2 February 2024
KIERAN GILBERT, HOST: Let's go live to the Assistant Defence Minister, Matt Thistlethwaite, who joins us now. The quite extraordinary intervention by the Queensland Premier on interest rates, the Treasurer seems, Jim Chalmers, seems quite sanguine about it, but is it responsible to be saying that sort of thing ahead of the RBA's first meeting of the year, whether it be a Federal or State leader?
MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Well, interest rates are obviously determined independent of government, Kieran. And obviously Premiers and leaders throughout the country are in touch with their constituencies and they know that people have been struggling with cost of living and they do want to see some relief. Obviously, that will be up to the Reserve Bank and they’ll make a decision. The positive thing is that it appears that the government's policies are working, but we know we’ve got more work to do. Inflation has fallen recently to 4.1%. That was ahead of what was projected for a fall. And the government is now instituting some serious tax cuts that will benefit 13 and a half million Australians from 1 July this year. So, you couple that with all of the other policies that we've put in place, cheaper childcare, cheaper medicines, energy rebates, the changes to Medicare, and it appears that our policies are working, but we know that there's more work to do.
GILBERT: How has the tax back flip, there's been a lot of politics, understandably, and next week parliament returns. I think it's going to be quite a fiery parliamentary sitting, it's fair to predict that. How's it been received in your electorate? Has there been any blowback on the broken promise?
ASSISTANT MINISTER: It's overwhelmingly been positive in my electorate, Kieran. I've had a look at the statistics and about 78,000 of my constituents are going to be better off because of these tax cuts, and that's a substantial amount of relief for people. So, someone who's on about $100,000 a year gets just over $2,000 as a tax cut on an annual basis. And given that I've got an electorate where house prices are quite high, if you’ve got a mortgage they tend to be very big mortgages. It's welcome relief from people that are living in my community, and I've been pleased with the response that we've been getting.
GILBERT: Any mention of the broken promise? Has there been any discussion in relation to that?
ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yeah, we do get emails from people who are disappointed, but I take the view that given the serious and urgent circumstances that cost of living is having for households, that governments just can't stand by and do nothing. And when those original stage three tax cuts were put in place, we had forecast budget surpluses, Covid-19 had never been heard of, inflation was well within the RBA target band and we weren't in a cost of living crisis. The circumstances are very, very much changed and they want a government that listens to the people and can make reforms to policies to ensure the people are better off.
GILBERT: You're the Assistant Defence Minister, as I mentioned when I introduced you, there's this story about a Fijian Colonel accused of human rights abuses that's been appointed Deputy Commander of the Australian Army 7th Brigade. How does the government deal with this? Because obviously Fiji is a crucial partner in the Pacific and you want to foster closer ties. But if you've got such a serious allegation made, how is the ADF responding?
ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yeah, those allegations have been made obviously, Kieran, and the Defence Force is aware of them. There's a discussion that's going on between the Australian Defence Force and the Fijian Defence Force. That discussion will continue. That's basically all I can say at the moment that the allegations have been made and they're being looked at and there's a discussion going on between the respective Defence Forces.
GILBERT: All right, well, we'll leave it there. Assistant Defence Minister Matt Thistlethwaite, talk to you soon