Interview with Karl Stefanovic, Today Show

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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7 October 2022

KARL STEFANOVIC: Well, I’m loathe to talk about tax on this show on any day let alone a Friday, but here we go – please bear with me. I want to take you back – way, way, way back into the annals of history. You might remember this: five weeks ago, and a reassuring assurance, a rolled gold guarantee from the PM putting the nation at ease.

ANTHONY ALBANESE: The parliament made a decision. Parliament made a decision to legislate those tax cuts, and we made a decision – we made a decision – that we would stand by that legislation rather than relitigate it, and we haven’t changed our opinion.

STEFANOVIC: All right. Well, you get the feeling, a sense of something building on the horizon. Something similar to this.

JULIA GILLARD: There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.

STEFANOVIC: Well, joining us now Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and Opposition leader Peter Dutton. Good morning, guys. Nice to see you on this Friday morning. Richard, that’s a knowing nod from you.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Karl.

STEFANOVIC: What happened to all that, “this election campaign is all about trust, who do you trust,” and now you go and break a promise?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, you’ve heard what the Prime Minister said. Our position on tax is well known and we haven’t changed our position on tax. The budget is under a lot of pressure. You know, we’re seeing globally North America, Europe staring down the barrel of a recession. We’re seeing China not growing in the way that you would have expected. Rising interest rates around the world, rising inflation and there’s big spending pressures on the budget.

Now all you’ve seen in the last week is our financial team, the Treasurer, talking to the Australian people in a completely open way about the pressures that we are facing, and what we will be doing as we frame the budget in the next few weeks is make sure that we’re taking responsible decisions that are fair. That’s actually all that’s happened, and that’s what you would expect the Treasurer to do and what you’d expect the government to do.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Will you break the promise or not?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, our position hasn’t changed. We are facing a really difficult situation in terms of the budget.


DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Every dollar of debt that Peter left us from the former government is now costing the budget a whole lot more. You know, we’ve got really significant pressures in terms of rising expenditure requirements in relation to defence, for example. There’s a lot to work through and difficult decisions that we made to make. But all we’ve done is in the last few weeks – in the last few days and the last few weeks make clear to the Australian people the pressures that the budget is facing –

STEFANOVIC: You see, Richard, I don’t think it is clear.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: – and dealing with this in an appropriate way.

STEFANOVIC: I think the issue here is you’ve got to level with the Australian people. Are you going to cut the tax cuts or not?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we are levelling with the Australian people about the pressures that the budget is facing and the difficult decisions that we will need to make.


DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: We’ve made clear in relation to tax that our position has not changed, and we’ve repeatedly said that. We’re also making clear to the Australian people the sort of pressures that the budget is under and a lot of those have been building up over a period of time, a lot of those have happened since the election, and a lot of it is to do with the circumstances that we were left by the former government.

STEFANOVIC: I understand, alright.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: A government which left us with a trillion dollars of debt.


PETER DUTTON: Well, Karl, firstly, Labor supported the expenditure through Covid. So, when he talks about debt, he’s talking about JobKeeper, which saved tens of thousands of jobs – of businesses, hundreds of thousands of jobs. They wanted to spend, in fact, $80 billion more than we were proposing. So, I mean, they’re hollow words.

But the Prime Minister looked the Australian public in the eye and gave them a solemn promise – and that is that people on incomes of $45,000 to $200,000 would pay no more than 30 cents in the dollar. And that is a big win for families who are struggling to pay their power prices, their gas bills, their fuel when they stop at the bowser, when they go to the supermarket, their cost-of-living pressure goes up and up and up every day and they were relying on this Prime Minister, people voted for this Prime Minister, they entered into home loans factoring in the savings that they would make knowing that interest rates were going up and now we’re looking at a complete betrayal of that trust.

And, you know, Richard’s words this morning, he couldn’t give you a straight answer, which is exactly how Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard behaved and we’re seeing echoes of that, which should be deeply disturbing.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Where is the Prime Minister, by the way? He’s gone a little bit AWOL this week, Richard.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, actually, I’ve been sitting with the Prime Minister in meetings all this week as we’ve been in the Expenditure Review Committee preparing for the budget in a few weeks’ time.

But let me just be clear about what Peter said. The former government doubled the debt before the pandemic hit. I mean, that’s the reality of the situation that we face. You can talk about JobKeeper, but before the pandemic hit, they had doubled the debt and there was nothing to show for it. In the last decade, we have seen nothing done by the former government in relation to productivity growth. That is what drives the economy -

DUTTON: I’d just make this point, Karl –

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: - with the Jobs and Skills Summit, we are focused on all of that.

DUTTON: I’d just make this point – Richard and Anthony Albanese knew all of that. They knew the debt level when they made the promise to – as you say, five weeks ago – to honour the promise to keep tax cuts.

STEFANOVIC: It will be interesting to see what happens, but the language around it is pretty clear. Something’s going on.

Another big issue that the PM has also been missing on, is the plan to rescue the wives and children of ISIS fighters from Syrian camps. A lot of passionate opinions on this, including Fairfield Mayor Frank Carbone who spoke with us yesterday.

FRANK CARBONE (GRAB): People shouldn’t be allowed to turn their backs on their country and go overseas and assist others fighting against Australian soldiers and just be welcomed back with open arms. I mean, the government prioritised those in more need if the government is looking to bring in refugees into this country. And there’s no doubt that the Syrian community is hurt. We’re hurt. We stand by them. They’re not welcome in Fairfield, and if Albo wants to bring them back well perhaps, he could put them in his own neighbourhood.

STEFANOVIC: “They aren’t welcome here.” Richard, are you pressing ahead with it?

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, firstly, I understand the comments that the Fairfield mayor has made, and I can really appreciate them. You will know and Peter will know, I am very limited in what I can say here about what is occurring, and for very, very good reasons. But let me say this: Every decision that is being taken here is being done through the frame of how we keep the Australian people as safe as possible. You know, in terms of every decision that has – that I have been involved in – the simple question is moving in one direction or another does that make Australians safer at home or not and we are focused on making Australians safer, and that is the way we are going about the decisions that we are being presented with in relation to this circumstance.


DUTTON: Well, Karl, the government made this announcement on Monday. The Prime Minister has not been seen all week, hasn’t explained what it is that the government’s proposing here, and as the Australian Federal Police Commissioner pointed out to estimates last year, it costs about $3.8 million and 300 police officers in one year. That expenditure, that resource, for one individual. And, you know, I feel for – if you’re a father with a daughter over in Syria that’s gone off with a foreign fighter or you’ve got a grandchild there, I understand that they would be devastated and want them back home. But we have to act in our national interest and the fact is at the moment the government is leading with emotion, not reality and we want to be very careful in our country.

STEFANOVIC: All right. Thanks for that. Really appreciate it, guys, as always. And, Richard, good luck with –

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: That isn’t – that’s not right, what’s been said there, and Peter knows that there is limited things that we can say in this situation. We are only focused about how we keep Australians safe at home.

DUTTON: Well, leave them there. Leave them there in that case, Richard.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Again, it is very difficult to go through the circumstances here. Keeping Australians safe at home is very complex question, which Peter would well understand –

DUTTON: Well, I’ve been through the circumstances. I’ve been briefed on who these people are –

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: – which Peter well understands, and that’s the basis upon which we are making these decisions.

DUTTON: – and they shouldn’t come back to Australia, Richard.

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we’re about trying to keep Australians safe at home and doing what we need to do, to make sure that that occurs.

STEFANOVIC: All right, guys, thank you. Appreciate it. Talk to you soon.


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