Press Conference with Angus Taylor, Parliament House
Joint media release with
The Hon Angus Taylor MP
6 February 2023
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, 2023 is going to be a tough year for hardworking Australian families. They're seeing increases in their energy bills, they're seeing increases in their mortgage payments, increases in their rents, increases across the board with rising inflation and rising interest rates. A very, very tough time and of course tomorrow we're likely to see more of it with the Reserve Bank expected to raise interest rates again and this will be more pain for hardworking Australians eating an even bigger hole into their household budgets. Now over the summer we saw a government whose priorities are all wrong. A Treasurer who spent the summer writing a 6,000-word essay – ideological essay – rather than focusing on cost of living, the real challenges that Australians are facing in their households and in their businesses. We want to see a government that has the right priorities so a focus on making sure that Australians are in a position to manage their household budgets, to reduce interest rates and inflation. That means a government that's focused on a budget that has a pathway to surplus. They've given that up in their budget. They gave it up in the October budget and there's no sign of that coming back. A government that's focused on bringing taxes down over time so that Australians know when they work harder they can keep more. A government that recognises that having a sensible budget is good for all Australians and particularly good for household budgets and business budgets. That's what we want to see over the course of this year. We've got a budget in May but in the lead up to that there's an opportunity for this government to get its priorities right. That's not what we saw over the summer. It's what we want to see in the coming weeks and months. So I’ll get Jane to add to that.
JANE HUME: Thanks, Angus. As the Shadow Treasurer has said, 2023 is looking like it's going to be a tough year for so many Australians. Last week, the Senate Select Committee into the Cost of Living heard in Sydney, in Melbourne and in Brisbane that Australians are really doing it tough. We heard that only eight per cent of economists in Australia believe that 2023 is going to be a positive year under a Labor Government. We heard that 800,000 Australian households are going to be coming off their fixed rate mortgages and onto variable rate mortgages throughout 2023. That one in three people that are new customers of the Salvation Army are coming through their door specifically citing the cost of living as the reason they're seeking the Salvos help. Foodbank told us that their new customers are often dual income families that are seeking Foodbank’s support and Woolworths said that their food donations to their charity partners have gone up by 20 per cent and the Australian Energy Regulator said that they've seen a 12 per cent increase in the number of Australians who are struggling to pay their energy bills. Australians are crying out for their government to help them with what matters to them, with help with their bills, with the groceries, with help with their energy prices, with help with the cost of living. But the Labor Government seems to have no answers and they seem to have no plan, no economic plan to deal with what's important to Australians. Inflation, the cost of living and the soaring cost of energy. Prior to the election this Labor Government had all the answers to the cost of living crisis but Australians have been fed nothing but broken promises. Happy to take any questions.
REPORTER: Senator Hume, over summer Stephen Jones said Labor wants to legislate a purpose for superannuation as a precursor to capping balances or other measures to trim concessions. What do you think of that and would that be a good way to improve the pathway to surplus that Angus just mentioned?
JANE HUME: No, I think we'll wait and see exactly what purpose they would like to legislate before I comment on that on that one, Paul.
REPORTER: Senator Hume, you mentioned this growing group of double income families that are struggling. Are there any specific measures you’ve seen either through the work of the committee or in your own consultation that could be implemented in the next weeks, that would make a change?
JANE HUME: The objective of this committee is not just to hear the stories of the cost of crisis facing ordinary Australians right now. But it's to uncover some of those practical and implementable solutions that will not just address the cost of living crisis but also not necessarily fuel inflation as well. There were some interesting ideas that came out of some of those witnesses last week, and they will be fleshed out a little bit further so I would imagine through various party rooms because of course the cost of living a committee has not just members of the Coalition on it but also members of the Greens and also Labor Senators as well. I'd hope that they'll take those messages back to their party rooms.
REPORTER: Senator Hume, given the Cost of Living Committee has just started this inquiry, do you think there'll be room for a draft report, an interim report ahead of the budget with recommendations for what the government should do to help with cost of living?
JANE HUME: I would hope that we would see some of the information that's been fed out of the Cost of Living Committee go into those party room discussions and potentially budget processes, not just in my party room but also in Labor’s party room as well. It is supposed to be a bipartisan committee that is dedicated to finding those implementable practical solutions that Australians are crying out for right now. That doesn't seem to be what the Prime Minister is talking about. It doesn't seem to be what Jim Chalmers is talking about but it's certainly what we're talking about.
REPORTER: Wouldn’t it carry more weight if they were recommendations from the bipartisan committee or even interim suggestions?
JANE HUME: Potentially that is the case. It's not something that the committee has confirmed yet, but we know the committee officially doesn't report until November, but many committees have interim reports so that might be something to think about.
REPORTER: Shadow Treasurer, the Trade Minister is due to meet his Chinese counterpart this week. Is that a meeting … do you support this dialogue and what outcomes do you want to see?
JANE HUME: Were you asking me or were you asking the Shadow Treasurer?
