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 July 2023

SARAH ABO, HOST: Well the Reserve Bank is once again under pressure to hike our interest rate after a bumper month of jobs growth put Australia's unemployment rate at 3.5%. To discuss this and more, we're joined by Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles and Liberal Senator Jane Hume. Thank you both for your time. Richard, let's start with you. These jobs figures, are they strong enough, do you reckon, a reason for another hike?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, I'll leave that decision to the Reserve Bank and obviously that's done independently of government. But what it does show is that the Government's strategy to focus on employment, to make sure that there are not only jobs out there in the economy, but well-paying jobs, is paying off. And from the moment that we've come to office we've been trying to get wages going and we've been trying to get employment going again and that's something that we've been able to achieve. And the fact that we've got really healthy jobs numbers, but not just that, strong wages growth as well, is a wonderful thing for those who are in employment.

ABO: Yeah, and I guess it's balancing that wages growth with inflation. Jane, the ANZ and Commonwealth Bank are predicting one final rate hike next month before cuts beginning in 2024, which seems like a long way off in this cost of living crisis. What do you reckon?

JANE HUME, LIBERAL SENATOR: That certainly does seem to be the direction that the economists are moving because, of course, those wage pressures that come from full employment, it's only 3.5%, are actually potentially making inflation worse, so the wage price spiral. Wages certainly are growing, but they're not growing enough because inflation is still so high. So real wages are still low. That's why people feel like even when they get a wage rise that they're still going backwards. The cost of living is the number one issue right now. The only way you can get the cost of living under control is to get inflation under control. We want to see more being done by the Government to get its spending ambitions under control so that the RBA doesn't have to keep doing all the heavy lifting by ratcheting up interest rates.

ABO: I mean, there are obviously a number of factors that are leading to that. I just want to go to this: Jim Chalmers has handed down a long-awaited report today which is meant to show us Australia's national wellbeing. But the problem is, all the data is old. Richard, this wellbeing budget is using data from – Karl doesn't quite follow this idea of wellbeing, but let's just park that for a sec – because regardless of whether it matters or not, it's using data from 2017, I think 2020 as well. How is that an accurate representation of Australia today, Richard?

MARLES: Well, this is just the start of a process, Sarah, in terms of trying to look at ways in which we can have a more textured, more sophisticated view of the way the economy is playing into the health of the nation. And so this is just the start of the process. The answer to your question about what is a wellbeing budget, I mean, we look at things like economic growth, like inflation, like jobs numbers. They're obviously really important. But there are other indicators out there which speak to the way in which the economy is shaping our country and the way life is led within our country. And what we want to do is think about those indicators and look at whether there are different ways or more enhanced ways of measuring the impact of the economy on Australian society. This is just the start of the process. There's a long way to go. So it's not about using data from years ago. It's actually thinking about ways in which we can use data going forward and in the future, which give us a better sense of the way the economy works in terms of the way our lives are lived within our country.

ABO: Richard, all this talk of data and indicators, how's your wellbeing at the moment?

MARLES: How’s my wellbeing? Well, the Cats are back in town, so I'm feeling pretty good about how things are going.

HUME: I don't know whether the AFL ladder is actually on your list of wellbeing indicators, Richard.

MARLES: In Geelong, it definitely is. That will be part of the way in which we measure our budget, is how the Cats are playing. There's no doubt about that.

ABO: All right. I mean, Jane, in all seriousness, obviously a lot has happened in the past few years, including a pandemic which has impacted all of our wellbeing. So, what is the point of this report? Do you feel like it's a bit of a waste of time?

HUME: Well, I do think it's an excuse to look at anything other than what's important to Australians, which of course, is their hip pocket. That, as I said, the cost of living is the number one issue. And it should be the number one issue for the Government too, bringing down that cost of living. Because, let's face it, the Government's responsibility is to improve your standard of living overall. And the only way you can do that is to put more money into people's pockets, of their own money.

ABO: Okay. Well, the Gold Coast has stepped up with a bid to save the Commonwealth Games after Dan Andrews' shock decision to cancel Victoria's bid. Richard, this backflip will directly impact your electorate. The people of Geelong were counting on it to boost jobs, the economy. A lot of businesses had already started preparing, now they've been left in the lurch. And the Premier says he makes no apologies for the decision. When were you told about the cancellation?

MARLES: Well, I found out about the cancellation the day that it was made public. So just a few days ago.

ABO: That hurts.

MARLES: I mean, obviously the decision is disappointing. And I'd say that from the point of view of being the Member for Corio, which is really the member for Geelong. Geelong was going to host the closing ceremony along with a number of other sports, including the swimming. Look, this is a decision for Victoria. We respect that decision and we understand it. I suppose, as the Member representing Geelong, what now matters to me is that the commitments that the State Government have made to build the infrastructure that they were promising in Geelong, which includes a new swimming centre, is followed through on. And certainly they have indicated they'll do that. They've said that to me personally, but they've made that public. And I think it's about working with the Victorian Government now to make sure that they follow through on those promises.

ABO: We do feel for those people left in the lurch. And just very quickly, if the Matildas win the World Cup, Richard, can you promise us a day off? A national holiday? Maybe I'm speaking too soon.

MARLES: That's certainly what the Prime Minister is seeking, and I reckon that makes sense. We always remember what Bob Hawke said after we won the Americas Cup. So, I think the same “bum” principle applies if the Matildas win the World Cup. And after last night, we're feeling pretty hopeful. Look, I think the big thing is having 75,000 people watching the Matildas opening game just says everything about where women's football is at, but where women's sport is at. It was only a few years ago that we saw similar numbers turning up at the MCG for the final of the Women's World Cup in the cricket. And I just think this is going to be a fantastic spectacle across the country and can't wait for more of it.

ABO: Bipartisan support, Jane, for a national holiday from you?

HUME: I don't know about the national holiday, but I think we can all get behind the Matildas.

ABO: Absolutely. All right, thank you so much for your time. Appreciate it, guys.


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