Subjects: Prime Minister’s National Press Club address
STEVE PRICE: Well the week didn't start off all that well for the Morrison Government, the Coalition. There was a Newspoll out that showed that they were slipping further behind Labor, and in fact in an election they would be losing two-party preferred vote of 44 per cent. The Prime Minister yesterday was quite contrite; he said he hadn't got everything right and he'll take his fair share of criticism and the blame, it goes with the job. But so does getting up each day, dealing with the challenges and staying positive. Someone who's always positive is the Assistant Attorney General, Queensland LNP Senator, Amanda Stoker. Good to talk to you again, Senator.
AMANDA STOKER: Good morning, how are you?
STEVE PRICE: I'm well. I listened closely to the Prime Minister's address yesterday. It'd be fair to categorise it as a false start of an election campaign, wouldn't it?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, I think the Prime Minister is, like all of us, keen to help Australians focus on the big picture. We've had a long period of time where we've been stuck in the weeds of COVID, where the anxieties of opening up the economy and getting back to normal life have taken their toll. And it's time to step back and look at all the things that are great about this country, our vision for the future, and what that means for the lives of individuals as we emerge from all this.
STEVE PRICE: I think we all agree we live in a great country, but it's been a great country going through a dreadful two-year period. A lot of people that you know and I know have come down with COVID. A lot of people you and I know have lost businesses. There are businesses that are struggling to re-establish themselves. People are not yet out spending money. You are going to have to fight an election campaign with that hanging over you. I've been asking the question this morning, Senator, who do you blame for the mistakes of the past two years? And it's come back to us reasonably evenly split, but I must say that the blame is laid largely, by our audience at least, mostly at the feet of state premiers.
AMANDA STOKER: Look, most of the hardships that have been experienced by individuals have been imposed by state governments. When it comes to lockdowns and business closures and mandates, all of those things have emanated from state governments. But ultimately, Australians don't want to hear governments pointing the finger at one another. They want to hear what governments are going to do to help us get on with it. And there are, among all of those hardships, a lot of good things to take away, too. Australians should take comfort from the fact that we have among the lowest death toll of anywhere in the world from COVID-19. They should take heart from the fact that we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. The fact that we are emerging from this with unemployment at 4.2 per cent, when at the start of the pandemic we were getting forecasts of 15 and 16 per cent from Treasury, is something to marvel at. And it should give us great hope that as we emerge from all of this with inflation below other advanced economies and an intact AAA credit rating, we aren't just emerging from it as a country strong enough to cope now, we're actually in a position, because of the money that was put in the bank when the times were good, to really double down on the jobs, and the businesses, and the research, and the investment that are necessary for us to forge ahead in the decades ahead. And that's something that very few nations in the world can claim to right now.
STEVE PRICE: An email from one of our listeners, Tim, said “I'd like to hear about what the Coalition or Labor are going to do to get our country out of debt.” That is a very good question, and it will be posed during the election campaign. We are burdening our children and their children with massive debt. I'm not sure there was any other way we could've kept people connected to their employers than JobKeeper, but it has put a lot of money on the nation's credit card, hasn't it?
AMANDA STOKER: It has, but what was really important from the PM's address yesterday was that he showed the pathway out of that. And at its core – the core of budget repair – is jobs growth. Because we know that the more people get into work, not only do we have more people contributing to taxes, but the biggest drain on Commonwealth spending, which is welfare and other supports, dramatically goes down. We know that as we have a climate that's great for investment and great for business, we get more taxes from that part of the economy as well. And as that speech laid out, the path to budget repair is a really clear one. And when we contrast it to what we would have inevitably faced had Labor been holding the Treasury at the time of this pandemic, I shudder to think what the contrasting situation would've been.
STEVE PRICE: Small business recovery, Senator, is vital for the country. I imagine you were disappointed when the Treasurer of New South Wales, Matt Kean, a fellow – well, he's a Liberal, you're a Liberal-National Party Senator – said that the Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, and the Prime Minister had gone missing because they didn't stand next to him when he announced a billion-dollar rescue package for small business. That's a bit rich, isn't it, given that, as Josh Frydenberg pointed out, the Federal Government – your government – has ploughed, I think $63 billion is the figure, into New South Wales alone?
