The Hon Patrick Gorman MP Television interview – Sky News Afternoon Agenda

Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister, Assistant Minister for the Public Service

TOM CONNELL, HOST: Welcome back – a big week, of course, a budget, a budget in reply. So who better to thrash this out than our regular Friday panel. Joining me now, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Patrick Gorman, and former Liberal MP who dreams at night of being the member for McKellar again one day, Jason Falinski. Gentlemen, thanks for your time.

I’ll start with you, Jason. Because that’ll put you in a good mood, I’m sure.


CONNELL: Shaking your head, I can see. Migration. What do you think of this? Is it a bit of a dangerous push? I mean, some big headline figures about how much it will be cut, including international students, they happen to be our third biggest export and a good skills importer as well.

FALINSKI: Yeah, look, Tom, I mean, we’re in a very serious situation, where we have completely lost control of our immigration system. We have a record number of people – 100,000 people alone – coming into this country in February. Labor is planning on bringing in an entire Adelaide over the next five years, 1.67 million people, while they only plan to build another 263,000 homes. That’s going to have an impact of creating more inequality in Australia as we price more people out of the housing market.

CONNELL: So the drastic level of last night it is needed, you’re saying? Are the details important here?

FALINSKI: Well Tom, you can keep using adjectives like drastic and dramatic. But the fact of the matter is, this returns us back to our long-term average immigration levels. So the real drastic and dramatic has been in the increase in immigration over the last two years since the Albanese government got elected. And I’m really surprised –

CONNELL: Well it basically stopped –

FALINSKI: – I’m really surprised –

CONNELL: – but the reason why it’s drastic is because it stops the demand driven side –

FALINSKI: – I’m actually surprised – so you’re excusing it –

CONNELL: – of the program. That’s what I mean.

FALINSKI: So you’re excusing it? So you’re excusing it? Oh okay.

CONNELL: No, but what I’m saying is –

FALINSKI: I’m just asking –

CONNELL: – that it was always going to go up to a –

FALINSKI: – it was going to go up a little bit

FALINSKI: It was going to go up a little bit –

CONNELL: Well, let me answer then –

FALINSKI: – but it wasn’t going to go up from the long term average of about 140,000 people a year to nearly half a million.

CONNELL: What’s drastically changed is how we do it. So, demand-driven has always been the temporary side of it.

FALINSKI: That is not true, Tom. Our immigration system has always been based on the skills that Australia needs. What you’re saying is that under this Government it has become demand-driven by the needs and wants of Vice Chancellors at the big universities. That Australia and our immigration system –

CONNELL: How were international students not demand-driven under the Coalition?

FALINSKI: Because we allowed universities to bring in a quality number of students which helped us fund our higher education.

CONNELL: Did you ever limit the number?

FALINSKI: Like the quantum physics lab at the University of NSW –

CONNELL: Did you ever limit the number?

FALINSKI: – but it was never done on an open gates approach. Sure, if you want to throw the gates open –

CONNELL: Did you ever limit the number?

FALINSKI: There are very few people around the world who wouldn’t want to come to an Australian university –

CONNELL: Ok. Did you ever limit the number of international students?

FALINSKI: – And I’m surprised at your line of argument. Sorry, Tom?

CONNELL: Did you ever limit the number? Did you ever limit the number of international students under the Coalition?

FALINSKI: Of course we had a limit. Of course we did. We limited the number of migrants who could come to this country based on the skills that our nation needed. Our immigration policy should serve Australians – and that’s what it’s always been designed to do and why it has been one of the most successful in the world.

CONNELL: But international students were free to come. That number wasn’t capped by the Coalition – [INAUDIBLE] temporary –

FALINSKI: Including Tom – Including Tom – Including Tom, my father, who came here as a migrant and is a refugee from Eastern Europe. So, I’m not going to be, you know, told that we’re doing something wrong simply by returning our immigration programme to its long term average.

CONNELL: Okay. Nothing changed with Labor and international students and the approach there, in terms of that being demand-driven. Patrick, I haven’t gotten to you yet, we’ve started off serious today –

FALINSKI: Sorry, is that a statement or a question?