REPORTER: I was asking the Shadow Treasurer.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, of course we want to see strong trading relationships with all our trading partners across the world. Of course it's a priority. It should never in the process compromise our national security priorities. We've got to get that balance right and that's a balance as a country it's absolutely crucial that we stay focused on. Can I just say, just to those earlier questions on cost of living pressures and the pathway forward from here. I mean, it really defies gravity to have a government that has given up on a pathway to budget surplus if they are focused on cost of living. If you want to take pressure off interest rates, if you want to take pressure off inflation you have to have a government that has a goal of getting back to and staying in budget surplus. This is economics 101. Now, if Labor's not prepared to work with us in the committee to get that kind of recommendation up then they're not serious about this and the point I made earlier is their priorities over the summer tell us they're not serious about it. They're really not serious about it. They're much more focused on other things.
REPORTER: Angus, when you hear about the families, two incomes still unable to make ends meet, what does that tell you about where we're sitting as a country?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I hear about it in my own electorate. I see it in places like Spring Farm, Elderslie on the edge of Sydney. I see it in Goulburn. Double income families struggling to make ends meet, having to put in extra hours of work at exactly the time when they're supposed to be picking up the kids. This is tough, these are the real issues. This is what Australians are actually genuinely concerned about right now. Not the Treasurer's ideological essay but the real issues that they're facing, the trade-offs they're having to deal with every day to pay the mortgage, to pay the rent, to pay the grocery bills, to pay the energy bills.
REPORTER: Just on the Voice, the party room is meeting tomorrow. Given that it is the first one for the year where would that leave discussions within the Liberal Party about its position on the Voice? Or is the party going to kick the can down the road to a future discussion on it?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Oh, well I'll let those processes go through their usual pathways. What I will say is that we still don't have any sort of detail from the government that allows us to make a sensible decision on this and this is the real challenge, is you need that detail. It really matters. How this is going to work really counts and that needs to be the focus.
REPORTER: What do you think about the Voice advising on National Cabinet? It’s something that's been brought up in the last few days by Senator Dodson and the government's not ruling that out.
ANGUS TAYLOR: Oh look, people are floating all sorts of ideas about this in all sorts of ways. What we need is practical detail as to what this is actually going to be.
REPORTER: Mr Taylor, the RBA is obviously expected to put up rates tomorrow and up to four times before August. Does the government need to be taking more direct action to prevent families and households from defaulting on their mortgages given that so many people are coming off their fixed interest loans?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, the direct action is strong economic management and that means having a pathway to a balanced budget. That's the action. Now we have an independent Reserve Bank but there is a lot that government can do that makes a real difference in taking pressure off interest rates and inflation and right at the top of the list is to get back to a position that we've been in since Costello was Treasurer where the government had a goal of budget balance. They dropped that at the last budget. They dropped it. And if you want to have lower interest rates and lower inflation, you have to have that goal.
REPORTER: Last week global ratings agency S&P reaffirmed Australia's long-term AAA rating saying that they were confident about the long-term budget projections. Are you saying they are wrong or is there something more the government can be doing there to improve that standard?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well the government dropped its goal of budget balance at the last budget. We've had that goal in the budget since the Charter of Budget Honesty came into place under Peter Costello. They’ve dropped it so, you know, this is not ambiguous. They've done it and the result of that is that it puts upward pressure on inflation and interest rates. There's no doubt about that. And this is where the government can take sensible action. Now, Jim Chalmers has said just this morning, that his plan is for more spending. He said that. You know that's not a plan that's going to take pressure off household budgets. If you want to make it easier for Australians to manage their household and business budgets, you've got to manage the government's budget.
REPORTER: Senator Hume, the Greens are introducing a Private Member's Bill to lower the voting age to 16. What do you think about that? Would that be a good way to engage young people in politics?
JANE HUME: I haven't seen that Bill. I haven't seen any of the details of that Bill but I think I can safely say that it's certainly not one of our priorities. Our priorities are helping Australians deal with the cost of living crisis they're facing right now. It's helping Australians deal with this rising inflation, their energy bills and particularly rising interest rates.
REPORTER: Mr Taylor, you didn’t quite answer Rachel's question just on Standard & Poor’s, whether or not you supported their evaluation of the economy, the IMF also last week issued a report generally giving the government good marks in the economy. Do you agree with the evaluation of both these agencies?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Yeah, look, this government has inherited an extremely strong economy. There is no question about that. We're seeing very strong commodity prices, we're seeing a very strong jobs market and, you know, an extraordinary outcome they inherited, close to the sort of, or in a position we could never have anticipated during the latter years or later months of the pandemic. So this is, you know, it is a wonderful outcome that they've inherited. The real question for them is that they're going to convert that then to a position that takes pressure off the challenges that Australians are facing, those rising interest rates, high inflation and that's the question for the government. Right now, we're not seeing the actions that we need to see if we're going to take pressure off interest rates and inflation.
REPORTER: Mr Taylor, you said just before on the Voice, ‘I'll let those processes go through their usual pathways.’ Can you explain what that pathway is?
ANGUS TAYLOR: It’s the usual Liberal Party process. We have debates in our party room.
REPORTER: Does it formally come up for debate? Does it need to be a motion? Does the party room have a vote? What's the pathway?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well the beginning of the pathway is for Labor to give us the real detail as to what they want to do here. That's the truth.
REPORTER: And then what do you do?
ANGUS TAYLOR: What we're missing is that detail and then we go through our usual processes in the party room of debating these things. I mean, there's no mystery in that. But right now, the first part of the process is missing, which is the detail of what we're actually going to be deciding. Thank you very much. Cheers.