Radio Interview - ABC RN Breakfast with Patricia Karvelas

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Prime Minister

PATRICIA KARVELAS, HOST: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese joins you now, Prime Minister, welcome.


KARVELAS: Let's start with some of the outcomes of the Jobs Summit if we can. And I just need to start by clearing something up, business leaders left the Jobs Summit with the impression that multi-employer bargaining would be opt in, will it be opt in or compulsory?

PRIME MINISTER: We'll have those discussions, Patricia, we don't have the legislation before us. So we made it clear at the summit that there was a range of measures in which there was agreement. Some obviously will require further discussion. But what we're talking about here is the fact that the Council of Small Business said that there were circumstances where multi-employer bargaining could really assist small business as well as assist their employees. But also that there was recognition across the board that enterprise bargaining isn't working. It's not working to lift productivity for business, and it's not working to lift wages for workers. So we need to work these issues through and we'll do that over coming weeks.

KARVELAS: OK so in terms of the negotiation, the idea that it be compulsory is on the table? That's part of the negotiation, it may end up that way?

PRIME MINISTER: I never play the 'on the table game', Patricia, because that is not a way in which you get resolution. What we have is to work through the detail of the legislation, we need reform and there's broad agreement about a range of issues, including the fact that we need to simplify the way that the better off overall test was functioning, that it was actually becoming an impediment. Some of the rules and regulations in our IR system were not working for business or for workers and those issues we need to work through.

KARVELAS: Are you considering giving the Fair Work Commission greater arbitration powers to deal with multi-employer bargaining?

PRIME MINISTER: Well again, Patricia, there are issues that will be worked through in coming weeks. But what we know is that the current system isn't working as it was intended to do. And there was broad agreement there. I was really heartened by the spirit of cooperation that was there throughout the summit. So we don't seek to impose changes, what we seek to do is to have discussions, we'll eventually as a Government have to show leadership.

KARVELAS: Yeah, because business is already saying if it's compulsory, that's a red line issue. So that's why I'm asking the compulsory question.

PRIME MINISTER: Lots of people are saying lots of things, Patricia, and they'll continue to do so. That's the way that bargaining works in our system Patricia, you have lots of statements made. And when you actually cut down to what the detail is, it's possible to get agreement, we will work through those issues.

KARVELAS: Do you see yourself still as a pro-business Prime Minister, and will you listen very acutely to their concern because they are raising alarm bells?

PRIME MINISTER: I see myself as pro-business and pro-worker. I see that there is common interest between business and unions, that Australia works best when we're all headed in the one direction, when there's that spirit of cooperation, and that is the spirit which I wish to foster. That's the spirit that I saw in evidence over the two days of the summit.

KARVELAS: Is one of your objectives to see union membership arise as Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: That's not my objective, that's a decision for workers to make whether they join a union or not.

KARVELAS: Would you like to see that happen?

PRIME MINISTER: What I want to see is living standards rise. I have always belonged to a trade union, I think it makes sense for people to join trade unions but that is a decision for them.

KARVELAS: How much will removing the fuel excise subsidy add to inflation?

PRIME MINISTER: Well it will be a difficult decision. We'll wait and see, we know what it will do. We halve the fuel excise and it will go up again. That was something that was a bipartisan decision before the election. We have to make decisions based upon what we can afford. And we have a trillion dollars of Liberal Party debt. The Liberal Party, when they made that decision about the timeframe, that was something that was agreed, and that's something that will happen at the end of this month.

KARVELAS: But one of the reasons that was cited for also halving it was that it would actually lower inflation, you're saying that you accept that it's an inevitability that it will have an inflationary impact?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, if prices rise Patricia, of course, it has an impact. But that has been factored in, of course, by the economic analysis which has been done including by the RBA.

KARVELAS: The RBA is widely expected to lift interest rates tomorrow by at least 50 basis points, although of course we await that decision. Do you have confidence in how they're managing rising inflation?

PRIME MINISTER: I do have confidence in the RBA and I think it's appropriate that the Government allow the RBA to do its job. There is of course a review taking place of the RBA. But that's appropriate, that every so often, after so many years, that that occur. There's nothing unusual about that, that's happened before. But I do have confidence in the RBA.

KARVELAS: You've previously warned, or cautioned is probably a much better word, rather than warning, which is a pretty strong word. But the RBA, in terms of these interest rate rises and the impact on households. What's your message this morning?

