Prime Minister of Australia

02/22/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 02/21/2024 16:23

Radio interview - 5AA Breakfast

WILL GOODINGS, HOST: Prime Minister, good morning to you.

ANTHONY ALBANESE, PRIME MINISTER: Good morning. Good to be with you.

DAVID PENBERTHY, HOST: Great to have you on, PM. I know there's been a lot of hoopla, melee, and we had Richard Marles on the show only yesterday about the Defence announcements over the past 48 hours, but can I ask you, British Aerospace, BAE Systems, rather, they've disputed Government claims that the project has blown out. But more importantly, they're warning this morning that as a result of going from six ships to three, we're not going to have a continuous build here in South Australia. So, when you go through the fine print of this, do you think that South Australia might actually end up being dudded by this deal?

PRIME MINISTER: Absolutely not. South Australia is going to be big winners from this deal. The construction of the Hunter Class frigates there at Osborne will sustain at least 2,000 jobs and create at least 500 new jobs over next decade. Combined with, there's going to be 4,000 jobs created to build the new submarine construction yard there in South Australia, then more than 4,000 direct jobs to build the nuclear-powered subs in Australia as well. So, I think South Australia will be big winners from this project. Our job is to look after the Australian national interests. And that's precisely what we are doing to ensure that we'll go to more than double, essentially, our navy surface fleet over the period, up to 26 major surface fleet naval vessels. And this is a big win for South Australia and for Western Australia. Those two states in particular is where we will focus. In addition to that, of course, there's a massive spin-off which is there.

PENBERTHY: Can you explain specifically how South Australia a winner when the sum of the announcement was three fewer ships than previously announced?

PRIME MINISTER: Because what we are doing is really focusing the effort to make sure that instead of just an announcement, which is what has occurred in the past, where you've had basically non-funded, in this case, it was a $20 billion shortfall, what we are doing is setting out for the first time a defence strategy arising out of the Defence Strategic Review that makes it very clear what we will build, where we'll build it and to do it in a way in which it's fully funded. Now, that will provide certainty. And already the last time when I was in South Australia there just a couple of weeks ago, talking with students in real-time who are already training for these jobs that will be available when I visited, talking about fee-free TAFE and what we're doing there, but also the university courses that are being made available. This will be a huge win for South Australia and will ensure that naval shipbuilding continues to play an ever greater role in your great state and your great city.

PENBERTHY: Prime Minister, we had some promising wage data that came out this week. Growth hitting a 15-year high. First time in three years that wage growth's outpaced inflation. However, some economists have raised concern that this, in the absence of corresponding productivity gains, is just an inflation driver and could lead the RBA to hiking rates again. Are you concerned that that might be the outcome of this week's information?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, you'll always find some economists who can find every reason possible to say that workers wages should be kept low whilst having nothing to say about corporate executives getting massive bonuses. That's the fact of the matter. For goodness sake, we have real wage growth growing for the first time in many years.

PENBERTHY: But productivity.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, productivity actually grew in the last figures for the first time in a while.

PENBERTHY: Yes, in a long while.

PRIME MINISTER: In a long while, that's right. So, you've had all of the economic data that's been coming out recently has been relatively good news. We know people are under cost of living pressure. And the way that you can deal with that is obviously the inputs, incoming, people's wages, lift them and then get them to keep more of what they earn. And that's what our plan has been. We want workers to earn more and keep more of what they earn. And there will be some commentators. I noted that out there. I'm not sure how many of those commentators have seen their real wages decline in recent years. What we've seen is big growth at the top. We haven't seen wages and your listeners' incomes keep up with inflation. It is a great news that last year, across the whole year, we had real wage growth. And it has been met much earlier than was anticipated. What that means is that some of that cost of living pressure which is there for low and middle income earners is coming off. And that's a good thing.

PENBERTHY: Prime Minister, we have a lot of listeners who are tradies. We have a lot of listeners who are grey nomads who like towing caravans. We've got a lot of listeners who like cars, like Hiluxes and Ford Rangers just because they suit the lifestyle that they lead with their family. Can you guarantee that your Government is not going to artificially increase the cost of those cars on environmental grounds? And secondly, are people entitled to be a little bit cynical about any such pledge, given that it's being made by the same man in Chris Bowen, who has still gone AWOL over the $275 power bill promise?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what people are entitled to do is to express scepticism at an Opposition trying to run a scare campaign that said that, remember, 'Electric vehicles would end the weekend'. There is no compulsion. People can drive whatever vehicles they like. All we're doing here is bringing our emission standards to the same level by 2028 that the United States of America has had in place for some time.

