Senator the Hon Katy Gallagher TV interview – ABC News Breakfast

Minister for Finance, Minister for Women, Minister for the Public Service

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Lots to talk about. Let’s bring in the Finance Minister and Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher, from Parliament House. Minister, very good morning to you.


ROWLAND: I want to start with the imminent release of the Coalition’s nuclear policy, that party room meeting happening in less than half an hour’s time. The Coalition arguing nuclear needs to be an essential part of Australia’s energy mix. It’s about to be game on in the energy debate. How does the government think about that policy?

GALLAGHER: Well, we’ll wait to see some of the details. But I mean, from a party that couldn’t land 22 energy policies when they were in government to pretend that they’ve got some plan – which is going to cost more money, delay any progress on addressing climate change and the stability of our energy grid – I think is you know just laughable. It’s simply doesn’t stack up. And you know, I have a – from a Finance point of view, the idea that you would create a GBE [Government Business Enterprise] – which is clearly intended because they can’t make it economically stack up another way – and the cost on the budget and the former government’s history of undercosting this type of infrastructure is a real worry and a real risk for the budget. But also, it would do nothing to put downward pressure on energy bills in the short term, which is what households are needing right now.

ROWLAND: Nuclear energy is a key part of the energy mix of so many countries around the world. There are more than 400 nuclear reactors around the world. Why shouldn’t Australia at least experiment with nuclear energy?

GALLAGHER: Well, all the evidence – and you know if you look at the CSIRO and other energy experts tell us – and it is rather unique in Australia that we have this abundance of renewable energy sources from wind and to solar. You know, it does stand out as Australia in our own unique circumstances to have an opportunity to seize the renewable energy generation. Not only for our economy, but also to play a part in the global transition. And it seems like in an attempt to reignite the climate wars. The Opposition is intent on ignoring all that, ignoring all the economic opportunities that come with our unique position and promising something that might happen in 2040, 2050, at an enormous cost to the budget.

ROWLAND: Okay, let’s move on to the RBA’s decision, or non-decision I guess, on interest rates yesterday. The Governor, Michele Bullock, Minister, revealed in a media conference after the meeting that rate cuts were certainly off the table, but a potential rate rise was a live option at that meeting. How concerned are you about that?

GALLAGHER: Well, look, the Reserve Bank and in their media conference yesterday – I think it’s a great opportunity for them to explain their thinking. We’re doing what we can with the budget levers and the policy of the government to make sure that we are supporting the work of the Reserve Bank, making sure we are trying to fight inflation. I think the Governor talks about that narrow path. You know, that is essentially the issue we’ve all been trying to navigate. How do you make sure you can provide cost-of-living relief, bring down inflation and not smash the economy. And that’s the narrow path. I think you know it’s not unusual for Reserve Banks to consider all of the options available to them. Obviously, I think households would be pretty pleased that interest rates remained where they are. And we know that’s hitting and hurting households. So the Government remains focused on our job, which is to try and tame inflation where we can and provide cost-of-living relief, including the tax cuts that’ll come in on 1 July.

ROWLAND: The RBA Board though in a statement said that spending by governments, not just yours but state governments as well on budgets, is helping stoke demand and keeping inflation high, though?

GALLAGHER: Well, I don’t think their statement said that. And I think the Governor in her press conference afterwards explained that they don’t focus on budgets as I guess the sole source of information. They look at a whole range of other things that are happening in the economy. And you know, I think State and Territory governments, the Federal Government in the decisions that we take, are all in the same position of trying to you know provide some relief where we can. You know on your program, Michael, cost-of-living is the number one issue for all Australians. So, how do we provide that without you know, having a sort of upward impact on inflation, but at the same time providing that much-needed relief. And you know, budgets are a way that governments can provide that sort of cost-of-living relief but in a responsible way. And I think governments are doing that.

ROWLAND: Okay, couple of other issues before we leave you. What can you tell us about this legislation about to be introduced by your colleague Tony Burke that would split the CFMEU, allowing members of the manufacturing division to leave the more militant construction sector?

GALLAGHER: Well, a couple of years ago the mining division had the opportunity to vote and decided to leave the CFMEU. The manufacturing division have indicated I think that they would like a similar vote. And it’s a highly feminised membership, largely women in industries like textiles, and I think anyone who reads the paper or the news can see why you might suspect that a largely feminised workforce might want to have a vote about whether they’re aligned with the CFMEU. So this legislation will give them the opportunity just to have that vote. You know it’s a pretty dysfunctional relationship at the moment, and I think the opportunity for members to have a say is a good one.

ROWLAND: Okay, finally, we’re learning this morning that your colleague, Federal Labor MP Josh Burns’ Melbourne electorate office has been vandalised this morning. Fires set off, slogans painted across the front window. Pretty disturbing news when it comes to any MP.

GALLAGHER: Yeah look Michael I mean our hearts go out to Josh and his staff. This is incredibly confronting for them. I think the temperature needs to come down a bit or someone will get hurt. These kinds of attacks on politicians’ offices that we’ve been having, we’re seeing around the country, is not the way we do politics in Australia. I mean one of our strengths is we have a very strong democracy where people are able to peacefully argue their position and we are able to respectfully disagree, but this type of criminal activity, vandalism, is outrageous and we need to make sure that the community understands that this is just not on. And I think the majority of the community understands that, so for the minority who are engaging in this damaging and hateful behaviour, we urge them to stop because it’s not safe.

ROWLAND: Katy Gallagher, appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

GALLAGHER: Thank you.

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