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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12 May 2023

SUBJECTS: Budget 2023-24; Migration; Mother’s Day.

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Well, a whirlwind budget week in Canberra, plenty to get into. Let's get to it. Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles in Geelong and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton in Canberra. Morning, gents. Nice to see you this morning. To you, Richard, on a gorgeous day in Geelong. The Reserve Bank says we are an 80% chance of recession. The RBA just killed your vibe.

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, look, we understand the pressures that are out there and we understand the pressures that are on household budgets. And that's why, obviously, our budget was very focused on providing relief for cost of living for middle Australia. And that's really the heart of the budget and also making sure that the budget was one which did not give rise to any inflationary impact on our economy. So, we're focused on what we can do here and our budget is very much about that.

STEFANOVIC: But it's actually a serious concern, the RBA saying this. The budget forecasts, maybe they're way too glossy?

MARLES: Well, I think the budget is completely realistic in its forecast. But we get that there are pressures out there in the economy, which is why we are so focused on making sure that we do have measures in place that deal with the cost of living pressures on –

STEFANOVIC: So, you're not worried about recession?

MARLES: We are completely focused on all the pressures that are out there on the economy. At no point have we been sanguine about the economic environment that we've faced, nor the legacy that we've inherited from the former government in terms of the mess that the budget's been in. But we are focused on a budget which is providing cost of living relief and we're also focused on a budget which is there focused on employment and getting our manufacturing and our industry going. So, we are doing everything we can in that respect.

STEFANOVIC: Pete, you banged on and on about the budget being inflationary, then you said yes to everything. It can't be that bad?

PETER DUTTON, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Look, Karl, a couple of points. Firstly, this nonsense of Labor inheriting a bad budget. Unemployment was at a 50 year low. Interest rates at that time had a one in front of them. And the Government's not been in twelve months, they've delivered a surplus for this year. So, they can thank the economic management of the last government. But as they predict in these budget figures, the further you get away from coalition management, the harder it gets for families. And I think there is a whole class of working poor Australians at the moment, people who are working their guts out and just can't afford the bills. And the problem is not the Ukraine and that's not our inflation problem in Australia. We know that Australia has a higher core inflation rate than every G7 nation. So, the problem is here in Australia and the Government's made decisions over the course of the last twelve months. They're impacting families in a very negative way. A lot of businesses as well.

STEFANOVIC: Pete, you can’t come out and say that the budget is inflationary and then back everything.

DUTTON: Well, when you look at what we've backed we've provided support for low income people who are on fixed incomes at a time when the Government has an energy policy that will see your power bill go up by another $500 this year. So, it's not going to change overnight and it's not going to change with my budget in reply speech on one occasion when the Government's not twelve months in. This is a problem that they started last October with their first budget. They didn't have a plan. And they're now proposing, Karl, to bring in a million and a half people to have a greater inflationary impact in our country. They haven't planned for it.

STEFANOVIC: I'll come back to that in a second. But Richard, Pete did have a good idea about people being allowed to earn a bit more while receiving the doll. Are you up for that?

MARLES: We've put in place a whole lot of measures which provide assistance for people on newstart – on JobSeeker, I should say. And that's the focus of what we're doing and that's going to make a huge beneficial impact for people in that circumstance. And we have been focused on our most vulnerable as well, thinking about not just those on JobSeeker, and not just those on JobSeeker who are older over the age of 55, but also single mums. So, we've got a pretty comprehensive package about addressing our most vulnerable within our budget. And as a Labor Government, you know that we're always going to be focused on our most vulnerable. But can I just say, over the last two budgets we've had significant revenue upgrades in what the country has been receiving. We have banked 87% of them in the last two budgets. And that's why we're in a position now where we're able to forecast a surplus in this financial year, a year in which we have governed for the entirety of it. Now, if we'd not banked those revenue upgrades, and the coalition never did any of this, we would not be looking at a surplus now. When they got extra money, they spent it. When we've got extra money, we've saved it.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Peter, you say you're worried about migration, so what would you do, close the door? What's your figure?

DUTTON: Not at all, Karl. I mean, we've got a great country because we've settled people from all over the world, but we've done it in a managed way in the middle of a housing crisis, a rental crisis. I mean, you carry stories every other day about families who can't find rental accommodation. You can't buy a house at an auction. It's tough. And the Government is proposing to bring in, over a five year period, 1.5 million people. Bigger than the population of Adelaide.

STEFANOVIC: So, what's your figure?

DUTTON: Well our figure would be, as we were in government and as was the long-run average for the NOM, to be around 160, 180 thousand people. And that was what worked well in the Howard years. It's what worked well in the Rudd-Gillard years. It's what worked well under Scott Morrison. And I think we had a proper planning arrangement in place. We also didn't have the housing crisis that we have today. People are sitting in congestion on their way to work every day when they pick their kids up from school. I just don't know, if we're being honest, where will people live if you're bringing another million and a half people in over the course of just a five year period?

STEFANOVIC: I asked that question about a month ago to you, Richard. So, where are they going to be housed and how is it not inflationary in terms of those costs?

MARLES: Okay. Karl, if we're being honest, this is the height of hypocrisy. I mean, the answer to the question about what the numbers were under the former government, in the 2019 budget they were predicting the population of Australia today would be 27 million. In fact, under us, it's 26.4. They were proposing that there'd be a bigger Australia than what we face now. There is a spike in migration in the aftermath of the pandemic because as we've got people coming into the country, the outflows have not settled yet, but that will settle in time. But Peter should be honest about the fact that they were planning for a bigger Australia than what this government is delivering now. And if you want to talk about housing, we've got the Housing Australia Future Fund which is going to establish 30,000 new houses for more affordable and social housing. And right now that is being blocked by Peter and the Greens. The Liberals and the Greens are teaming up to block our measures.

STEFANOVIC: All right, we've got to roll on. Guys, it is Mother's Day this Sunday, so this is a chance for you both to offer the softer side of yourselves. To show the nation that you do have a heart. Pete, how will you celebrate?

DUTTON: Well, Karl I just want to confirm first that I do have a mother. I wasn't born in a test tube. Just to preempt what Richard might say. I have the most beautiful mother who has always doted on all of us. She's got the love and adoration of all of her grandchildren, which is her life now, and she's always done everything for me from the day I was born, and I'll be forever grateful and I love her very much.

STEFANOVIC: Oh, beautifully said. Richard.

MARLES: Oh, there you go. Well, I'll be thinking about my mum as well. So, Mum's in a nursing home in Melbourne and my sister and I will be very focused on her. And, of course, my children's mother, Rachel. It'll be very much the festival of Rachel this Sunday. I think there'll be croissants and coffee in bed while I will be subjected to lots of Gilmore Girls and reruns of MAFS.

STEFANOVIC: A little bit of romance perhaps, Richard?

MARLES: I will keep that to myself.

STEFANOVIC: Thank you, guys. Have a great weekend and happy Mother's Day. Appreciate it.


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