Television Interview with Leigh Sales – ABC 7:30 – Monday 11 April 2022

ABC 7:30

SUBJECTS: Anthony Albanese’s honesty; Scott Morrison’s character; Labor’s policies. 

LEIGH SALES, HOST: For the duration of the campaign each major party appoints a spokesperson. Senator Anne Ruston is the Coalition’s in Canberra and Jason Clare is Labor’s in Sydney. Welcome to both of you. Jason, firstly to you, for a long time, rightly or wrongly, Labor’s political weakness has been considered economic management. Against that backdrop that was a hell of an own goal for Anthony Albanese to make today wasn’t it on day one?
JASON CLARE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS: I think what we saw is a leader being honest. We haven’t seen the leader of this country be honest for a long, long time. Albo made a mistake, he owned up to it and took responsibility for it. That is human but I think that is also character. I think most Aussies would respect that.
SALES: Shouldn’t he have known those numbers? They are pretty major economic indicators.
CLARE: We will all make mistakes and I think the Prime Minister made the mistake the other day of not knowing the cost of petrol. Politics is not a pop quiz. Leadership is not a pop quiz. This shouldn’t be a game between politicians and the media. Leadership is all about understanding what the big problems are in this country and having solutions to fix them. When we’ve got the cost of living going through the roof and wages being flat and more and more people struggling to pay the bills, they are the sorts of issues I think most Australians are focused on.
SALES: Anne Ruston, Scott Morrison also made a mistake saying something he would hope people would forget, “I don’t hold a hose, mate.” Does Anthony Albanese’s misstep show that people are human and sometimes mess up?
SENATOR ANNE RUSTON, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: There is certainly no doubt that elections are tough. It is day one of six weeks. But I think what we do need to recognise is that Mr Albanese hasn’t held an economic portfolio and the statistics and history show that the Labor Party don’t have a great history with managing money. I think what we saw today with Scott Morrison, with his opening gambit on day one of the election campaign was based on a strong track record. We inherited 5.7% unemployment and today it is at 4%. 1.7 million jobs created over the term of this Government. I think it is a very strong platform to go to the electorate with, to say to them we have a strong track record and a plan to make sure we have a strong economy for a strong future for all Australians.
SALES: What would each of you say is the main thing that differentiates your party’s agenda in this election from the other side, Anne Ruston first?
RUSTON: I think a strong economic management is something that the Coalition Government, this Government and Coalition Governments before it have always been recognised for. We always have lower interest rates, we always have lower unemployment rates, we always make sure that people have more of their taxes left in their pockets, they can keep more of what they earn. We are a small government, and we believe that Australians deserve to be able to keep more of what they earn. But we also understand that a strong economy means productive investments in things like roads, rail, water and renewable energy technologies because that’s what affords us being able to pay for things like health care and those other essential services and making sure we have strong borders and good defence.
SALES: Jason Clare what are your offering that the other side is not?
CLARE: I think what Anne said is not exactly right, there. The highest taxing governments in Australia in the last 30 years have both been Liberal governments. This one and the Howard Government. On average when you compare the last Labor Government to this Government unemployment has been lower, economic growth has been stronger and wages have grown stronger. Under this Government you have now got almost $1 trillion of debt. You want to know what we’re offering? Cheaper childcare, cheaper electricity, fixing aged care, stronger Medicare, free TAFE, more university places, more affordable housing, making it easier for Australians to buy a house, a national anti-corruption commission and an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. On the other side all you’ve got is an old Government running out of puff. The budget proved it, Leigh. All short-term fixes, no long-term solutions. Most of the initiatives in the budget to help people have got a shorter shelf life than a tub of peanut butter.
SALES: Jason, there is a constant theme in some of the commentary that Anthony Albanese hasn’t done enough to define himself for voters, that he has been invisible for much of the past two years and is running a small target strategy. Is there a risk for him that Scott Morrison now has an opening to define the Labor leader in the mind of voters?
CLARE: I think the problem for Scott Morrison is that they know him too well. Australians gave Scott Morrison a chance at the last election, and he has let them down. Most Australians are disappointed, and some are even worse than disappointed, they’re angry and exhausted. They feel like he went off to Hawaii when Australia was on fire, that he didn’t buy enough vaccines when Australia was forced into lockdown, that he made the same mistake again with rapid antigen tests when food was running off the shelves. We had the same example only a couple of weeks ago where people were forced to climb on their roofs and hire their own helicopters because support from Scott Morrison was not there. It is always too little too late with this Prime Minister and the problem the prime minister has is that Australians know that.
LEIGH: Anne Ruston let he ask you to respond to that, is it the case that perhaps, as Jason suggests, that people might be asking themselves, do we really want three more years of this bloke?
RUSTON: What I’d say to Jason is there are a number of short-term temporary and targeted measures in the budget that focus directly on the immediate cost of living pressures that are before us. Some of those, we don’t know how long they are going to last for. I mean, it really is a bit disingenuous. We would have $81 billion more debt and taxpayers would have to fork out $81 million more if we’d listened to the Labor Party during the pandemic. A Labor Party that wanted to pay people to have vaccines that they’d already had. The other thing I would say is there are a lot of long-term, nation-building projects that are in our budget, a fully costed budget, a fully-detailed budget. It is the plan that has been laid out for Australians about what the Coalition Government will do over the next three years, and I have to say I’m really sorry, Jason, but all you’ve done is said a whole heap of words, I haven’t seen any plan. I think the Coalition has got a very strong plan. But we can have temporary and targeted measures to deal with today as well as have long-term measures to build a strong economy and a strong future for all Australians.
SALES: We are out of time tonight. Anne Ruston and Jason Clare, no doubt we will speak to you again during the campaign. I will give you the last word next time, Jason.