Minister Rishworth interview on the Today Show


Topics: Australia Day, Cricket Australia, Cost of living

SARAH ABO, HOST: Cricket Australia has weighed in on the debate surrounding January 26 with the body ruling to scrap the term Australia Day at Brisbane's test match this Friday. Joining us to discuss today's headlines is Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth and commentator Neil Breen. Good to see you both. Amanda, I'll start with you. It's a decision made in consultation with Cricket Australia's Indigenous advisory board. Do you anticipate some pushback from the public?

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Ultimately these types of decisions are made by private organisations. I just need to be very clear that the Government's position is that Australia Day is still recognised on the 26th of January and it is a time where we can reflect, respect and celebrate. But every Australian and every Australian organisation, private organisation, will make decisions about how they acknowledge Australia Day, how they reflect, respect and celebrate, and that's a matter for them. For me, I'll be going to a citizenship ceremony. I love citizenship ceremonies. It will be a special day for those people becoming Australian citizens.

SARAH ABO: So, the Government isn't budging on its stance to keep Australia Day on January 26, is it?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: No, we have absolutely no plans to change that. The Prime Minister has said that on a number of occasions. I think it is important that we do, though, acknowledge that Australia Day for some people is a difficult day. For others, it's a day that is the day they became an Australian citizen and that's really important to them. So, it does mean different things to different people, but the Government has absolutely no plans to change it and it is a day where we can recognise the resilience of our First Nations people as well as the achievements that we've made as a country.

SARAH ABO: Does this make it any clearer where Cricket Australia stands on Australia Day? Neil.

NEIL BREEN, COMMENTATOR: Cricket Australia squibbed it, Sarah. They always played Australia Day cricket in Adelaide for years and years. Firstly, there were one-dayers and they'd always schedule the test over it. Then what happened was in the schedule, the West Indies came here and they put this test on straddling Australia Day on Friday, starts on Thursday and then goes into day two on Friday. Ash Gardner, one of the female Indigenous players spoke out against it. Scott Boland, one of the male Indigenous players, spoke out against it. They didn't want any cricket on Australia Day at all. Thinks the day should be sacrosanct. Well, they're employed by Cricket Australia. Cricket Australia schedules matches. So, Cricket Australia's answer was to say, let's just pretend it's not Australia Day. We just won't say anything about it. And Australia Day has been killed by stealth, right across the nation.

SARAH ABO: But they haven't done that because they've said, we're not going to call it Australia Day, rather just call it the Brisbane Test or the Gabba Test or something like that, which would have been more subtle.

NEIL BREEN: What do you mean?

SARAH ABO: Well, they’re just dropping it. They've made a point of dropping it.

NEIL BREEN: Yeah, they're just pretending it's not happening, but they're going to soak up the fact that it's a public holiday and get the extra crowd in because they'll get a good crowd for day two because it's a public holiday, but they're pretending it's not Australia Day. I just think it's poor.

SARAH ABO: Okay, all right. Well, moving on. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has summoned the Labor Caucus to Canberra, where on Wednesday they'll map out new measures to tackle the cost of living. Amanda, this is a tricky one. I mean, it's expected to cost taxpayers almost half a million dollars. It feels a bit counterproductive. I mean, in this day and age, surely this can be done over Zoom? It's not like you're talking about national security.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Firstly I would say that politicians and Members of Parliament get elected to put forward the ideas of their community. It's not something you can do that over Zoom…

SARAH ABO: [Interrupts] But you can do that over Zoom. Why would you have to spend so much money when people are so short at home?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We don't have parliament by Zoom. We don't have a number of political meetings, committee meetings by Zoom. They are done in person. It is important that MPs do get together and actually put their views forward. I mean, I have to say, I certainly didn't get elected – and I know that Labor MPs didn't get elected – to sit home and twiddle their thumbs. We want to contribute to the national debate. This is important. The Government has done a lot of significant things already in terms of cost of living. Whether it is, and this is just in my portfolio, the million people that are now benefiting from our boost to rent assistance – that's a significant measure that has put downward pressure on inflation. There is a win win in that measure, but there's more to be done. That's exactly what we've recognised and we will be working towards that all year, I must say, with the start of this caucus meeting.

SARAH ABO: Yeah, but absolutely, as you've just pointed out, this is an issue that the Labor Party is very conscious of. So, you're not sitting back and twiddling your thumbs. This is something you've been aware of for several months, in fact, perhaps longer than that. So, why fly to Canberra now?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, of course, it's the beginning of the year. We've had a year where we've delivered many measures to tackle the cost of living, whether that be energy relief or cheaper medicines. But the next phase is to be done this year. This year will be a year of delivery. And so at the beginning of the year, it's not uncommon for political parties to get together. I would suggest that the opposition, from time to time, has flown people to all one place. So, it is a bit two-faced to be criticising the Labor Party here. But it will be an important meeting, as will this year be of us continuing to deliver help for Australians.

SARAH ABO: In the midst of a cost of living crisis. Neil, does it look like the PM is a bit out of touch?

NEIL BREEN: Yeah, I think it does for sure. And I also think it shows that they didn't do anywhere near enough last year, while the cost of living crisis was raging in homes, the Government was focused on other issues, like The Voice. They've been marked really badly for it in the polls and they know it. I think this is about the Prime Minister trying to calm the caucus down because there's disquiet behind the scenes about Stage Three tax cuts, what to do there. What to do right across the board with cost of living. And I think he wants to eyeball them all and try and get unity so that they don't split. Because when politicians see that their polling numbers tank, they get nervous Sarah. Nervous.

SARAH ABO: Makes them very nervous indeed, Neil. All right, well, let's see what they come up with. Thank you both so much for your time this morning. Appreciate it.