Transcript - ABC Brisbane Drive with Steve Austin

Subjects: housing market, religious freedom, 2032 Brisbane Olympics, CIC
STEVE AUSTIN: But in the meantime, as I mentioned to you yesterday, Australian finance brokers say that Australian families earning up to $150,000 a year could still plunge into financial hardship if home loan interest rates go up by as little as 1 per cent. This has been raised because there's all sorts of talk or concerned about inflation is appearing on the horizon, particularly overseas. Now the cash rate remains at a record-low 0.1 per cent, but finance brokers say mortgages so big in Australia that any upward pressure will create major problems. So as you know yesterday, I spoke with Labor's Jim Chalmers about their forecasts for inflation in the new year. So let's go to the other side of the ledger, Coalition and LNP Senator from Queensland, Amanda Stoker, is the Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General. And I think for the first time ever, you join me in studio. Nice to meet you face to face at last.
AMANDA STOKER: It's lovely to see your face, too.
STEVE AUSTIN: How long have you been out from Canberra? I thought you guys were still trapped in Canberra, or is it- are you allowed out of there now, are you?
AMANDA STOKER: We were allowed out of Canberra two weeks ago, and then we had two weeks' worth of quarantine. I completed that on Friday. So I'm only a little bit on the loose.
STEVE AUSTIN: How was the joy of quarantine?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, I don't mind being in quarantine. This is a job where you do lots of travel, and there's very little time at home. And so the chance to try and do my duties whilst being among my family is a rare treat, so I lean into it.
STEVE AUSTIN: So you're able to do it at home. You didn't have to do one of the Queensland Government's hotel quarantine processes?
Authorised by Senator the Hon Amanda Stoker, Liberal National Party, Queensland
AMANDA STOKER: That's right. They gave us an opportunity to do it at home.
STEVE AUSTIN: Alright. When do you go back to Canberra, by the way?
STEVE AUSTIN: Next week? Oh no, okay. And you'll have to-
AMANDA STOKER: And the process starts again.
STEVE AUSTIN: Oh, no, okay. Alright well, I'm grateful you came in.
STEVE AUSTIN: Is the Federal Government at all concerned about household debt in Australia at the moment?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, we're always concerned about levels of debt in this country. It matters a great deal what type of debt it is, whether or not it's in an asset that is important to household wealth, like a home, versus, for instance, high credit card debt. But it is, I think, a fact we can accept, that people are borrowing large sums, and they're largely doing it to meet pretty high property prices. And so there's a reasonable question to ask, what are we doing about that? The first thing to say is that we have provided a number of mechanisms for first home buyers, and single parents, and the like to get help with saving the deposit, concessional schemes for saving. We've also provided opportunities for people to get guarantees from government, so that single parents can have a small deposit of 2 per cent, first home buyers who want to get a new home built can do it with 5 per cent. Those sorts of things can help people get in. But ultimately, and I think this is probably the guts of your regular concern on this question is that supply is the issue. So while we know that supply of land and the like is something that lands in state governments' baskets, we're trying to lead by example by, for instance, releasing tracks of Commonwealth land that we can do to make way for better supply on the housing front. And we've also provided important tax incentives for people to invest in affordable housing. So there's a capital gains tax discount that we have provided of 60 per cent if you're prepared to invest in building affordable housing. And investment trusts can have a lower withholding tax rate on income that they derive from investing in affordable housing, because we're trying to provide every opportunity for people from all walks of life to achieve this really important goal, and that is to own your own patch.
STEVE AUSTIN: So the Federal Government, your side says, it's doing a great deal to try and make it easier.
AMANDA STOKER: Look, we're certainly trying. Noting that it is a complex problem into which a lot of factors feed. We are taking a number of important steps to try and make a difference in this field.
Authorised by Senator the Hon Amanda Stoker, Liberal National Party, Queensland
STEVE AUSTIN: Jim Chalmers, the Shadow Treasury spokesperson for Labor, was here with me yesterday, and this is what he told me. Have a listen to this.
Jim Chalmers from yesterday. So Senator Stoker, his point is that there's a fundamental problem of poor wages that aren't increasing to keep up with inflation, which is probably going to get worse.
AMANDA STOKER: Look, we've talked about wage growth before. And the best thing we can do to see wages rise is to help the economy to grow. And so the things that we have done as a Federal Government to make sure that businesses survive the pandemic period, that employees manage to keep their jobs, and that businesses are in a position to continue to grow in the period from here on, is all about the economic growth. That means there are more people looking to take on staff that puts upward pressure on wages. But it's a bit rich for Jim Chalmers to come and talk about the cost of things in circumstances where he's from a Labor party that still hasn't abandoned its enormously high taxing policy agenda from the last election. Given that they have not disavowed their intention to increase a whole range of taxes, it's a little bit bold to come on here and talk about life being awfully expensive. It is expensive, and I acknowledge that there are many people who do it tough in our community. In the housing sphere and when it comes to people who have mortgages, there are important reasons why we have built in the need for buffer into, for instance, lenders requirements that come in through APRA. That does help to give people a bit of wiggle room. But ultimately, people have to make decisions that are within their means.
