Topics: Prime Minister’s visit to China, fuel excise, cost of living
NATALIE BARR, HOST: Let's bring in Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth and Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie. Good morning to you. Amanda, What is Anthony Albanese going to say in China? There seem to be a few issues, and a lot of them controversial.
AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Our Prime Minister is taking what is, I think, a significant trip to China. As a country and as a Government, we've been pretty clear that when we disagree with things that China says or does, we will speak out against it. But we will also be very clear that where we can cooperate, we will and I think that's really important for our national interest. China is still our largest trading partner and so where we can look at areas where we can cooperate, where we can stabilise the relationship in a way that we can have those honest conversations, that's actually really important. So, I think this is an important trip and one to look at how we continue to stabilise that relationship. But we've never said we don't disagree on issues with China and I have no doubt that we'll continue to pursue those issues along with areas where we can cooperate.
NATALIE BARR: Bridget, where's the line? Because when you guys were in, they seemed to sort of chuck a wobbly, not take all our exports and wouldn't allow us in for seven years.
BRIDGET MCKENZIE, NATIONAL SENATOR: Well, Nat, you're right. China is our great trading partner. We've got a phenomenal Chinese diaspora here at home making an incredible contribution to our country. But the real test for the Prime Minister in his 18th visit in 18 months to a different country is, can he have those tough conversations? Is this going to be more than photo ops in front of the Forbidden Palace? Because if you listened to our spy chief, Mike Burgess last week, the Chinese forward posture on intellectual property theft, for instance, which is having an incredible impact on commercial and security issues, is one of the issues that he's going to have to have the tough conversations with President Xi on. And this will be a test for the PM. Is it just going to be like Amanda has said - we have the tough conversations - or is he actually going to sit down and tell President Xi the issues, and that Australia, whilst welcoming opening up of trade and a stabilisation of the relationship, is not going to take a backward step in protecting our national interest.
NATALIE BARR: Okay, moving on to something back home important to a lot of people. Peter Dutton has indicated the Coalition would welcome a cut to the fuel excise. With many Aussies paying way more, in some instances, of $2 a litre at the bowser, Bridget, do you support a temporary fuel excise cut?
BRIDGET MCKENZIE: Well, I think Australians are doing it incredibly tough, Nat. I mean, if you've got a regular mortgage of around $750,000 you've got to find another $22,000 a year. And I think Australians have cut the luxuries out of their budget. They're now struggling, are we going to pay for the kids swimming lessons? or what are the tough decisions we're making every week with our budget. So, anything the Government can do…
NATALIE BARR: [interrupts] So that’s a yes?
BRIDGET MCKENZIE: ...to actually lower those impacts… Well, I think what we've seen from this Government is that they haven't been making the tough decisions in their own budget. They've just spent $450,000,000 on a referendum.
NATALIE BARR: So is that a yes on the fuel excise cut?
BRIDGET MCKENZIE: Well I think we need to look at all things. All things need to be on the table, Nat. Because just cherry picking fuel excise while you're jacking up spending on a referendum which keeps inflation higher ends up meaning Australians are paying more than they need to for longer. And this Government has to make tough decisions across their whole budget.
NATALIE BARR: Amanda, I think that was a yes. Is the government going to consider a cut in the excise again?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: I don't think it was a yes. I think Bridget's been quite tricky with her words there.
BRIDGET MCKENZIE: Amanda…
AMANDA RISHWORTH: But when it comes to cost of living…
BRIDGET MCKENZIE: [interrupts] Why don’t you get your costs under control?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, this is the problem. You call for us to spend more, then call for us to spend less….
BRIDGET MCKENZIE: [interrupts] No-one is calling for you to spend more, because that drives up inflation.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: A cut to the fuel excise would be a hit to the Budget. So, this is where the Coalition wants to have it every way. But we're taking cost of living incredibly seriously. We have a $23 billion package on energy relief, on increasing bulk billing, cheaper medicines and support for those getting rent assistance. It is a broad package that has been carefully targeted. At the same time, we're seeing growth in wages and also more jobs. So, this Government has a carefully calibrated package. You can't have it both ways. Bridget.
BRIDGET MCKENZIE: Amanda, inflation is going up.
NATALIE BARR: To Bridget, let’s go back to Bridget. Was that a yes? Because a cut to the fuel excise, it seems like that would be about $3 billion in six months. So, do you support that, Bridget?
BRIDGET MCKENZIE: Well, I'm not going to come out and put an Opposition policy right this morning. What Amanda has been saying…
NATALIE BARR: [interrupts] It sounds like Peter Dutton has…
BRIDGET MCKENZIE: But Nat, what Amanda's been saying is a range of measures that's actually making things worse not better.
NATALIE BARR: So just on that question. Could we just narrow down that question, Bridget?
BRIDGET MCKENZIE: Well, I'm not going to actually make an announcement about fuel excise here on Sunrise at all, but what I am going to do is call out this Government’s spending profile, which means inflation in Australia is staying higher than most countries in the developed world, and that is making things worse for everyday Australians.
NATALIE BARR: Yeah, well, we can all agree that costs are high, people are suffering, especially at the bowser. Thank you very much for joining us. Appreciate it.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Thank-you.