Interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News First Edition

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The Hon Matt Thistlethwaite MP

Assistant Minister for Defence

Assistant Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

Assistant Minister for the Republic

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Ben Leeson on 0404 648 275

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13 July 2023

SUBJECTS: New military and humanitarian assistance package for Ukraine, NATO Summit, housing supply, Housing Australia Future Fund.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Back to our top story now, more military assistance being provided from Australia to Ukraine. Joining us live now, the Assistant Defence Minister, Matt Thistlethwaite. Matt, good to see you. Thanks for your time. So, the Bushmasters, another 30 of them, when will they be on the ground?

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: As soon as possible. It brings the total commitment now of 110 Bushmasters. And that comes on the top of the extra support that was announced by the Prime Minister a couple of weeks ago. About 80 M113 heavy armour vehicles, trucks and trailers, the additional artillery that's been supplied by Australia, and as well as the $10 million worth of humanitarian support. So, the Prime Minister reiterated that Australia is in this for the long term and whatever it takes to ensure that Ukraine wins this important war, Australia will be there with them.

STEFANOVIC: It's almost a billion dollars now as a total contribution that we are providing. How much more have we got available to give?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yeah, that's an important question and in all of these decisions, we make sure that we consult with the Chief of the Defence Force to make sure that we can balance the commitments that we have to defend our nation in the case of a worst case scenario. So, it's about getting the balance right and it's about how quickly you can manufacture these vehicles. They're generally existing stock that are sent to Ukraine, but we obviously need to replace that. So, with Bushmasters, they're manufactured right here in Australia, in Bendigo. So, it's a matter of how quickly we can roll them off the production line and get them into the arms of the ADF and then send other vehicles over to Ukraine.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah, I mean, is there a ceiling to this though? Are there concerns within the industry about what we have to keep for ourselves?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, at every stage we make sure that we consult with the Chief of the Defence Force that they provide the advice about what is appropriate and what the right balance is. And the rest assured that Australia will make sure as a government that we have the ability to defend our nation in case of worst case scenario. So, it's about getting that balance right.

STEFANOVIC: Okay. Closer to home now, Matt, both the NAB boss and the RBA Governor yesterday warning more housing is going to be needed to combat higher migration. Do you accept not enough is being done to address the crisis?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, I accept that we need more housing. They're right about that and that's why the government wants to get on with building that housing. We went to the last election with a policy to implement a Housing Future Fund. It's a $10 billion fund devoted solely to building 30,000 new social and affordable housing properties. And we can't get that legislation through the Parliament because it's being blocked by the Greens and the Coalition. So, they should heed the warnings of the NAB boss and the RBA boss and get on with passing this legislation so we can start building that housing.

STEFANOVIC: But is that it, though? I mean, the Coalition has concerns about it being a Ponzi scheme. It's a big gamble. So, I mean, even though it gets knocked back by the Greens and the Coalition, can't you move towards another direction and get housing going along with the states?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, we are. We announced $2 billion worth of funding that will go directly to the states that was announced in the budget and that will ensure that they can get on with building that housing as quickly as possible. I don't accept that the Housing Future Fund will not work because we know that the Future Fund works. That covers the government's superannuation liabilities, and it works very well. It's got a prudent approach to investment.

STEFANOVIC: Nothing for the now, though. Returns nothing for the now, though. It would take a long time to get going.

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, that's why we announced the $2 billion funding immediately that will ensure that the states can build housing as quickly as possible.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, so many people, more than 700,000 migrants is the figure over two years that are coming in. They're obviously going to need somewhere to live. So, if they're priced out of either renting or buying, where are they going to go?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, we need more supply and that's why we've made that announcement about that immediate funding. But longer term, we want the Housing Future Fund to be there to build more housing. It also comes on top of other support that we've announced with the increase in rent assistance for the most vulnerable Australians. And you're starting to see state government now also encourage more housing development. So, in NSW, the Premier Chris Minns, recently announced that there'll be a bonus for developers of additional floor space if they can develop affordable housing. So, we know we need to do a lot more and that's why we're working with the state. That's why we're trying to get the Housing Future Fund through as quickly as possible so we can do more, we can build that additional housing and that additional supply that's needed.

STEFANOVIC: Matt Thistlethwaite, we'll leave it there. Thanks for your time. Talk to you soon.



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