Television interview, Sky News

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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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15 June 2024

SUBJECTS: Opposition’s energy mess; Cost of living relief; Inflation; China relationship; National Defence Strategy; Proposed NSW redistributions.

TIM GILBERT, HOST: Joining me live is Assistant Defence Minister Matt Thistlethwaite. Good morning. Welcome to the program. 


GILBERT: Mr Dutton has rejected the 2030 climate target, but targets cost of living as his priority. Is the government vulnerable to this strategy?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, the number one priority for this government is cost of living and in our three Budgets there's been a big focus on energy bill relief, providing rebates to households so they can reduce their energy costs. Peter Dutton and the Liberals voted against every single one of them. We've got tax cuts beginning on 1 July, the energy rebates, support for students, increases to rent assistance and the like. That's been the number one focus of this government. But Peter Dutton's persisting with a policy of looking at nuclear energy, which we know is the most expensive form of energy that Australians could have. So, he’s voting against energy bill relief and looking at the most expensive form of energy. It doesn't make sense.

GILBERT: I know the RBA make the decisions on rate cuts and you can only do so much as a government. But more needs to be done, doesn't it? Because everyone you talk to, no doubt in your constituency, so many people are struggling, so many people with the smallest things, the smallest things.

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yeah, we realise that and that's why that's been the key focus of this government since we've come to office. It's all been about providing cost of living relief. And all of those measures in the Budget are starting to work because we know that inflation is moderating. So, inflation, when we came to government, had a seven in front of it. Now it's down to the high threes. We've got more work to do, we know that, but we're heading in the right direction. Inflation is moderating and the important thing is, Tim, that Australians are keeping their jobs. We saw the unemployment figures out this week which indicate that Australians are keeping their jobs, but inflation is moderating. So, we're heading in the right path, but there's more work to do.

GILBERT: We're desperate for the interest rates to come down. So, many people, because they were told by the RBA there will be no rate rises. And then bang, bang, bang. There was 12,13 rate rises straight in the road. People are desperate to get them to come down.

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Yeah. And in cities like Sydney, where people have large mortgages, it does impact on household budgets. But interest rates, as you know, are determined independently by the Reserve bank. They've got a policy of trying to get inflation in that two to 3% band, and we're heading towards that. So, the policies are working. There's a little bit more to go, but we're heading in the right direction.

GILBERT: Sophie Scamps, Kate Cheney, Allegra Spender and co pushed back very strongly this week. Does that help the government having that Teal support behind your position?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, I think what it's demonstrating is that the Australian people want action on climate change. That was evident from the results of the last election. They want a steady transition towards more renewables and reducing emissions from fossil fuels. And that's what our policies are all about. We're having that steady transition because we've got a target of net zero by 2030 and 43% by 2030. Now, Peter Dutton's going to abandon that. If you abandon the target, you abandon the transition. And that means that Australians don't get access to the cheapest form of energy, which is renewable energy. And we don't want to go back to the dark old days of the climate wars. We want to make sure that we make that steady transition and we're on that path to renewables, but we do it in a consistent, reliable manner so that all Australians can keep the lights on, but their energy bills reduce over time because renewables are cheaper.

GILBERT: What are the implications of the electoral redistribution in NSW announced yesterday by the AEC? Is there any net gain for either side, do you think?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: I think it's pretty even. Look, the boundaries are determined independently by the Australian Electoral Commission. That's the way it should be. In Australia. We have this principle of one vote, one value, which means that as the population changes, the electoral boundaries have to be redistributed. And although population is increasing in NSW, it's not increasing at the same rate as, say, Western Australia, where Australians have been drawn to WA by the boom in the resources sector and higher incomes. So, that's meant that Victoria and NSW will lose a seat. Those boundaries are determined independently by the AEC. But the important thing is that there are only draught boundaries at this stage and people have the right to object to them for the next three weeks. So, we'll see what those objections look like. It's up to the individual parties and the individual candidates to put those objections in before we get final boundaries.

GILBERT: Groundbreaking visit Chinese Premier Li Qiang in Australia today. What do you make of it? Could we see more trade restrictions lifted?

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, I hope that we will. It's been a policy of this government to try and stabilise the relationship with China, our largest trading partner, because it means jobs for Australians. And we've been successful in having some of those restrictions that were put in place under the previous government on products like beef, like Australian wine removed, and Australian businesses and exporters being able to gain access to those important markets once again. So, hopefully, we'll see further restrictions lifted and the relationship stabilised further.

GILBERT: As Assistant Defence Minister, where are we at with military threats and our strength? A lot of people watching this program this morning would have no idea where we sit.

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, we know we're facing uncertain times, particularly within our region, and that's why the government's released a National Defence Strategy, a ten year blueprint for the investments that we want to make in our Defence Forces, how we want to grow the Defence Force, to ensure that we're capable of defending our nation to meet the challenges of the future. Really, if you sum it up into three words, it's investing in people, in power and in posture. We're going to try and grow the Defence Force, our people, they're our most important asset. We're going to invest in new technology and new capability. For instance, AUKUS, the nuclear propelled submarines are basically a new surface combatant fleet, HIMARS, high mobility aerial rocket systems. We're going to start manufacturing missiles here in Australia, really bolstering the capability of the Australian Defence Force. And we're going to invest in our posture, particularly in the north. So, we're upgrading every single one of our defence bases across the north of Australia, people power, posture, to defend the Australian people into the future.

GILBERT: Finally, and changing subjects completely, you're a massive South Sydney Rabbitohs fan. Latrell Mitchell played well last night. Do you pick him in the Origin team? If you were a selector, you’d pick him.

ASSISTANT MINISTER: Well, as much as I'd like to see him stay at the Rabbitoh's because they're going so well at the moment, I think you have to pick him. Origin is a big game and we know that, unfortunately, Queensland are able to lift in that big game. You need to pick those big game players, and I think Latrell will be named tomorrow on the weekend.

GILBERT: We'll wait and see. Assistant Defence Minister Matt Thistlethwaite, thanks for coming on the show.



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