Press Conference with Angus Taylor, Parliament House
25 January 2023
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well before I make some comments on inflation, I'll just make a couple of comments on Jim Molan’s funeral that both Jane and I attended just a couple of hours ago. Jim Molan was a big man with big heart and of course he loved his family dearly and we heard that today and he loved his country dearly. His contribution to this nation as a Senator, as a soldier over many years is well known and is an enormous contribution to this great country. Of course there was much talk at the funeral of gratitude and Jim's sense of gratitude and of course today we give thanks for Jim and the great contribution he made over an extended period of time.
Now today we've seen inflation figures come out that are well above expectation and tell us that inflation is well entrenched in the economy. It's not going away in a hurry and of course Australians don't need to be told that. They're seeing it at the grocery checkout. They're seeing it when they pay their energy bills and they'll see it and they are seeing it in their credit cards as they come back from holidays, they put the kids back into school, they're buying bags and uniforms and shoes, they're seeing this inflationary pain there. Now it is no plan for inflation to just watch it go up. But that's exactly what we're seeing from this Labor Government. A complete absence of a plan. It’s no plan to cross your fingers and toes but that's what we're seeing from the Treasurer. Lots of excuses and no plan. It's certainly no plan to put in place a ham-fisted price cap that we know is not going to solve the energy problems this country is facing. It's no plan to create a toxic industrial relations environment and it's no plan to have a big spending budget, which we saw in October and no doubt we'll see again in May. What we do want to see from this government is a clear plan going forward that's addressing those very real issues that Australians are facing right now. I'll turn to Jane to make a few comments.
JANE HUME: Thanks, Angus and before I do, I just want to reiterate Angus’ sentiments about Jim Molan’s funeral today. It was an extraordinary tribute to a great man. It's probably a coincidence, a sad coincidence, that Jim Molan’s funeral was the day before Australia Day because he truly was not only a great soldier and a great Senator but he was a great patriot and he was a great friend and he'll be missed by so many people.
So the cost of living crisis is beginning to bite and it is the greatest issue that's facing Australians today. It was the topic around the barbecues over summer and it will continue to be over the next 12 months. We learned from the inflation figures that came out today something that we already knew, and they were the largest inflation figures that we've seen in three decades. Something that we already knew that Australians are really doing it tough right now and that Labor does not have a plan to deal with it. They came to election last year saying that the cost of living was an important issue to all Australians and that they had all the solutions. After the election we saw nothing. There is no plan to deal with rising inflation, there's no plan to deal with the cost of living crisis. They said that Australians would have $275 relief on their electricity bills, on their energy bills yet now we're seeing quite the opposite. In fact, Labor won't even say the words $275. Moreover, Anthony Albanese said that he would work collaboratively with industry to help address the energy crisis and in fact we've seen the exact opposite. That's why this cost of living committee that's been set up by the Senate is so profoundly important right now. We will deal collaboratively with the industry. We want to hear from them what it is that they can do to solve the cost of living crisis for all Australians, whether it be in energy, whether it be in housing, whether it be the grocery checkout, whether it be the fuel Bowser, whether it be when they're paying their mortgages. This is what's most important to Australians right now. Anthony Albanese and Labor simply aren't dealing with it. Happy to take questions.
REPORTER: Angus, AEMO has found that electricity futures are down since the government capped oil and gas prices. What do you attribute that to if not the government's energy market intervention?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well what matters at the end of the day is what's going to happen to household and business electricity bills and the one thing we can be very sure of and we’ve seen it in these inflation figures today is they're going to go up and they're going up. They're going to keep going up. There's no sign of abatement. Look, this is a ham-fisted attempt by the government. They dragged us all back before Christmas in an emergency sitting. Now we learned that the support that was promised, the direct support that was promised putting aside the price caps is not going to happen until the middle of the year. It was promised for much earlier in the year. This is a government that is lacking a plan, that's thrashing around looking for something and it's not working and we're going to see bills continue to go up. Now we can talk about volatile futures prices, they go up and down, I was Energy Minister, I saw them go up and down. What matters, though at the end of the day is what happens to people's bills and they're going up.