CONNELL: Well, it’s a statement you can –

FALINSKI: Well, I dispute that, but nonetheless.

CONNELL: Well, okay. Nothing changed, Jason. It was demand driven under the Coalition, international students. That’s just a fact.

FALINSKI: Tom. We had limits on the number of students who could come into this country. We didn’t allow the universities to throw open the gates and just get as many people as they wanted to come into that. And it has been, by the way, a matter of great contention. The number of students and the quality of our higher education system because they were catering for volume, not quality. That’s been a matter of discussion, you know, ever since Kevin Rudd was Prime Minister.

CONNELL: Alright, I believe you’re incorrect on that. If you can show me where I’m wrong, happy to ‘mea culpa’ on air. I’ll do it just for you. Patrick, drastic action is it needed? I mean, migration has been soaring. The housing plan so far for Labor, it’s way behind. Not a single expert thinks you’ll build the houses that you say you will.

PATRICK GORMAN, ASSISTANT MINISTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER AND ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR THE PUBLIC SERVICE: Well, what Peter Dutton could have done last night was to come out and say he’d back the sensible reforms that we’re doing in vocational education, where we are cracking down on dodgy vocational education providers that have been gaming our visa system. He could have come out and said that he endorses the work that Jason Clare is doing, which is to require universities to invest more in student accommodation when they’re increasing their international student numbers. And he could have come out and said that maybe he was wrong when he spent the last two years opposing the Housing Australia Future Fund, which will build 30,000 homes. And again, I’ll remind your viewers, under our plan – next five years, 30,000 homes built under that program. Under Peter Dutton’s plan – not a single one of those homes will be built.

CONNELL: Right. But even on your plan and what you want to do, there are two things experts say on this. They’re united on it. It’s not enough, and you’re running behind. So, is migration a good area for the Coalition to go to?

GORMAN: On housing, I’d point you to the now $32 billion of additional investment that we’ve put in since we came to office. When it comes to housing, and particularly affordable housing. When it comes to the question of migration, we have taken action to reduce Australia’s overall migration. We’ve been working on that for a period of time. We’ve been doing it at the same time that we’ve been fixing a broken migration system. We’ve got review, after review telling us the system that we inherited from Peter Dutton, who was the responsible Minister for a large period of time across the last Coalition Government, we’ve been trying to do that repair work. And I will say: thanks to those who work at Home Affairs, who do really good work making sure that we have that orderly migration system that’s carefully calibrated for Australia’s national interest. And I would have thought, I think one of the reasons that Jason’s so grumpy this afternoon is that he knows that Peter Dutton came out with a plan without any modelling, without any costings, without any economics behind it. And I would have thought after two years, we deserved to see more than just a few words and a few more divisive sentences. We deserved to see some actual costings of a policy from Peter Dutton on anything. And we didn’t see that last night.

CONNELL: I’m just waiting to see this Coalition in the past, apparently limiting international students. I’m sure Jason’s going to dig it up for me. The $300 rebate. Jason, your colleagues still in Parliament sort of tiptoed around this, ‘oh, we shouldn’t have given to everybody,’ but wouldn’t say where it should cut out. Can you be honest with us? Who shouldn’t be getting this $300 rebate? Where is this money being wasted?

FALINSKI: Well, Tom, we’ve always had a targeted welfare – sorry, that’s untrue. Ever since the Hawke-Keating Government, we’ve had a targeted welfare program to help the people most in need. This idea that we’re giving it to people on the basis of how many houses they own, like, maybe they own a shack at Palm Beach and a sub-penthouse in Parramatta and a home in Bellevue Hill, for example, will be getting five loads of subsidies. So, I just don’t think that this is the way to go. And, you know, obviously, Australia is an energy superpower. And we may remember that Chris Bowen and Anthony Albanese promised us that our energy bills would be going down by $275 per year, every year. Instead of that, under their plan, emissions have gone up and energy prices have gone up by 37.4% –

