Television Interview, 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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22 April 2024

SUBJECTS: Nuclear energy; Polling; Defence expenditure. 

KENNY HEATLEY, HOST: Energy Minister Chris Bowen is calling Mr Dutton a liar and demanding he disclose cost estimates within the next few weeks. Joining me live is Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes and Assistant Defence Minister Matt Thistlethwaite. Good to see you both. First to you, Hollie. Do you have any updates for us this morning on when the nuclear plans will be revealed?

HOLLIE HUGHES, LIBERAL SENATOR FOR NSW: Well, it's a pretty big call there for Chris Bowen to come out calling Peter Dutton a liar when at no stage did they admit the lies that they told over the changes to the stage three tax cuts. I mean, this Government is just absolutely the definition of hypocritical. As Mr Dutton said, particularly for those of us here in Sydney, we have been hit with two absolutely tragic events in the last eight days and that there has been a change in priorities and what needed to be discussed. And in regards to the reporting about where the nuclear sites would be proposed, I think what you're seeing is very good local members making sure that they're putting forward their case so that if their area was to gain a nuclear power facility that there would be extra jobs, there would be extra investment when it comes to infrastructure and all of the things that go around those sorts of decisions. So, I think this might be just a little bit grasping at straws from Chris Bowen, but it's good to see that he's focused on something else other than destroying our economy via his race to renewables.

HEATLEY: Matt, how important is it for the Coalition to release its plans on nuclear energy ahead of the May Budget? Energy Minister Chris Bowen seems to think it's pretty important.

MATT THISTLETHWAITE, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE: Yeah, Kenny, the Opposition Leader gave a commitment and if he can't deliver on that commitment, then he can't be trusted. This is their signature policy. They've been proving this policy for about twelve months now and the Australian people have the right to know what this policy is all about, particularly where the Coalition are planning to situate these nuclear power plants. What I suspect has happened here is that some of the MP's involved have started to say, well, hang on a sec, I don't want one of these in my electorate. I know that David Littleproud said a few months ago he'd be happy to have one in his electorate. He's starting to crab walk away from that now. I suspect that he's had some emails from some of his constituents who said, well, if you put a power plant in our electorate, David, it's sayonara, mate! We'll see you later on. And they're starting to walk away from it. I think the Australian people at the end of the day, have the right to know what the policy is. And if they can't deliver that, then they can't be trusted.

HEATLEY: Hollie, is that what we've got here? A division between the -

HUGHES: (interjecting) Hypocrisy is thy name, Matt. Hypocrisy is thy name. Matt, you went to an election with a pledge for $275 to come off power bills, over 100 times committed to by now Prime Minister Albanese. He promised, along with many of your Cabinet colleagues, that there would be no changes to the stage three tax cut cuts, that Albanese had a clear plan for cheaper mortgages. How many lies can this Labor Government tell? We are not the Government, Matt, you are. May Budget is not an election date. The policies will be out before the election. But how you can even say that with a straight face, with the number of lies told by Albanese both before the election and since.

HEATLEY: Can I just cut in there because I just want to get to the news poll stuff. Matt a fall for support for Labor in Resolve and steady in Newspoll. Roughly, what does this say about the Defence announcement that we had last week?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, I think the Defence announcement last week demonstrates the Government's commitment to keeping Australians safe. It's a $50 billion increase in Defence expenditure, taking Defence expenditure to 2.4% of GDP. The great new capability that will come online, particularly in the nuclear propelled submarine space, as well as the new surface combatant fleet and some great capability around long-range fires. So, this is all delivering on the recommendations of the Defence Strategic Review. But we always say that in the course of an election cycle, Kenny, polls will go up, polls will go down. What's important is the policy offerings at the end of the day of the two major parties when it comes to an election campaign and Labor's focus has been on cost of living relief, on renewable energy, on additional Defence spending. I still don't know what the Coalition's cost of living policies are, perhaps Hollie can tell us today, but I think it's the comparison of the policy offerings that's important when we get closer to an election.

HEATLEY: Okay, Hollie, we've got 30 seconds. Just a quick response from you before we go.

HUGHES: Well, we've got 57,000 people more unemployed than we had last year. We're now seeing record number of business closures. This is all being put back to Albanese on the fact that energy costs are spiralling out of control. I can tell you what the Coalition will do. We'll ensure that business has surety when it comes to what it means to employ a casual. When we won't allow union officials to do as much union work as any other work on a mine site and will give businesses the ability to get back doing what they do best rather than dealing with more and more red tape put in place and in front of them by this Government.

HEATLEY: Better leave it there. Hollie Hughes and Matt Thistlethwaite, thanks so much for your time this morning. Have a great day.



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