Doorstop interview, Parliament House, Canberra
There are Australians in flood‑affected communities who are doing it especially tough today, and they are in our thoughts and in the thoughts of all Australians as they deal with these natural disasters which come with alarming regularity. Australians are there for each other when times are tough, and the Albanese Government will be there for people in tonight’s Budget as well.
This Budget will be solid, sensible and suited for the times. It will recognise that in a time of extreme global uncertainty our best defence is a responsible Budget at home. It will understand that even though these economic pressures are coming at us from around the world they’re felt most acutely around the kitchen table, so inflation will be the primary influence on the Budget that I hand down tonight.
The Budget has three objectives: responsible cost‑of‑living relief; strengthening the economy; and beginning the hard yards of Budget repair. Now, we will take a really responsible approach to the welcome and substantial improvements in the near term. That will not make up for the persistent structural spending pressures on the Budget but what we’ve been able to do with our responsible approach to these revenue upgrades is to ensure that there will be less debt over the forward estimates than our predecessors had, but we will have more to show for it.
This Budget will buffer us against global uncertainty, but it will also begin to lay the foundations of a stronger, more modern and more resilient economy as well. This Budget will do more than batten down the hatches against global uncertainty; it will back in families and it will begin to build a better future that Australians need and deserve.
This Budget is for Australians who battle through hard times and who believe in a better future, and we will keep faith with them tonight.
I’ll just take a handful of questions.
Treasurer, this is the first Labor Budget in a long time and also the first Budget of this new Government. There’s a lot of pressure there. The last person who was in your particular position was Joe Hockey, and look what happened to him.
So how have you handled the pressure of not just setting up, you know, the economic response to the conditions at the moment but setting up, you know, the Government’s agenda over this term?
Pressure is a privilege, first of all ‑ I believe that. We know that Australians are counting on us to deliver our commitments on child care, on cheaper medicines, getting wages moving again, all of the key commitments that we made to people.
This Budget is all about responsible cost‑of‑living relief. It’s about building that stronger, more modern, more resilient economy, and it’s about beginning the hard yards of Budget repair. We know that Australians are counting on us. It’s an opportunity to put an end to a wasted decade of missed opportunities and messed up priorities. The Budget won’t be the end of that; it will be the beginning of that.
Have you been able to keep all your promises from your Budget reply earlier this year?
We’ll be implementing the commitments that we made to the Australian people before the election. And those commitments around cheaper child care, those commitments around cheaper medicines, investing in skills, investing in cleaner and cheaper, more reliable sources of energy, they will be central components of the Budget I hand down tonight.
Treasurer, you’ve unveiled this plan today for the Commonwealth and the states to build a million homes. How is that going to happen, and what’s the timeframe?
I’ll have more to say about that tonight in the Budget but as I move around Australia consulting with local communities, with workers and with employers, one of the big challenges that we have in our country and in our economy is it’s harder and harder for people to grab the opportunities of low unemployment if they can’t live near where those opportunities are. I’ve made that a big priority and I’ve consulted really widely.
I want to thank the superannuation industry and the institutional investors. I want to thank my counterparts in the states and territories. I want to thank the building industry for engaging with us over the course of recent weeks and months. It’s a high priority for us to get more affordable housing closer to where the jobs and opportunities are. You’ll hear more about that tonight.
Treasurer, there’s a lot of kind of theatrics around the Budget for, I suppose, political enthusiasts, but for those people around the kitchen table, how much attention do you think they pay to Budgets and will they be watching tonight?
I’m not pretending that every Australian follows every detail of the Budget but I think they are incredibly engaged when it comes to the fundamentals. This Budget will get the fundamentals right. It will nicely line up our efforts in the Budget and the hard work of the independent Reserve Bank to make sure that we can confront this inflation challenge together.
I’ve been really heartened by the level of engagement from the Australian community when it comes to our efforts to make the Budget more responsible and to make our economy more resilient. Australians know that we can provide cost‑of‑living relief in a responsible way but not a reckless way. We can’t spray money around indiscriminately because that would have an impact on inflation and could be counterproductive and I think Australians understand that.
I think what happened when government changed hands five months ago is it wasn’t just a change of government but there was a change of mindset. There is a sense that the big challenges in our economy and our Budget, that we need to begin to deal with them, that we have had this wasted decade, and that has given us skills shortages and stagnant wages and an aged care crisis and energy policy chaos and not enough to show for a trillion dollars in debt. I think Australians are up for a genuine conversation about how we address our challenges in the Budget and in the economy. I’ve been really heartened by the level of engagement, and I look forward to this ongoing conversation with them in the weeks and months and years ahead. One more.
How much of the Budget hinges on things that you can’t control – wage growth, energy prices, inflationary pressures? How does that weigh on handing down a Budget, and how conservative have you had to be in your forecasting?
Australians know that this pressure is coming at us from around the world but it’s felt around the kitchen table and our job as the Government is to focus on where we can make a meaningful difference. That’s what we’re doing in this Budget – responsible cost‑of‑living relief, targeted investments in a stronger economy and beginning the hard yards of Budget repair. These are the things that we can control.
We have an inflation problem in this economy for a range of reasons – the war in Ukraine, natural disasters, impact of supply chain pressures, a slowing global economy, all of these things are crucial influences on our Budget. Our job is to focus on what we can control. Our best defence against global uncertainty is a responsible Budget, and that’s what you’ll see tonight.
I might just say something very briefly about Rishi Sunak. Rishi Sunak is a friend of Australia as the UK is a friend of Australia. And we congratulate him on his elevation to the Prime Ministership. The UK, like Australia, has no shortage of challenges and no shortage of economic challenges and so, we wish Rishi Sunak well.
Some of us had the opportunity to work with him briefly when we first came to government. I was able to exchange messages with him when he was unsuccessful in the last leadership ballot. I think it says something about his commitment and his persistence the way that he conducted himself in the interim. I don’t think it’s insignificant that a country like the UK has its first Prime Minister of colour. For those of us who are used to be being at the younger end of the spectrum, his age is obviously also quite a thing. But we wish Rishi Sunak well as he elevates to the Prime Ministership. He’s a friend of Australia; the UK is a friend of Australia. We look forward to working with him as the new Prime Minister, and I personally look forward to working with whoever he names as Chancellor of the Exchequer.