Television Interview, Today Show

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

Media contact

02 6277 7800

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10 November 2023

SUBJECTS: Optus; Cost of living; Fuel Excise; PNG NRL team; the Prime Minister at Pacific Island Forum

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let's bring in Acting Prime Minister, Richard Marles in Geelong and Opposition Leader, Peter Dutton in Brissie. Morning guys, nice to see you. Richard to you first up, a 100 buck gigabyte voucher from Optus. Whatever that is. I mean, what a joke.

ACTING PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: Well, I think Optus really needs to make clear to the- well, to its customers exactly what happened here. We saw customers lose service, in some cases for up to 14 hours. That obviously had a really big impact on their businesses, on their ability to stay connected. From the government point of, we were obviously very concerned about keeping Australians safe, so the 000 service, we're working very hard to make sure that that stayed in place. But landline customers for Optus, for example, were not able to access that. It's why Optus really does need to explain what has happened here, and it's obviously why we've undertaken a review, so that we can learn the lessons of this, not just for Opus, but in fact for all telecommunications.

STEFANOVIC: Do you know how many government contracts they have? Federal government contracts?

MARLES: No, I don't have that information-

STEFANOVIC; Okay, unfair question, but would you be reviewing that now?

MARLES: What we want to understand is exactly what happened here and make sure that lessons are learnt. I mean, the critical thing here for all Optus customers is that they get a satisfaction around the question of what occurred. Obviously, there'll be issues around compensation, and as the telecommunication industry Ombudsman has said, people should keep their receipts. And no doubt that's exactly what Optus customers will be doing right now. But we've got to learn the lessons from this, which is why we're undertaking the review that we are.

STEFANOVIC: Peter, we probably need tighter regulation.

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION, PETER DUTTON:  Well, Karl, I respect what Richard said, but it's pretty cold comfort for particularly a lot of small businesses, cafes and others who couldn't transact without that tap and go service which relies on wireless or their broadband connection. And I just think that the level on which we rely now on a connected society on these services being up to scratch is phenomenal, and the government needs to work harder. And this is not the first breach on their watch. And people have their data held by Optus. They have a reliability question in their minds now about the service being provided by Optus. And I think they've got a lot of repair work to do.

STEFANOVIC: That's for sure. Richard, the RBA has introduced their 13th rate hike. I know it's not all your fault, but I think Australians are starting to feel you're letting them down badly. You're failing them on cost of living pressure.

MARLES: Well, cost of living has obviously been the focus of what the government has been about since we've come to power, because we understand the pressure that this is placing on Australian household budgets, on businesses. That is why, last week, for example, we saw the tripling of the bulk billing incentive come into force- that's the biggest investment in bulk billing in Medicare's history. That's about making it cheaper to go and see a doctor. But be it cheaper medicines, more affordable childcare, fee free tape, putting downward pressure on energy bills, that’s what we’ve been doing-

Speaker A: Richard, I get it. I know, but every time you're asked about this, anyone in your government, the same lines come out. I feel like you don't get it, that you don't get the pressure that Australian households are under right now.

MARLES: Of course we understand the pressure. I mean, this is having an enormous impact. And it's why we've taken those measures. It's also why we wanted to make sure that in terms of managing the budget, we're not contributing to the inflationary environment, which is why we've done something, Karl, the Liberals never did, and that's deliver a budget surplus. But to be clear, this is a situation which is existing around the world. It began under the former government. We know that the biggest increase in inflation occurred when the Liberals were in power, which is simply to say that Australia is not immune from this. The Liberals weren't immune from it. What the government needs to do and what we've been focused on is putting in place measures which help and making sure that the fiscal management of the country, the budget management, isn't contributing to that, that’s what we’re doing.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, Pete, the fuel excise, would you cut that again?

DUTTON: Well, Karl, just a couple of points on cost of living. I think it's unbelievable that the government can now tell you that their highest priority has been cost of living when for the last 18 months, the Prime Minister has been solely focused and completely absorbed by the voice. And they've made decisions in two budgets now which have made it harder for families, driven up inflation, and as we see in Australia now, we've got the worst real wage growth in the country. In fact, people are going backwards under this government. The Prime Minister just doesn't get it because he's never here. In relation to fuel excise, we did halve the rate of fuel excise, but only for a temporary period of time for six months. It came at a cost of $3 billion, so it's very expensive to do it, but it does provide a lot of instant relief to people who at the moment are paying the cash rate- the Reserve Bnnk cash rate is 4.35. It was 0.35 when Labor came into power-

STEFANOVIC: If we're not getting the infrastructure spending benefits of that, is that a yes or no from Richard- to you, Richard, on cutting the fuel excise, are you going to do that or not?

MARLES: We don't have plans to do that. And as Peter just said, it is very expensive. The former government did it briefly. We are focused on measures which are longstanding and make a difference.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, a couple of quick ones. Richard, you're backing an NRL side, it seems, this morning in Papua New Guinea. I just wanted to know, is that all PNG wants to say no to China, or is there a little bit more on the shopping list?

MARLES: Well, we're doing a whole lot in the Pacific, let me say that. And the Prime Minister being at the Pacific Island Forum right now. I mean, Peter makes a cheap shot about him being overseas, but our national security in so many ways lies in the Pacific, a fact that the former government completely missed. I mean, rather than focusing on our national security in the Pacific-

STEFANOVIC: What about the shopping list?

MARLES: Making fun of people in the Pacific. Well, there's a whole lot of measures that we're doing in terms of cooperation in defence with PNG, for example, which is really significant. But let me say, a PNG team in the NRL will be as big a thing as we do in terms of transforming our bilateral relationship with Papua New Guinea. Having gone there many, many times, I can tell you they are rugby league mad. The three biggest days in PNG- it's quite a religious country, so it's not Christmas or Easter- it is the State of Origin between New South Wales and Queensland, you know, there is no one on the streets because they're watching that. And it is hard to state how excited it will be for Papua New Guinea to see the Kumul jersey running out in the NRL. So, we are very keen to watch.

STEFANOVIC: Beautifully cheap way of rebuffing China as well, you a conniving person, you. Hey, Pete, before we go, look, we saw Albo on the world stage last night. There are a couple of things you don't do. I think this is one of them… There we go. And we got… I think this was the next song… There he goes. All right. Promise me, promise me you two will never. Pete, your first up on Albo’s dancing style.

DUTTON: Richard and I in our contracts with the Today Show, no singing, no dancing. It'll never happen. You've got to wear the shirts. We've all worn the shirts and even done karaoke, but fortunately there's never been footage of that, so good luck for the.

STEFANOVIC: It exists.

MARLES: I've can’t see the vision, but I have seen this movie before-

STEFANOVIC: You can't see it.

MARLES: And when there's a dance floor and a camera, you get to the other side of it.

STEFANOVIC: You can't see it, but you can feel it. Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.



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