Television Interview, 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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21 April 2023

SUBJECTS: RBA Review; Cost of Living.

SARAH ABO, HOST: Mortgage holders could soon say goodbye to monthly interest rate decisions, the Reserve Bank facing its biggest overhaul in decades. A scathing review has recommended the RBA should meet less and that our interest rates be decided by a board of experts. Let's bring in Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles in Geelong and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton in Brisbane. Good morning to you, gents. Now, Richard, who are these experts we're putting in charge of our mortgages?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we're wanting to make sure that the Reserve Bank is in the best possible position to make the really important decisions that it does. And Australians, obviously, are hanging off the decisions of the Reserve Bank every month, understandably. This review is a really important review to make sure that our central bank is operating in the best possible way. And one of those recommendations is to divide the board so that we have a more expert group which are considering those interest rate decisions and to have those decisions occurring on a slightly less frequent basis. But it's a really important review and we're looking at implementing it in full.

ABO: And you are hopeful that it will improve the situation for mortgage holders out there?

MARLES: Well, what it will do is make sure that the Reserve Bank is operating in the best possible way. I mean, obviously, a review of this kind doesn't change what the global inflation environment is or the challenges that we face with our economy. But it does mean that when the Reserve Bank is coming to meet to make the really important decisions that it has to make, that it's doing it with the best information, with the best experts in the seat and obviously in the most independent way, and that is going to be a benefit to Australians.

ABO: So will it make any difference to interest rates?

MARLES: Well, it will mean that we've got the best possible central bank making these decisions. So, in that sense, yes. But I don't want to stand here and say to you that this Review is suddenly going to change the global inflationary environment. I mean, obviously it's not, but it is going to make sure that we've got the best central bank in the world making the decisions in the context of that environment.

ABO: No, Philip Lowe made some promises and that didn't bode well for him, that's for sure.

Now, Peter, the unions are pushing for a seat at the table. Obviously, with this expanded board being split in two. They haven't got one yet, but they're close to it. How would you feel about that?

PETER DUTTON, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Well, Sarah, look, a couple of points. I mean, we'll support the government in modernising institutions and making sure that they're fit for purpose, but to be honest, this is a bit of window dressing and a little bit of distraction. The fact is that the Reserve Bank doesn't set the inflation rate and they operate within the band. And it's going to be difficult to get back into that target band that they want inflation to be in. And if they don't, then interest rates will remain high. And part of the reason in our country, as you know, that inflation is high is because the Government's made a number of decisions which have forced up inflation and therefore that's fed into higher interest rates than you would otherwise be. And since Labor's been in government interest rates have essentially gone up every month. So, families are feeling that the Labor Party wants you to believe at the moment they've got some magical solution. But as you saw with that tiptoe dance from Richard there, he's not committing to this meaning lower interest rates for families.

ABO: But you do support them. I mean it's difficult to kind of bag these changes if you are going to get on board?

DUTTON: Well again, you've just got to deal with the facts and the facts are that Labor's industrial relations system is going to make it harder for small business. If you have a look at what they're doing in energy policy, it's driving up the cost of gas and electricity, and businesses then pass that cost on to consumers in higher costs of food and groceries, et cetera. And that's what fuels inflation, and that's what makes your interest rates higher. And that's why interest rates are always higher under a Labor Government.

ABO: Richard, obviously all of this is making –

MARLES: Sarah, can I just make the point that that's just obviously wrong what Peter said. I mean we made decisions at the end of last year which have actually eased the pressure on energy bills and when Peter was given an opportunity to support those decisions he voted against this. I mean the one step Peter’s been able to take is to vote against this –

DUTTON: Richard, that’s just comical, honestly. I mean who in Australia has a lower electricity bill –  

MARLES: There is a global inflationary phenomenon which is going on and interest rates started going up under you. That's what happened.

DUTTON: Sarah, we were in South Australia earlier in the week, Safcol who's the biggest producer of baby food in the country and they do the stocks and everything else that you can buy in the supermarket. Huge company. Their electricity bill under this government just in January went up by 120 per cent. Their gas price in the last six months or so has gone up by 340 per cent. They have to pass that on to consumers or they go broke. So, this nonsense that our people are paying less, who are they?

MARLES: So why didn’t you try and help in December?

DUTTON: Richard, you’ve made a bad situation worse, I’ll tell you.

ABO: The situation is very difficult for so many out there and I guess, Richard, one of the things that could help is increasing Job Seeker to those most vulnerable. Is that something that the government will consider? We know the Budget is coming up.

MARLES: Well, the report was released earlier in the week and it made suggestions in respect of this. Obviously we're not in a position to fund every good idea and what you can be absolutely assured of is that this Budget is going to be fiscally responsible, and we will be totally focused on easing the cost of living pressures on Australian households and their household budgets. Equally, you will see measures in the Budget in the next few weeks which look to improve the situation for the most disadvantaged. But we're not in a position to fund every idea which is out there. I don't think the committee would have expected that to all occur in the context of one Budget. And we will be having a fiscally responsible Budget that we hand down in a few weeks time.

ABO: Yeah, I mean, look, this is an idea that the Prime Minister, your leader, has been lobbying for basically – in 2020 we saw him tweet that there should be permanent increases to Job Seeker. Has he changed his mind?

MARLES: No. And we understand the pressures that are particularly faced by our most vulnerable. And as I've just said, you'll see measures in the Budget which go to improving the situation for the most disadvantaged. But there are a lot of competing tensions in the Budget, as there are in any Budget. And what I can tell you is the Budget is going to be fiscally responsible and it is going to be centrally focused on easing the cost of living pressures on Australian households.

ABO: Peter, could you live off $49 a day?

DUTTON: Well, no, and I think there's an important point to make here. People on low incomes in particular, heard very clear messages from the Prime Minister before the election. For instance, on 97 occasions, that they would reduce your power bill by $275 a year every year. It's never been mentioned since he was elected. And this is a government, I think now it's up to about 19 broken promises from before the election to after. So, you can tell people what they want to believe and what they want to hear before the election, but the Prime Minister clearly is just breaking the promises. And if he didn't intend to fulfil this, then why make it in the first place? I think it’s a pretty tricky deceit, a devious way of treating people, particularly our most vulnerable.

ABO: All right, we have run out of time. I love how feisty you two are this morning it’s wonderful to see. Have a great weekend guys, thanks for your time.



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