CONNELL: And so tell me who should have got it –

FALINSKI: Before you interrupt –

CONNELL: Yup, go on –

FALINSKI: Before you interrupt me –

CONNELL: You’re about to tell me, aren’t you –

FALINSKI: I also know that this idea of theirs involves, once again, billions of dollars in subsidies to some of the wealthiest mining companies and most profitable mining companies in the world. And as we’ve spoken about before, this idea was supported by the Greens and supported by the Teals, who both campaigned against fossil fuel –

GORMAN: We were just talking about the $300 energy credit Jason –

FALINSKI: Yeah, because the way that you are going to deliver that is by delivering compensation. At the moment, you’ve delivered $2 billion to some of the most profitable coal companies in the world –

CONNELL: But this just –

FALINSKI: and it’s going to have to happen again.

CONNELL: goes straight on people’s bills, doesn’t it, Jason?

FALINSKI: No, but the legislation, Tom, which I’ve sent to you, indicates that there will be yet more money going to some of the most profitable coal companies in the world.

CONNELL: Right, but it goes to $75 each quarter to run with a power bill.

FALINSKI: Yes. And some of the coal companies that provide the energy that will be keeping the prices down, will need to be compensated with a rebate, otherwise known as a fossil fuel subsidy. And these are the things that were voted for previously by the Labor Party, the Greens and the Teals.

CONNELL: Before I get to Patrick, Jason, are you willing to say who shouldn’t get it?

FALINSKI: Well, I don’t think billionaires should be getting it. I don’t think people who own multiple properties should be getting it. Tom, you know, it’s quite clear that it should be –

CONNELL: What about someone on a hundred and fifty grand?

FALINSKI: Someone on $150,000 dollars. Yes, definitely. Definitely.

CONNELL: They should. Okay, so, no to billionaires, alright, so we’ll cancel it to 50 Australians, whatever it is. Patrick, your compensation in the budget.

FALINSKI: I think it’s over a hundred –

CONNELL: But who’s counting? I know you’re a big reader of the AFL so you would know more than me on that, Jason. Patrick, so the compensation in the budget, the tax cuts, July 1, the bill rebate July 1, and inflation is still high. If inflation doesn’t come down, like Jim Chalmers says it will, does Labor now own the inflation story, no more excuses.

GORMAN: Well, we own what we have done when it comes to bringing inflation down. We know it was above 6 per cent when we came to office, we’ve brought that down, it’s now got a three in front of it. The projections say that inflation will continue to moderate and indeed the measures that we’ve put in our budget, including the $300 energy bill credit, will bring inflation down. That’s what we’ve been targeting. And we’ve found that way to help act on inflation, while also providing cost of living relief. That means every taxpayer gets a tax cut, every household gets an energy bill, some energy bill relief, we thought that was the right thing to do. And that’s been that’s been the –

CONNELL: You’re gonna own inflation. If it doesn’t come down, you’ll say we’ve got it wrong.

GORMAN: We’ll continue to work with what we can do with fiscal policy to act on inflation. That’s what we’ve done in the last – in all three budgets that we’ve handed down. We’ll continue to do that. And we’ll continue to look for smart ways to do so while also making sure that families get the cost living relief that they need and deserve. Even if Jason, Peter Dutton and others want to stand in the way, we’re very determined that cost living relief to families need it.

CONNELL: Patrick, I know sometimes people say what do you got on that panel? They’re ganging up on you. I feel like I’ve been harder on Jason today. Is this – is this a better day?

GORMAN: I feel like Jason has been pretty hard on you too.

CONNELL: Yes, he always is, he always is.

GORMAN: I’m sure you do, too, Tom. And I’m sure Jason does as well. I get a wide variety of feedback about my appearances on this panel. There are some in the Twitter-verse who always have higher aspirations for what I could do. There are some who say, good job –

CONNELL: Higher aspirations.

GORMAN: – and there are some like yourself, who always say ‘You’re welcome back next week’, which is always appreciated.

CONNELL: Well, you are, you will, and you know, Twitter can be toxic, but you should see Jason Falinski’s texts, incredible stuff. Jason, Patrick, will talk next week. I’m sure we will. When we come back, Donald Trump’s former fixer tells the jury, he hoped he’d be protected if he lied about a hush money payment.

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