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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28 July 2023

SUBJECTS: Cost of living; AUKUS; Housing Australia Future Fund.

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles joins us now from Brissie. Richard, good morning to you. You clearly haven't made any progress on power prices. You can't promise what you can't deliver. Are you sorry for making that promise?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: Well, we've been working really closely on the question of cost of living, and specifically power prices. I mean, Karl, at the end of last year, we put through a package in the Parliament which has seen a significant impact in terms of putting downward pressure on power prices. Obviously, this happens in the context of a global environment where we are seeing inflation, but had we not done what we did in December, power prices would be higher. And we did that in the face of opposition from the Liberals. Now, we get the pressure that Australians are under, we get the pressure that Australian businesses are under. And this is a very difficult time. It's why everything we are doing each and every day is about trying to ease the burden on the cost of living.

STEFANOVIC: One in ten can't pay their power bill. I mean, this is a serious letdown.

MARLES: The pressures that Australians are facing right now are profound and we understand that. And we have seen an inflationary environment around the world from which Australia is not immune. We've seen energy markets around the world which have been disrupted by the war in Ukraine and Australia is not immune. But we are acting on this – $1.5 billion package through the Parliament last year to cap wholesale prices in energy. And we did that in the face of opposition from the Liberals, who said that intervening in the market in this way was a terrible thing. That has made a difference. Sure, power prices are what they are and we absolutely get the pressure that is being placed upon Australian household budgets. They would have been higher but for what we did, and we will continue to work on that, or affordable childcare, cheaper medicines. We are very focused on cost of living.

STEFANOVIC: A lot of work to be done. Okay. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has touched down in Brissy ahead of some very high level talks, defence talks, obviously. Is AUKUS still on track? Do you actually have any control over it?

MARLES: AUKUS is absolutely on track and we're doing a power of work, obviously, in Australia, but we're working very closely with the United States and, of course, Britain to make this happen. There is legislation going through the United States Congress that is a process which involves a whole lot of colour and movement that we were expecting. To be honest, we are encouraged by the speed with which the legislation is progressing through the United States Congress and you're going to see the sorts of issues and commentary and statements that are being made from members of Congress when legislation like this passes through. But it's on track. There is an absolute commitment from the Biden administration to work with us in order to have Australia acquire a nuclear-powered submarine capability. This is something which is going to play out, not just over the course of months, but over the course of decades. And we are working really closely with the United States in the next two days is going to be a really good opportunity to talk about all that.

STEFANOVIC: All right, sure enough. Your other major drama at the moment is the housing bill. You've got absolutely no hope of getting this up, do you? I mean, the Greens just – they don't want cheaper housing, clearly. They're hopeless. I can't believe people vote for them, but God knows. You are threatening a double disillusion. You don't have the guts for that, do you?

MARLES: Well, it's not about elections. Well, what it is about, actually, is following through on the commitments that we made at the last election for which we received a mandate. I mean, anybody who is out there now trying to get a rental property or buy a property, who understands that there's not a lot of properties there to get, but also the prices of them are going up, knows that this is a question of supply –

STEFANOVIC: But you're not going to double dissolution though? That's an empty threat.

MARLES: We're not. It's not about that. It's about actually trying to get houses into the housing market. This is not about elections. We had a policy at the last election for which we received a mandate. This is a policy that would make a difference. 30,000 new social and affordable housing units into the market that would make a material difference to the supply and to the cost of housing. And all we want to do is see that happen. And this will give the Greens and the Liberals an opportunity to come to their senses and actually do the sensible, pragmatic thing for the Australian people to see these houses –

STEFANOVIC: It's never going to happen. It's never going to happen. You know that. It's wishful thinking.

MARLES: well, that's a matter for the Libs and the Greens at the end of the day. I mean, they're the ones who have gone into this alliance to stop it from happening. But what Australians know is that from their government, they will get a government which keeps trying each and every day. And that's why we're going to reintroduce the legislation.

STEFANOVIC: Good on you. Well done for the big military announcement for Geelong in the past week. Like you, I love the smell of abgas in the morning. Thank you, Richard. Talk to you soon.



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