PENBERTHY: But won't that mean prices go up for those cars?

PRIME MINISTER: No. And that was stated by people like Paul Fletcher when he was the Minister, Josh Frydenberg when he was the Treasurer. The former Government said this needed to happen. They just didn't get around to doing anything about it. And there are only two countries, industrialised countries, on the planet that do not have any emission standards. They're Australia and Russia. Now, I don't think that Vladimir Putin's Russia is a model for us on anything. And when people think about the United States and its system, I have noticed, and people can see it on their TV screens on any show that they care to watch, there's a few big vehicles in the United States. Indeed, they're a fair bit bigger than vehicles that are available here. What we want to avoid is Australia just becoming a dumping ground for the dirtiest vehicles. We want to make sure that people get more choice in the vehicles that are available. And that will be a good thing, because it will lower costs of running more efficient cars. And that's why companies like Toyota have come out very much in support of our emission standards.

PENBERTHY: If the US is our guide on this issue, then have you been given pause, then, given that it's been reported in the last week that a big component of their push to EV sales will be delayed till the early part of the give automakers a bit of time to adjust to what they thought was too much, too soon?

PRIME MINISTER: No, because they have had in place emission standards since the 1970s. For decades they've been in place. And what our standards will do, and they're out there for consultation at the moment, but what they are aimed at doing is making sure that there's just more choice, just as there is in the United States. And what the US has done is they were anticipating a very quick shift to more electric vehicles. They're considering a slowdown in that. But what has occurred for some period of time is that whether it is vehicles like utes or passenger vehicles or, indeed, trucks, buses, is that all of the research that is going on from auto manufacturers around the world, and unfortunately, I don't need to tell South Australians that the former Government, Joe Hockey, basically told the car industry in South Australia to leave. And that was a bad decision that occurred. It's one that we opposed at the time. But we're stuck with not having a car industry here. But we will have more choice as a result of this. The particular savings will be from more efficient vehicles will be for people who drive longer distance. They tend to be people in outer suburbs, by definition, in regional areas. And this will be a big win in terms of savings, in terms of cost savings for people driving these vehicles, but also saving on emissions. But cars will still be available. And there's no attempt to tell anyone what they can drive. It's just a matter of making more choice available is what the objective here is. And that surely is just common sense, as people like Josh Frydenberg and Paul Fletcher, when he was the Minister in the former Government, agreed was a sensible thing to do.

PENBERTHY: Prime Minister, I mentioned the $275 power bill promise. Overwhelmingly, when we told our listeners at 6am today that you were coming on and invited them to send in questions and let us know what they wanted us to ask you, the number one thing people have been asking in the midst of the cost of living squeeze is are they ever going to see that money? Or is that promise now officially dead now?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, we put in place our energy price relief plan together with state and territory governments last year. We are doing what we can to lower energy prices. And we'll continue to do every effort to ensure that occurs. As the transition occurs, we know the cheapest form of new energy is renewables. South Australia has been ahead of the game there. But we'll continue to address cost of living in every way that we can, using all the tools at our disposal.

PENBERTHY: It just doesn't feel like the vaunted benefits of this bold, renewable future are tripling down in bill form to our listeners yet.

PRIME MINISTER: Because what we had was a war that led to, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, led to a massive global spike in energy costs.

PENBERTHY: So, is that why the cheque is not in the mail anymore? The $275?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that occurred right around the world. And we're not immune from that. And that led to global spikes, a lot higher.

PENBERTHY: Factoring all that in, is anyone ever going to get the $275?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what that was, that was modelling on the transition that occurred on the basis that renewables are a cheaper form of new energy and the fact that our old coal-fired power stations are closing. There aren't new ones opening. None opened under the former Government over that almost ten years that they were in office. What we are doing is doing what we can to lower energy prices. We intervened in a way that wasn't envisaged to put a cap on coal prices and a cap on gas. That was a very significant intervention by the Federal Government in order to do what we can to reduce those energy prices. And they have had a reduction of a deflationary impact compared with if we had have just sat back and said, 'This is all too hard'. But we'll continue to look at ways in which we can lower costs, whether it be energy or cheaper child care that's been reduced by 11 per cent on average, whether it be the $300 million that people have saved on cheaper medicines or whether it be fee-free TAFE, which has gone from costing thousands of dollars to literally being free. We will do whatever measures we can because we want to address living standards. And yesterday's figures that we spoke about of real wage increases are a very good sign that economic strategy that we've put in place is working.

PENBERTHY: Prime Minister, we are out of time. We'll have to leave it there. Thanks for joining us this morning. Anthony Albanese, the Prime Minister of Australia.