Interview with Karl Stefanovic, Today Show

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23 September 2022

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let’s discuss now and bring in Deputy Prime Minister, Richard Marles and Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton. Good morning, guys, nice to see you this morning. Richard, to you, first. I mean, how seriously are you taking the threats of nuclear warfare from Russia?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER RICHARD MARLES: Well, this is an appalling statement that President Putin has made. He’s gone there before in his public commentary. It would be a historically terrible thing were Russia to walk down that path. I think NATO has made it really clear and has said it all – that for Russia to take that step would represent a huge mistake. But I think this says everything about President Putin and it says everything about the unprovoked Russian aggression that we are seeing here and it’s why we need to be standing in solidarity and in significant support with Ukraine, which is obviously what Australia is doing.

STEFANOVIC: What else are we going to do? How are we going to respond?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: There’ve actually been very positive gains that Ukraine have made in the last couple of weeks, but we are expecting this to become a protracted conflict. We’re working very closely with the Ukrainian Government about ways in which we can maintain that support over a long period of time. That’s the way we’re seeing it, and already – and Peter’s very much been a part of this – we have put Australia in a position where we’re one of the largest non‑NATO contributors in the world. I was in Europe a few weeks ago, our contribution and our support of Ukraine is something that’s really noticed and really remarked upon, and that’s as it should be. There are very important principles which are at stake here which goes to Australia’s national interest, and when you listen to President Putin overnight, we understand what we are up against here, what Ukraine’s up against here, and why it’s so important that we stand with Ukraine.

STEFANOVIC: What else can we do, Peter?

PETER DUTTON, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, Karl, we can cut through any of the bureaucratic red tape that, no doubt, Richard’s facing from the department. We want to get equipment and support and defence materiel into the hands of the Ukrainians as quickly as possible; and, as you pointed out, when we were in Government, we provided over a quarter of a billion dollars’ worth of support, including all sorts of weapons systems and I want to just make sure that that continues to flow and we’ll support the Government in those actions. But, as Richard rightly points out, we need to make sure that we’re shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world – with NATO, with the European Union, with the Americans, with the Brits, all of those countries who stand for democracy and for the same values that we stand for. This is a time for the world to stand up to be heard and to speak with a loud voice against these acts of aggression. And it’s not just the Ukrainian people who are suffering, you’re now seeing young people who are being conscripted, forcibly put into a Russian uniform who don’t want to be in uniform who are going to lose their lives as well. It’s terrible.

STEFANOVIC: It’s just awful, those scenes coming out of Russia. It’s tragic – terrible, terrible vision from those people who are being conscripted and those people staying. It’s awful.

Move on now, Treasurer Jim Chalmers warns of more pain to come as inflation in the US surges to its highest level in four decades. Richard, any further cost‑of‑living measures going to be on the table with the Budget?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, Jim will obviously announce the Budget in about a month’s time, but we’re very focussed on cost‑of‑living pressures and on acting to relieve them. It’s why we moved very early on to support an increase in the basic, in the minimum wage, why we’ve also now seen really significant increases, the largest increases in more than a decade, in the pension, and next week we will be dealing in the Parliament with making childcare more affordable, making medicines cheaper. So, we’re really focused on –

STEFANOVIC: Anything further?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we are focused on all of those measures to try and deal with the cost‑of‑living pressures. But we are in a world where there are some pretty significant headwinds, as Jim has described this morning in his opinion piece. We’re looking at both North America and Western Europe with rising inflation, rising interest rates, and even China’s economy is not performing as expected given their COVID‑zero policy. A lost decade of reform within our own economy has not placed us well in terms of dealing with this moment, but we are confident that, with a Government which is actually going to manage the economy and focus on cost‑of‑living pressures, that we can get through this.

STEFANOVIC: Right, Pete – see, it’s all your fault.

PETER DUTTON: Well, Karl, as every economist will point out, the fundamentals of the Australian economy are stronger than almost any other country in the world, so put aside the rhetoric that Richard’s just given you about a lost decade and all that nonsense, the increase in the pension was what happens every year. It’s indexed by CPI, it’s gone up more because inflation is higher. Every Government gets a curve ball thrown at them. It is a question of how the Government of the day deals with it, and I’m worried that Labor is going to make a bad situation worse because they can’t manage money, they can’t manage the Budget and we’ll see a tax‑and‑spend Budget, which is what Labor does, probably at the wrong time. The childcare support that Richard’s talking about doesn’t come in until mid-next year and they’re just increasing petrol prices by 22 cents a litre. So, when families need support, they’re not getting it from this Government, and the opportunity’s there in the Budget but I don’t think they’re going to take it.

STEFANOVIC: On a much lighter note, guys, it is grand final weekend for the footy. Richard, you’ve won everything this year. It may as well be a grand final, too, with Geelong, huh?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we certainly hope so. We’re feeling very excited in Geelong and trying to keep a lid on it as you can see from that photo. It’s muted and subtle as we’re approaching all of this.

STEFANOVIC: I like it.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: This is going to be a David and Goliath battle tomorrow. This is a hardworking, solid village which is taking on Australia’s largest metropolis – Geelong versus Sydney. But our boys are up for it, and Geelong represents everything that is right and good in this country and well, Sydney is Sydney, so that’s what we’re going to be dealing with tomorrow.

STEFANOVIC: Good sledging. Hey, Pete, Townsville’s the capital of Queensland right now. The Cowboys will bring it on home. At least you’ve got the Cowboys, right?

DUTTON: Cowboys are the last hope for Queensland. But I’m throwing my lot in with the Cats for Saturday night. I mean, Richard’s got every call right this year so far - he’s taken my job, he’s won the election –

STEFANOVIC: Wow.

DUTTON: He’s beat the Lions – smashed the Lions, so I’m with the Cats this weekend.

STEFANOVIC: Wow, you two together.

DUTTON: Maybe they will get home by about 10 points, I predict. But I tell you, the Cowboys, don’t write them off in Townsville.

STEFANOVIC: No, they’ll be fine.

DUTTON: They’ll do well tonight.

STEFANOVIC: It’ll be hot up there, 31 degrees. It’s tough for the Eels. They start getting a little bit chokey around the neck area. Hey thanks, guys, have a great weekend.

ENDS

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