PRIME MINISTER: My message is the same. Of course they have to bear in mind, I'm sure that's something that they do bear in mind, the impact on people of decisions that are made. That is something that people in authority, whether it be an independent authority like the RBA, or people in government have to do.

KARVELAS: Are you worried about householders though as this interest rate increase looms?

PRIME MINISTER: Well I am of course concerned about the cost of living. That's why I'm very pleased that the announcements that we've made today about the rise in the pension and in payments, including the JobSeeker payment, will take some of the pressure off. That's why we'll be introducing legislation for cheaper medicine. That's why we're introducing legislation for cheaper childcare. That's why we have a range of measures occurred at the summit, including measures to take pressure off of housing costs, through the use of our National Housing Infrastructure Facility, a really exciting program, to attract more investment from private capital, including super funds, to social and affordable housing and therefore, take some of the pressure off there. I of course am concerned about the cost of living because I know that so many Australians are doing it tough out there.

KARVELAS: And Prime Minister, you mentioned JobSeeker, there are calls for a permanent rise to JobSeeker, not just the indexation, is that something you'd like to do in your first term as Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: I would always like to provide as much support as is financially responsible for people who are doing it tough, and I recognise that people on JobSeeker are doing it tough. There was a rise during the last term of government, and one of the things that I've said, I've said it in opposition, and I say it again in government, is that a Labor Government will always look at payments each and every budget to see what is affordable and to see what we can do to take pressure off people.

KARVELAS: Are you considering the demands from Senators Jacqui Lambie, Tammy Tyrrell and David Pocock, for all budget measures above a certain dollar amount to be assessed for their impact on Australia's carbon emissions?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we have emissions legislation, of course before the Parliament. That's the plan.

KARVELAS: But you said you're open to amendments, they're giving you these amendments, they put them on the table this morning. Are you willing to consider them?

PRIME MINISTER: Well they put them on the table this morning, as you say Patricia, it is 7:30 this morning. What we will do with any amendments is give proper appropriate consideration. I lead a government that listens, that considers, and then acts. It doesn't just run an operation that makes decisions on the run. If people have serious propositions to improve legislation, we're always up for discussion, whether that be from the Opposition or the crossbenchers, I think we showed that when the legislation was before the House of Representatives, and a range of amendments were carried. I think the legislation is good legislation and it's worthy of support in the Senate.

KARVELAS: Prime Minister, the new Chair of the Women's Economic Equality Task Force, your government's appointed, Sam Mostyn, who we hope to speak to soon, says the refusal to legislate 26 weeks paid parental leave, because of the cost is a failure of imagination. Given you say you want to unlock women's economic participation and make Australia essentially equal between men and women, will you reconsider it in this term? Is she right?

PRIME MINISTER: Well look, I've been on the record about that, Patricia. Of course these measures are ones that that are positive for increasing women's workforce participation.

KARVELAS: So why not just do it?

PRIME MINISTER: Because Patricia, we have something called a budget. And if you in the budget did everything that you wanted to do, that was a good idea, there'd be an interview that we would hold the next morning, which wouldn't be about any specific measures, it would be about the enormous increase in our expenditure.

KARVELAS: Which is of course why budgets are choices. You've made the childcare choice, for instance, you've made the choice to go forward with the stage three tax cuts, which are enormous, these are choices.

PRIME MINISTER: No, that was made under the former government, we have made a choice about childcare.

KARVELAS: You've also made a choice to keep the previous government's taxation policy.

PRIME MINISTER: Patricia, you make a choice about what you do, your initiatives. And the initiatives that we are making are positive, are ones that will make a difference to people, including our childcare policy. On paid parental leave, I said before the election campaign that we would like to do more on that, it was something that we would consider, and which we will. We have a budget in October, and then we have another budget next May. We won't be doing everything that we would like to do in October.

KARVELAS: But what should people expect in May? Will we see more ambition in May, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: I'm sure I'll talk to you between now and May, Patricia and we'll have lots of opportunities -

KARVELAS: But give me the vibe, Prime Minister, is that where you want to go?

PRIME MINISTER: I'll give you the vibe, the vibe is I want to lead a responsible, measured, orderly government that does things that make a positive difference to people's lives, and that brings people with us on the journey of change. That's one of the reasons why we held the summit over the last two days. It's one of the reasons why Sam Mostyn, who is an outstanding appointment that we've made to look at women's economic equality. I can't think of anyone better and I'll be speaking at the Women's CEO forum that Sam Mostyn has helped initiate this Wednesday.

KARVELAS: Prime Minister, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much. Patricia.