TRANSCRIPT – LiSTNR, Australia Today with Steve Price

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.