Minister Rishworth and Minister Gallagher doorstop interview at the City Salvos Playgroup


SUBJECTS: Labor’s Budget; cost-of-living; inflation; violence against women.

STEVE GEORGANAS, MEMBER FOR ADELAIDE: It’s my great pleasure to welcome Minister Katy Gallagher, Minister Amanda Rishworth and my colleague, the wonderful member for Boothby, to the electorate of Adelaide. I’m pleased that you’re all here. We’re here today to hear from the ministers and from the Member for Boothby and also Amanda Rishworth to hear some of the things that were delivered during the Budget last week. We know that the Budget’s centrepiece was to deal with cost-of-living, and we know that there were announcements in that Budget such as the $300 rebate, the tax incentives and a whole range of other things that others will go into. On that note I’d like to hand over to Louise to give us some more information and then over to the ministers.

LOUISE MILLER-FROST, MEMBER FOR BOOTHBY: Thank you, Steve. My name’s Louise Miller-Frost, I’m the Member for Boothby, and today is of course two years since I was elected and two years since we had an Albanese Labor Government elected. And we’ve just done a little bit of a review in Boothby and the amount that has been achieved, the amount that we have achieved both as a government but also in local electorates like Steve’s, like Amanda’s, like mine, and I’m sure Katy yours as well – is really significant. As Steve said, our Budget was very much focused on cost-of-living relief but also a Future Made In Australia. Because we need that energy transition, we need that modern manufacturing, we need a fantastic future for Australians so that we have good quality, secure, well-paid jobs, for people to have a career here in Australia, feed their families, grow their families up and have a bright future. So it’s my absolute honour to hand over to the minister, thank you.

SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Thanks Louise and Steve for welcoming me to Adelaide, here with my ministerial colleague, Amanda Rishworth. It’s great to be here and have the opportunity to see some of the effort that’s been going into cost-of-living, early years – like the playgroup that we’ve just visited there. And just a few days or a week after the Budget where we’ve had a focus on cost-of-living with the tax cuts, the energy bill rebate. We’ve got a focus on housing and making sure we deal with the housing challenges, increasing supply. Making sure that we’re investing in Medicare and making sure that we’ve got all of those good programs like the Urgent Care Clinics that we’ve got up and running in places right across this state, in our two years in Government. And also making sure that we deal with the Future Made In Australia, that we’re seizing some of the opportunities that will come with the energy transition and the jobs and investment that will come with that. We think Australia’s got a real role to play in making sure that we can get some of those benefits that’s happening across the global economy. And finally, I think for me on this Budget road trip, it’s also talking with women across the country about what they liked in the Budget, what they want to see more of. We’ve tried to really in the last two years shift the dial on making sure that women are the centrepiece, or at the centre of the focus of our decisionmaking, and Amanda will have a bit more to say about some specific initiatives in the Budget about that. But making sure women get paid properly in the care economy, making sure that we are addressing gender inequality, the gender pay gap, all of those issues that have been hanging around for a long time and women haven’t been getting a fair deal. So, we’ve achieved a lot in two years. There’s a lot more to do. And I’ll hand over to Amanda to talk about some of the work that she’s been doing as the incredible Minister for Social Services.

THE HON AMANDA RISHWORTH MP, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Thanks Katy, and I think one of the really key areas of this Budget and the work we’ve been doing over the last two years is investing in families and investing in women. And particularly I’m very proud, over the last two years, that our government has put Paid Parental Leave as a real centrepiece. Not only have we made it more flexible, not only have we made the means testing more generous, we’ve extended our Paid Parental Leave scheme to 26 weeks and now in this Budget, we’ve added in superannuation on that Paid Parental Leave. This is a really critical investment to ensure that people have cost-of-living support now, particularly cost-of-living support when they take time off to have a newborn baby, but also that that doesn’t have a negative impact on their retirement savings. So, this is a critical part of the Budget. It is a really significant investment into the future. Now, we hope to have legislation passed so this will be in place from 1 July next year. And we’ll ensure that women are getting – women and men, because it is promoting shared care – do not lose out in their retirement savings. But in addition to this, we have been really investing in families and as Minister Katy Gallagher talked about, there are tax cuts in this Budget for everyone, every taxpayer in this country, but we’re also investing in the infrastructure for families and the playgroup that we visited, speaking with the parents, heard how important these type of investments are. And I’m very proud that one of the election commitments was to expand playgroups and toy libraries right across this country. And I’m really pleased that to date, we have 300 playgroups that have either started because of our investment, or are about to start because of our investment. This is really critical infrastructure for families to find the support they need, to find the connection they need. So, these are the types of investments we’re making in this Budget to support families with cost-of-living now but also setting them up for the future.

