assistance. We have said very clearly that all lives matter, whether they be Israeli or Palestinian. We’ve called for and voted for, just last Friday, increased participation of Palestine in the United Nations. We’ve called for a two state solution.

MARCHESE: Because Senator Payman, a Labor Senator, is calling on you, the Prime Minister, to sanction Israel. So will you do it?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what I’ll do is consistently put forward a position of support for a two state solution. That’s a position that my Government has had and the Labor Party has had for a long period of time. The idea that we here in Australia can determine what is happening in the Middle East is just not correct. What we can do is to make our voice heard for humanitarian concerns, for standing up for the fact that all lives, all innocent lives, matter, whether they be Israeli or Palestinian, call for an end to the conflict, a humanitarian end, but also call for the longer term political solution of two states with people having the capacity to live in peace and security side by side, whether they be Israeli or Palestinian.

MARCHESE: All right, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, very much appreciate you coming on Hack, thanks for your time.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much.

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