STEVE AUSTIN: The Reserve Bank today has said there's still some doubt over the direction of inflation in Australia. Philip Lowe says it's likely to take some time before conditions arrive in Australia for a rate rise. And he's saying this because a lot of people are worried about inflation. All of a sudden, everyone in Australia's going, hang on, I'm seeing prices start rising. Is the Federal Government comfortable with the Reserve Bank position at the moment?
AMANDA STOKER: Look. The Reserve Bank's independent and they make their expert assessment on the conditions that they're in.
STEVE AUSTIN: But you'll hang on their outcomes, won't you? This- that's the irony of the- governments often have no power - well, you don't have any power over the RBA, but if interest rates start to rise, they won't be blamed. You'll be blamed. And people like me will say what are you going to do about it?
AMANDA STOKER: Yeah, and fair enough. We are subject to the calls that the RBA makes, but I'll give you an example of ways in which I'm hopeful that there won't necessarily be a uniformly upward pressure on inflation over the short term. And one example that effects anyone who's involved in construction, keeping on the housing theme, is the enormously high cost for instance of timber. It's about doubled in cost over the COVID period.
Authorised by Senator the Hon Amanda Stoker, Liberal National Party, Queensland
AMANDA STOKER: In large part, that's due to problems at our ports and changes in the flow of international shipping that have come with COVID. As the world opens up, as Australia re-engages with the world, hopefully as those involved in disputes at our waterfront see good sense, then those pressures change and the price of products like that that have been really quite significantly impacting inflation will change. So it's not a uniform measure but as we get back to normal, those measures should start to settle.
STEVE AUSTIN: Seventeen to five, news at five. LNP Senator for Queensland, Amanda Stoker, is my guest. Let's move on. Something happened here in Queensland today. The chairman of the Crime and Corruption Commission, Alan MacSporran, has warned that he thinks a plan to excuse Commonwealth or federal members of the Brisbane Olympic Organising Committee from declaring conflicts of interest presents corruption dangers in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games- sorry, the Olympic Games 2032. And this was a specific request from the Commonwealth apparently. Why did the Commonwealth ask for exemption from Queensland law when it comes to the Olympic Committee for the 2032 Olympics?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, the first thing to say is that my understanding of what Mr MacSporran said is that under the existing proposal, the Commonwealth members would be excluded. He has said that that means they won't be covered, of course. The first thing to say is that for a Queensland Government bill, it wouldn't be ordinary to cover people who are acting on behalf of the Commonwealth. The second thing to say is that anyone who will be acting on behalf of the Commonwealth will be subject to Commonwealth standards as it relates to declaration of conflicts of interest, as it relates to standards of anti-corruption. Those things are already present. They are significant burdens and that kind of obligation would need to be met by those people. It's just in a Commonwealth forum rather than a state one.
STEVE AUSTIN: The indication seems to be that there is- someone like Alan MacSporran is implying at least, if not directly saying, that there needs to be some sort of Commonwealth or federal anti-corruption body. I'm not sure if you've heard that, but that's what I read in the press, although I haven't heard him say it out of his own mouth.
AMANDA STOKER: Look, I haven't heard him say that. But in any event, there will be a Commonwealth anti-corruption body. Noting, of course-
AMANDA STOKER: In this term of government. And the first thing to say is that there are already 12 agencies at the Commonwealth level that deal with corruption.
STEVE AUSTIN: Sure, sure. But you, your government committed to a new one?
Authorised by Senator the Hon Amanda Stoker, Liberal National Party, Queensland
AMANDA STOKER: It's not as though it's a free for all. And we've committed to bring them all together in one place. We're still committed to do that. The process for getting that legislation sorted has been the subject of consultation. It's pretty much ready to go. It'll be done this term of government.
STEVE AUSTIN: Senator Amanda Stoker is my guest. Senator Stoker is the Assistant Minister to the Attorney-General, Assistant Minister for Industrial Relations, and the Assistant Minister for Women. Today, I believe you met the Noosa Satanists when they were-
AMANDA STOKER: Yesterday, yes.
STEVE AUSTIN: Yesterday, where they were asking about the Religious Freedom bill that the Federal Government has before Parliament. What do they want to know?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, they wanted to make their submissions about what they think is the right balance between protecting the right of people of faith to express their views and making sure that people from all walks of life can co-exist.
STEVE AUSTIN: Is- are satanists the people who worship the dark lord of the underworld? Are they people of faith or are they people of something else?
AMANDA STOKER: I don't know if I'm allowed to say this on the air, I do think they were taking the piss a bit, but- am I allowed to say the on the radio? But look. I represent all of Queensland. I'm happy to listen to people from all walks of life, hear where they're coming from, and people should be able to expect that their representatives will do that no matter what they're perspective is.
STEVE AUSTIN: Senator Stoker, thanks for coming in.
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