Interview on Weekend Today with Jayne Azzopardi


Topics: First 100 days of Government, Scott Morrison’s failures, Migrant visas, Jobs and Skills Summit

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: Tomorrow the Prime Minister will notch up his first 100 days in office and his popularity is soaring. He even received cheers rather than boos when he was spotted at a Gang Of Youths concert this week. But could it just be a honeymoon period and are things about to get a whole lot tougher? Here to discuss, we're joined live by the Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth in Adelaide and Nationals Leader David Littleproud in Perth. Good morning to you both. Minister I'll start with you, most prime ministers do enjoy pretty good popularity ratings during their first 100 days. Are you worried that the shine is going to wear off pretty soon as voters start to expect more?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I'm not too worried about opinion polls. I've consistently said that. But the feedback I get on the ground is that people are pleased that we are hitting the ground running as a Government. They are pleased that we are saying and doing what we said we would do and just getting on with the job and that's the consistent feedback I get from people on the ground. I think governments are rewarded when they're transparent. Governments are rewarded when they do what they said they were going to do. And I think that's what's happening right now.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: You did have that slogan coming into the election that under the Liberal government everything is going up except your wages. People are still struggling with cost of living. They're not really seeing all that much relief yet and the petrol excise relief is about to go. Do you think that is going to affect how people see the Government?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: There's enormous cost of living challenges, there's no doubt about that. And our ability to respond to that has been constrained by the former government's trillion dollars of debt that they left us but we will be working through the October Budget. And it's not scheduled to have a Budget but we put a Budget in place so that we're able to work through some of these cost of living challenges. I think the Australian people know that there's no easy answers to this. As a Government, we will be working through these issues very consistently through the Budget to give cheaper medicines, cheaper childcare and really trying to deliver cost of living relief for Australians.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: David, how much do you blame Scott Morrison for Labor's popularity?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: This government is in a honeymoon and let's be honest, no matter the political persuasion - the Australian people want its government to be successful. And so they'll have that period of time where they're able to blame the last government for everything and Scott Morrison issues haven't helped and he's acknowledged he's done the wrong thing. But I think the obsession that the Prime Minister has had now on continuing to focus on Scott Morrison rather than focusing on the Australian people and the cost of living is a real risk for him. He's already reneged on the $275 that he was promising Australian households to drive down electricity prices. He's driving up prices at the supermarket because of the labour shortage within the agricultural sector. You should see his face on the docket every time you're at the check-out because he's actually taking away the availability of workers for farmers who are making investment decisions not to plant now. And even in your own story you're talking about the costs are going go up because they don't have the labour supply that they need. You actually drive down supply and you push up prices. And that's what Anthony Albanese is doing because the AWU has told him he can't give foreign workers to the farm apart from the Pacific scheme. The maths are simple 172,000 workers required - he can only provide 52,000 with the Pacific. If he opens up the Ag visa to Southeast Asia, problem solved.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: So why aren't more members of the Coalition going to be participating in the Jobs Summit this week? If we're trying to find solutions to the problem, surely everyone should be on board?

DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Unfortunately, we're an afterthought. We represent only regional and rural Australia. We were the ones that helped put the food on your plate and we weren't even given a voice and that's the disappointing thing. But we're going to take that opportunity and be pragmatic about the opportunities that are there, whether that be an ag visa or a regional skills visa. Whether that's also about giving pensioners and veterans the opportunity to work double what they already are without impacting their pension payments. Those are the sort of practical measures that I'm going to advocate. I want to use this as a platform with the Government to work collaboratively with my hand out to look after regional Australia. I think this is an opportunity for a voice for regional Australia. So it's a shame we weren't thought of to start with and we're just an afterthought. We feel like the Forgotten Australians in regional Australia.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: Amanda, are regional Australians forgotten by this Government when it comes to the Jobs Summit?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Absolutely not. And I haven't seen David Littleproud actually out on a farm - he's a politician. We have of course been engaging since we've been in government with groups like the Australian Farmers’ Federation. In terms of skills, I find it a bit ironic that we had the former government have close to a million visas outstanding to be processed. We've put more staff on, we're getting through the visa process and we're looking for constructive solutions across our country, whether that be in regional Australia, whether that will be in towns around Australia. We know that there is skill shortages right across the board. We want to look at ways that we can revitalise our training system to train up Australians. We want to look at the migration system very carefully. And we want to bring people together in the Jobs and Skills summit and if the Coalition wants to argue between the Coalition partners - the Liberals and Nationals - who got the invite and who didn't, I think that's a bit childish, really.

JAYNE AZZOPARDI: All right. We have to leave it there. We look forward to more conversations about this around this week. Thank you both for joining us.