JOURNALIST: The changes you’ve made to the Budget, is that keeping in mind inflation going forward as well? Is it enough for families?

GALLAGHER: Well, we’ve certainly tried to invest cost-of-living help without adding to the inflation challenge. So that is one of the key focuses on the Budget. So, how we provided that cost-of-living relief mattered. We had the tax cuts, they were built in already – so, everyone will get a tax cut – but then looking at things like the energy bill rebate, that gets paid on people’s bills, so, they’ll see that when their bills come in, and Commonwealth Rent Assistance – we know from last year both of those measures put downward pressure on inflation. Because we want to see inflation come down. When we came to government, it had a 6 in front of it, it’s now got a 3 in front of it. We’d like a 2 in front of it. Treasury are forecasting it to get there later this year. And so that’s the whole focus. You know, how do we provide that cost-of-living relief but don’t add to the inflation challenge.

JOURNALIST: We’ve spoken to families who say it still isn’t enough. What do you say to those people?

GALLAGHER: Well, we get it. I mean we get that people are doing it really hard, and that’s why we want inflation to be back in the normal range. I mean one of the things people have really felt with high inflation is prices are going up everywhere. And so the government has to look at well, how do we make sure that we are dealing with that inflation challenge and providing cost-of-living relief where we can. So, investments in Medicare are part of it, investments to make sure medicines are cheaper, energy bill relief, tax cuts, all of those work together to sort of put a bit of extra money in people’s pockets. But we get the fact that they are doing it tough, we’re not pretending otherwise. And so there’s always more work to do. You know, we keep this under a close watch, the Treasurer and I, as we put together the next economic update.

JOURNALIST: I know it’s not a simple task, but how are you going to deal with inflation moving forward after the Budget, now?

GALLAGHER: Well, you know, the Budget was handed down like a week ago. So, there’s a fair bit in that. We see that cost-of-living relief roll out over the next 12 months. People haven’t had that yet. So, they’ll get the tax cuts, they’ll get the energy bill relief, and then Rent Assistance for a million households who are receiving that payment. So, I think people will see that over the next 12 months and at the same time, we’ll see some of that easing of price pressure. And that’ll make a difference. But you know we understand that people have really felt the interest rate increases. They’ve felt it you know when they fill up their car or go to the grocery shop. And government has to look at ways to manage and put downward pressure on that. And we’ve tried to do that with this Budget.

JOURNALIST: There’s a lot of moving parts when it comes to inflation. How confident is the Government that this will be kept in check?

GALLAGHER: Well, we take the advice of Treasury. The Treasury forecasts are in the Budget. They make it clear that inflation is moderating and again, when we came to Government, so that’s two years ago, inflation, that was running at 6 per cent. It’s now running at just over 3. And that’s, you know, that’s a big difference in two years. We want it to come down further, obviously. But Treasury look at our Budget, they look at all the decisions we’ve taken, the spending, the saving, the new different measures in it, and then they come up with their inflation forecast. And that shows that inflation is continuing to moderate.

JOURNALIST: Just a couple of questions on the NDIS, the States and Territories have raised significant concerns about those changes to the NDIS. Why are these changes needed?

GALLAGHER: Well, we need to make sure that the NDIS is there for the long term. And at the moment it’s growing at an unsustainable rate. So, when you’ve got a program growing across government at about 14 per cent per annum, that is unsustainable. Because what would happen if it just continues to grow at that rate is that it would just squeeze out all the other services. So, things like Medicare, things like our housing package. Because we wouldn’t have the money available to make investments in them. So any responsible government has to look at ways to manage that growth in the program. We’ve set a target of 8 per cent growth, which is still probably the fastest growing government program in the Budget. But we want to see that moderate. So, there’ll still be new money going into the NDIS, there’ll be more people joining the scheme, but we have to manage it in a responsible way. So, we’ve got legislation in the Parliament, that really tries to say look, when you get your plan and you get your budget allocated with that, we need you to live within that. We can’t continue to see those plans increase in price because that’s what’s putting pressure on the scheme. And with the States and Territories, look, they’re important partners with us. So we’ll continue to work with them. It’s not unusual for States and Territories and the Commonwealth to have difficult discussions, but we always end up landing a good outcome and that’s what we’ll do with the NDIS.