AMANDA STOKER: Yeah, look, I think it's a bit cheeky, in circumstances where we have, as a government, put more into support for getting businesses through this time than really at any time in Australian history. We have done more to keep access to the skills and labour that businesses need to be able to get back on their feet. Just as that helps individual workers with certainty, it also helps businesses, because they don't find themselves without the staff they need as often when times get better again. We've invested in the instant asset write-off. We've given a quick instant write-off and cashback for investments that people are making into their businesses. We have invested so much in giving businesses of all sizes, but – I mean, for all of the talk from Labor about how JobKeeper went to big businesses, 96 per cent of it plus went to small businesses. So it's a
really, I think, a little bit cheeky in circumstances where 3.8 million people in New South Wales have also got $4.9 billion in tax cuts. We're doing our part to make sure that there is the money in the pockets of Australians and money in the pockets of the businesses that's needed to help us get back on our feet. Great that New South Wales wants to pitch in too, but by golly, the Commonwealth has not done anything less than its part on this important subject.
STEVE PRICE: We're talking to Queensland LNP Senator Amanda Stoker, who is the assistant Attorney General. The Q&A part of yesterday's Press Club visit was a little rough on the Prime Minister. Should he have known how much a loaf of bread and petrol and a RAT test costs?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, those kind of gotcha questions are always tricky, and I think it's really important that we all stay connected to the cost of things in the ordinary lives of Australia. You know, I think about a conversation I had with my Queensland colleagues the other day about how important the cost of living is for Australians. When a cauliflower costs $9 at the supermarket
STEVE PRICE: What? $9?
AMANDA STOKER: When it's $9 for a cauliflower, and when petrol is getting perilously close to $2 a litre, this stuff really matters. But let's not take our eyes off the main game here. Keeping inflation low is important. Labor's promises that they're going to fix wages in some sort of centralised who-knows-how – it sounds awfully socialist to me – way and promise everybody wage growth from the sky is either a dramatic remaking of our economy in the socialist/communist image, or it demonstrates an enormous ignorance of the way that economies work. And either way, that should terrify Australians.
STEVE PRICE: I'm going to do a cauliflower poll today. I'm going to go to a couple of fruit and veg shops and find out if they're $9. Just finally, I need to ask you about these text messages. Gladys Berejiklian, who you know well, has said that she doesn't recall a text exchange with a senior Liberal member of your Cabinet her in Canberra, where she described him as a horrible, horrible person, she didn't trust him. These texts, we now work out, were sent out during- were exchanged during the 2019 bushfire season. And then, of course, there was a response to Gladys Berejiklian, if indeed she did send that message, that the Prime Minister is a complete psycho. What do you make of all of that?
AMANDA STOKER: Look, I think it doesn't accord at all with my experience of the Prime Minister, first. The second thing to say is that even former Premier Gladys doesn't endorse, or reaffirm, or even remember the things that have been put to the Prime Minister there. And it's not really much more than gossip in circumstances where the messages haven't been put before the PM for him to have a decent look at. So let's go with what we know. And what we know is that despite all the hardships of recent times, the Prime Minister and his team are delivering. And isn't that what really matters?
STEVE PRICE: I guess. Although when you go to the party room next, will people be looking at each other going, was it him or her?
AMANDA STOKER: Well, anybody who might do things like that should take a good hard look at themselves. But at the moment, we don't really have much more than gossip from a media gallery that were just, you know, busting to get at the Prime Minister and poke his buttons yesterday. The fact that he delivered such a big vision address in the context of all of that, I think, is testament to him and to his hard work.
STEVE PRICE: Always a pleasure to catch up. Have a great day. I'll go and check out the cauliflower prices.
AMANDA STOKER: Be careful. They're high.
STEVE PRICE: Thank you.
Amanda Stoker, Queensland LNP Senator, joins us on a regular basis.