REPORTER: Electricity prices are one of the main drivers of inflation in the last quarter. The government says that they're going to provide new data on their expectations for when they're going to peak and how far they're going to rise by the budget. Do you think we need that data sooner and what would you like to see there?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well Australians want to know what's happening to their electricity bills, their energy bills more broadly. But what they know is they're going up and there's every indication they're going to keep going up. At the end of the day, this is a government that doesn't have a solution to the problem. We know the solution. It’s get more supply into the network but the trouble is that a government that demonises fuel sources that demonises gas, can't bear to argue for getting more supply into the system. But that's exactly what's needed.
REPORTER: The Treasurer says he expects inflation has peaked. Do you share that view?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, I'm not a forecaster. He loves to forecast because it means he doesn't have to talk about his plans because he doesn't have any. He loves commentary. He loves forecasting. I tell you what he doesn't love doing – giving Australians a solution and that's what we need.
REPORTER: What would you like to see from the government to help people? You've talked about a plan. Is there anything you’d like to see urgently before the budget?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Practical action that's going to work. I mean, intent isn't enough. You've got to have a solution and what Australians want is a solution to this problem and they haven't got one yet. I mean we’ve got small businesses out there trying to get gas contracts not far from here and they can't get them. You put a price cap in place, you're going to have supply shortages. That's exactly what's happened. It's exactly what economists said. It's what your microeconomics 101 textbook tells you and that's exactly what's happened. This is a government that thinks the solution to inflation is crossing your fingers and toes. It's not good enough. We need an actual solution from this government.
REPORTER: Jim Chalmers says that he wants to throw the book at those responsible for leaking confidential government information, ‘how to tax’ consultations. Do you think there should be more consequences for PwC and not just for the individual tax advisor at the centre of that controversy?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well clearly it's the individual tax advisor that took the action and there should be appropriate consequences. I think Michael Sukkar’s made some comments on this and I agree with the comments he made. There should be consequences for that individual and that's appropriate.
REPORTER: How surprised were you? You were in government when this was all taking place, you would have been part of plenty of policy processes. How surprised were you at the actions of this individual?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, it's not acceptable behaviour. I mean, if you have a private briefing, confidential briefing, you expect it to remain confidential. That's as it should be.
REPORTER: Back to inflation, just quickly, are you confident that the government's doing enough in terms of housing supply? We've seen dwelling building costs rise quite dramatically.
ANGUS TAYLOR: I'm not confident the government is doing enough on inflation. It's not a plan to sit by and watch it and look, there's no question that there's a lot of Australians out there who are renting right now, who would like to buy a home and what they're seeing is rental rates going up and that's preventing them from putting themselves in a position where they can put that deposit together and buy a home. A lot of aspirational renters out there. We want them to be able to buy a home. It's important. That's part of the Australian dream and yet they're struggling to do it and I think this is a very real issue. We need a government that's focused on putting downward pressure on inflation, that’s putting downward pressure on interest rates. We can't just rely on the Reserve Bank to do all the work. The government can do work too and right now what we're seeing from this government is ham-fisted attempts, or no plan at all and sadly, that's putting us in a position where Australians are facing enormous pain as we go into this year.
REPORTER: Can I ask Senator Hume please about Jim Molan’s Senate vacancy and you co-wrote the review of the Liberal’s performance of the 2022 election, do you think that this vacancy albeit for tragic reasons is an opportunity for renewal and of the party and who would you like to see pre-selected for that?
JANE HUME: Oh, Paul, that is definitely a question that should be best directed at the New South Wales division of which I am not apart. However, the review did recommend that we adopt a 50 per cent target over the next three elections to increase the number of women in Parliament and of course, increasing the number of women in the party as well and also recommended a series of support services around that. Now, it's really important that the Liberal Party becomes more representative of the people that we wish to govern and we wish to represent and look, every pre-selection will be a part of that but today, we're talking about Jim Molan, his legacy, his memory and his dedication to his country and to his family so it's probably too early.
REPORTER: Angus, you are a member of the New South Wales Liberal Party. Who do you think should fill that spot?
ANGUS TAYLOR: Today's a day for celebrating Jim Molan’s life. It was a great life. He's was a great man and a great friend and I was privileged to be at his funeral and my thoughts are with his family at this difficult time and I am just incredibly grateful for the contribution that Jim has made to our nation and to our party.