Minister Shorten interview on the Today Show with Karl Stefanovic

FRIDAY 17 MAY 2024

SUBJECTS: Opposition budget reply; immigration strategies; housing

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST: Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has vowed to get Australia back on track in his budget reply, promising to slash permanent migration by 25% to tackle the housing crisis. Let's bring in Peter Dutton and Minister for Government Services and the NDIS, Bill Shorten, live in Canberra. Good morning gentlemen. Thanks for your time today, Pete. You have been called the Darth Vader of politics by the government this morning. It's a bit nasty, a purveyor of dark messaging. The dark force is strong with you, Pete, they say.

PETER DUTTON, LIBERAL PARTY: Oh, well, I think when your opponents reduce themselves to personal attacks, you know that you have come up with a policy that they can't really poke a hole in. We've been moving around the country for the last couple of years, and listening to just everyday average Aussies, and people are worried that they're, you know, they just can't find a home, it doesn't matter whether it's to rent or buy. We know that the government over the last two years has brought in almost a million people, but only 265,000 homes have been built and building approvals are at an 11-year low. So, my judgment is that we should make decisions about an orderly migration program so that it's in our country's best interests. And I want to see Australians be able to get into housing. And at the moment, the Labor Party is bringing in 1.67 million people over five years, which is just going to make the situation for housing in our country much less attainable. And it's just going to continue the grief that people are feeling at the moment.

STEFANOVIC: Now, Pete, cutting migration isn't going to fix the housing crisis, though.

DUTTON: Well, Karl, if you've got a million people coming in in two years and you've got 265,000 homes that have been built, of course this is a problem that the government's created. I can't tell you that we can build houses overnight, the Prime Minister says oh, you’ll build 1.2 million houses over ten years, but they're already 33% behind on schedule. And everyone knows it's tough to get a builder. And the building starts, as I say, are well down. So, you need to access the existing homes and units and we can do that if we say that we want Australians who are living in tents and in the back of cars at the moment to take up the rental accommodation instead of international students who are here in huge numbers. And I think that's a no brainer for our country. It's not that we're against international students, but I just think we've got to prioritise for Australians getting into housing.

STEFANOVIC: Bill, I guess you can call him what you want, but cutting migration is probably going to win him some votes at the next election.

BILL SHORTEN, MINISTER FOR THE NDIS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES: Well, first of all, what matters to me is what's in the long-term interest of Aussie families doing it hard at the moment. We've already started reducing the number of international students coming here. So, to listen to Peter, it's as if nothing else is happening except what his ideas were. The truth of the matter is that the number of international student visas in the last few months has been reduced by 35%, we're on track to halve the net overseas migration number from where it was in the peak of last year. And again, you know, I understand what it's like to be an opposition leader, to give the budget reply. You're looking around for a few ideas. You want something to say. But Peter's, I have to say it was it was a pretty lightweight presentation. It was more like a show bag of slogans and Band-Aids. One example was, you know, quick quiz for Peter Dutton. He says he's going to stop foreigners buying houses over the next two years. I just wonder how many, if he knows how many foreigners bought houses in the last two years. Over to you, Pete.

DUTTON: Well Bill back to you. I mean, how did you go in the 2019 elections? So as an opposition leader -

SHORTEN: Ooh, did you say you don't like personal attacks when you can't - ooh, zinger, you just said before you didn't like personal attacks. As soon as you're under pressure, you go personal. What about the question I asked you? You said last night, I'll repeat the question. You said last night that you're going to stop, you know you're going to save housing in Australia. Hooray! And the flags flying. And you said we’re going to not have those foreigners buying houses. Now that sort of sounds interesting. So, I went and checked overnight. How many people in the last two years who are foreigners bought houses in Australia, Pete?

DUTTON: Well, Bill, a couple of points. One is that we say that in the first year, 40,000 homes will be freed up. That includes the numbers who would be bidding at auctions this weekend against Australian citizens. That's the reality under your government, it won't be under mine. We have a situation where if the government had have adopted our policy over a five-year period, you would free up 325,000 homes. So, the number of people who are foreign citizens, who are buying houses in our country is low, but nonetheless, it contributes to an overall shortage of housing in our country and our policy. When you combine it all together, when you combine it all together is a pretty significant -

SHORTEN: I'll tell you how low it is

DUTTON: - which has got to be good for Australia.

SHORTEN: It's less than five thousand.

STEFANOVIC: Gentlemen, gentlemen.

SHORTEN: Two years, less than five thousand. That's your plan.

STEFANOVIC: Bill, this is not going to work. You are making me redundant. And I don't like that feeling. If you want to be a TV host, leave politics, and get a job here at the Today Show. It's not that hard to offer. All right,

SHORTEN: I don't know, it would certainly be a pay rise for Peter and I.

STEFANOVIC: All right, Bill. Well, you know, there's a lot of outgoings these days. I mean, the government, I mean, 300 coming in for multiple houses for electricity. A hell of a risk. Your budget though, isn't it, Bill? You've brought a lower interest. Lower inflation rate. Um, you've bought one. How are you going to have an early election if rates go up at the end of the year?

SHORTEN: Well, first of all, the Reserve Bank's independent. I really want to see rates go down, not up. I've got no indication we're having an early election. I mean, there are legitimate issues that we're talking about. You know, we do want to, both sides want to reduce the overall rate of immigration. Both sides are arguing about how we do housing. But one of the measures which I think we do need to talk about is we need a skilled workforce, you know, to have those houses which both sides are promising, you need tradies to build them. And I didn't hear much last night about investing in tradies and apprenticeships, which is one of the features of our budget.

STEFANOVIC: All right. Just to finish off, ten seconds Pete.

DUTTON: Oh, well, I just think we need to recognise that families are really struggling at the moment. Huge cost of living pressures. A family with a mortgage is $35,000 worse off under this government. And the budget's inflationary, as every credible economic commentator said. And that's going to push interest rates higher, or at least keep them higher for longer. And that's not good enough.

STEFANOVIC: All right. Good to see you guys. And Bill. We'll see you hosting this show next week. Appreciate it.

SHORTEN: I'll help write the questions, see ya.