JOURNALIST: Is there a risk, though, that some participants are left with worse outcomes as some states clearly fear?

GALLAGHER: Well, that’s not the intention. So, a couple of things – since the NDIS has happened, or scheme has grown, there has been I guess a pull into that scheme of all of the services. So, what we have to do now, and Amanda’s been doing a lot of this work, is build services that exist outside the scheme. In the old days, there used to be therapy services. So, if you had a child who had a developmental delay, they could go in and access services. They don’t necessarily need to be on the NDIS. So, what we’ve got to do and we’ll do this with the States and Territories, is build services outside the scheme and then of course provide NDIS recipients with everything they need. But it is about how we manage this going forward. It cannot continue to grow at the rate it is going, because if it does, people will miss out. And we don’t want that to happen.

JOURNALIST: And there’s no risk that some participants will fall through the gaps as this plan is being put in place?

GALLAGHER: No. I mean, the intention is that people will continue to come onto the scheme as they have been in the past, but we’ve got to manage the cost within the scheme. So we’re doing a lot of work on fraud, we’re doing a lot of work on integrity. Bill Shorten’s doing a huge amount of work in this area, including on looking at prices. Sometimes if you want an NDIS wheelchair, it can cost 4 times as much as a wheelchair you can buy online outside the scheme. So, we have to be looking at how the scheme is operating, not just about participants, but everything that hangs off it. And we’ll continue to do that and we’ll work with the States and Territories. We’ve all got an interest in making sure the scheme is there for the long term, that it delivers for the people who are on it, and that budgets can manage it going into the future. 

JOURNALIST: An expert and survivor has said the plan to end gendered violence, the ambition of the plan is not backed up by adequate federal government investment. How does the government plan to meet its targets as part of its plan?

RISHWORTH: Let’s be really clear. The National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children is a commitment by all governments in this country, State and Territory and the Commonwealth. And what the Commonwealth has done is since that plan has been in place, we’ve directed close to $3.4 billion to back up that plan. Now, of course, we will continue to work with States and Territories, victim survivors, service organisations, to look at how we best spend that money and make sure that we’re responding to need. We will keep working towards that goal. But, that is a record investment by any Commonwealth government in this area. And it goes to a range of things, including, in the Budget, making permanent and fixing-up the Leaving [Escaping] Violence Payment. That is a critical element to ensure that women and children have immediate support when they do leave a violent situation. We of course will keep working with the States and Territories to deliver. For example, more frontline services. There was money that was going to end before we came to Government for frontline services. We’ve put that money back in the Budget and increased it. So, we will continue to work to deliver it. But I would say that it is more than just working on services and support. It is about system changes as well. And one of the key areas that all States and Territories and the Commonwealth have signed up to is justice system reform. And one of the key areas that the Government has changed now in the family law area is actually ensuring that the needs of the child is front-and-centre. And that change is significant because it allows for, very much, areas like family and domestic violence to be considered in family law proceedings. So, this is about investment. We are always looking at what more we can do. But there is a significant investment. But we also need to work on system changes. And that’s all highlighted in the National Plan.

JOURNALIST: And the Government is confident that you’ll be able to achieve these targets by –

RISHWORTH: We are working very hard to achieve the targets that we’ve set out for ourselves. They are ambitious targets. But I am not ashamed of setting ambition when it comes to family and domestic violence and reducing that, and ultimately ending it. So, I will continue to work as I have done and as our Government has done, with States and Territories but importantly victim survivors and services. Victim survivors were at the heart of our National Plan and part of that is also shifting the responsibility onto those who choose to use violence – the perpetrators. So, we will continue to work towards that goal and we’ll continue to work with victim survivors and the sector and States and Territories on how we deliver that.