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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5 May 2023

SUBJECTS: Youth crime; Rates rise; Budget speculation; Victorian Liberals imploding; NRL Magic Round

SARAH ABO, HOST: This week we have been following the escalating youth crime around the country. A community changed forever allegedly at the hands of a 13- year-old boy on a joy-ride. We've been speaking to their families and the grief and anger, it is palpable, something needs to be done. Let's bring in Acting Prime Minister Richard Marles and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton who joins me here. Thanks for your time, Peter. Now let's come to you first, Richard. The toughest laws in the country wouldn't have stopped the deadly car crash in Maryborough. I mean, it is an indictment on the whole system.

ACTING PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: Well look, I think these are really difficult issues. Obviously it's a set of tragic circumstances which have played out over the last few weeks. I know that the Palaszczuk government is deeply focussed on this. And they're doing a fantastic job in terms of dealing with this issue. And the last thing I'm going to do is provide gratuitous commentary for them in respect of how they're handling it. But this is a really tough issue and I do think the Queensland government are handling it well.

ABO: I don't know that it's about ongoing commentary, I mean, this is real grief that families are feeling Peter, isn’t it?

PETER DUTTON, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Look Sarah, I think it is above politics. But Queenslanders have felt this brewing for a long time. This is not an incident that has come out of the blue. There's been years of stolen cars and criminal activity in Townsville, in other communities- a lady stabbed to death in North Lakes not too long ago. People are really edgy about the whole phenomena of people, kids, breaking into your house, stealing keys, taking the car, and it was a matter of time before we saw another accident of this nature. And I think people are really shocked on the one hand, but you know, this was inevitable. And it needs to change. It's a parenting issue. There's obviously an issue with the judiciary here in Queensland. The laws need to be tightened. There needs to be more community services support. It's a whole of government issue and unfortunately, it's got away from them up here at the moment.

ABO: Yeah, we can't really have people living in fear either. Well, a lot has happened this week. Millions of Australians have been hit with another massive interest rate hike this week. This is costing people tens of thousands of dollars a year. Richard, has the RBA board completely lost touch with Aussies?

MARLES: Obviously the Reserve Bank Board makes its decision independently of government. I think the inflationary environment that we're in and what that's doing in terms of interest rates is having a really big impact on families and businesses. And we're really mindful of that. From the government's point of view, and what we control, that's why we've been really focussed on cost of living measures really since we came to government this time last year. That was at the heart of the Budget that we handed down last October. It will be very central to the Budget that we hand down next week. This is tough. But what we're going to be doing is focussing on the cost of living in next week's Budget and obviously making sure that the Budget that we hand down doesn't contribute to inflation. And that's a central part of the fiscal responsibility that we will bring to bear in what we announce next Tuesday.

ABO: Yeah, as Aussies feel the pinch, certainly the banks aren't. The NAB posting an almost $4 billion profit. We don't want to see our banks fail but it's a bitter pill to swallow.

DUTTON: It is. I guess the point about the Reserve Bank is that the Reserve Bank is the messenger, they're not the creator of inflation and I think we should bear that in mind. Yes, there's an issue with Ukraine and what's happening there. And all of that international factor. But for Australia, we have got the highest level of inflation compared to other G7 nations. That's nothing to do with international factors. It's all to do with government policies and the policies have been driving up interest rates and the Reserve Bank has an obligation to deal with that. In relation to the banks, I just wish that they would increase their deposit rates and do it as quickly as they increase the mortgage rates. I think people would see it as a bit more of a genuine approach.

ABO: The big four, are you listening? All eyes, Richard, next week will be on your colleague, Mr Chalmers, as he reveals a $112 billion debt bomb in next Tuesday's budget. Gee, that's tough. How bad is it going to be?

MARLES: Well, I think this is one of the pressures on the Budget that we wish wasn't there. And Peter talks about the specifics of the Australian circumstance, one of them is that we, as a government, inherited a trillion dollars of debt from the former government which for all their rhetoric, was a big spending, high-taxing government which lacked discipline when it came to the management of the Budget such that we've now got a trillion dollars of debt and with very little to show for it. What that means in terms of framing a Budget is that we're faced with $112 billion interest bill over the next five years, just to service that debt. And that's one of the real pressures that we have, which we wish wasn't there, but it is there and we have to work with it.

ABO: Peter, is this your government's fault?

DUTTON: Well, I mean, the last thing you want to do is trust a Labor politician when he's talking about debt. The fact is that when we came into government, the trajectory of the debt was $667 billion. That's what Labor had done. We got the budget back into balance. And then COVID hit. We spent $343 billion through JobKeeper, keeping people in the jobs, keeping businesses afloat. Labor supported every dollar of that spend and they proposed another $81 billion of spending. So it's a bit rich now for Richard to go out there and say when spending is going up under this Budget, there will be more debt and more taxes that Australians will pay as a result of this Budget. To hear Richard say that they inherited this debt, it is a complete nonsense argument and I think most Australians can see through it.

ABO: But this is an issue that keeps dogging the Liberal Party across the country, you are imploding, Victoria being the latest example, Moira Deeming now going after the leader of the Liberal Party. What is going on, you're eating your own?

DUTTON: They need to sort their mess out and they are up against a corrupt government in Victoria that is way past its used by date-

ABO: But the focus isn't on them that is the thing.

DUTTON: This is the thing, the focus should be on the Labor Party in Victoria because when you speak to Victorians, they have had a gutful of Daniel Andrews. There is a huge whiff around the whole government down there. And I think there are lots of issues and I think the Liberal Party needs to get their act together down there and keep the pressure on the government. 

ABO: Yeah, because at the moment it is just pressure on themselves. We're in Brisbane of course, you are here, are you going to get to a league game?

DUTTON: I'm not. I went to the Dolphins game the weekend before last. But I probably will watch it on TV, Sarah.

ABO: Oh, come off it.

DUTTON: More comfortable at home. I'm sure it's sold out. It will be a great weekend. Great for Brisbane. And good that people travel.

ABO: Great. I know you're not interested in the NRL Richard, so we will leave it there. Thanks so much for joining us guys.

MARLES: Thank you.


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