SUBJECTS: Inflation, Federal Budget, National Cabinet meeting, COVID isolation.
MONIQUE WRIGHT: Well, Aussies keep getting hit harder by the soaring cost of living, with new figures showing inflation reached a 30-year high in July. The increase was driven by rising building costs, global oil prices and the price of fresh food. Fruit and vegetables went up by more than 18 per cent in August alone. Now, at the same time, household wealth has decreased. It was the first drop since the beginning of the pandemic. For their thoughts, we’re joined now by Education Minister Jason Clare, who’s in Sydney, and Deputy Liberal Leader Sussan Ley, who’s in Albury. Welcome to you both. Jason, you’re very much showing your colours this morning. Good to see you. Listen, inflation is expected to go up even higher. Are you actually concerned how Aussies, on low wages in particular, are going to be able to afford to put food on the table?
JASON CLARE, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: You bet. As inflation goes up and the cost of living goes up, it’s harder and harder for Australians to do that. I guess we’ve got three related problems. One, inflation going up. Two, interest rates going up, so it makes it harder to pay the mortgage. And three, you’ve got extra problems that are created there as well, in terms of the cost of living. We’ve got to get inflation under control. That’s what the Reserve Bank is doing right now by putting up interest rates. But that means that things get tougher before they get better. We’ve also got to get the Budget in better shape as well. The Budget is in worse shape than most State government budgets, and we’ll hand down a new Budget in a couple of weeks’ time. That’s designed to fund the election promises we made that are about helping people with things like the cost of living.
CLARE: But also, in addition to that, making sure that we get rid of the waste and the rorts that we saw in the former Budget from the former Government.
WRIGHT: Sussan, what does the Government need to do in this Budget? How can they help?
SUSSAN LEY: Mon, these figures confirm what we’ve known for some time, which is that costs are going up, up, up. And where is the Labor Party’s plan for what to do about this before Christmas? Inflation is going up. Meanwhile, as you’ve just confirmed, the value of your house is going down. And all of the measures that the government has been talking about don’t kick in until next year. We need a plan before Christmas, because where I come from in rural and regional Australia, people live on low and fixed incomes. Fuel prices are about to go back up, and you travel long distances on Saturday mornings to take the kids to the footy. And you also know that every time you go to the supermarket, you’re buying less with the same amount of money. Now, Labor came into government saying they would do something about it and all they are doing is re-diagnosing the problem, as we’ve just heard Jason Clare say. What we need is the plan and we need to know before Christmas.
WRIGHT: Okay, let’s move on to what’s happening today, and National Cabinet is meeting. Leaders are expected to discuss the potential end of mandatory isolation for COVID cases. Jason, can we trust people that they will be fine? Is it time to just scrap it and treat it like the flu?
CLARE: I think that’s where we’re eventually going to get to, Mon. I don’t know if we’ll make that decision today. Premiers and the Prime Minister will get together to talk about this, but eventually we will need to treat this just like the flu. Remember why we set these mandatory times in place in the first place. That was because unless people stayed at home, we feared that our hospitals would be overloaded. We didn’t have enough respirators to keep people alive in hospital. But as more people get vaccinated and we get better drugs, we’re going to be in a position where we can treat this like the flu. But it’s important, and Sussan and I have made this point on the show before, that we get everybody to get vaccinated. If you haven’t had your third or your fourth shot, then please do that because it’s high vaccination rates and these new drugs that are going to help us to get back to the situation where if you’re crook, you stay at home, but you don’t get a fine if you walk out your driveway.
WRIGHT: Okay, but we know that there have been no vaccinations that have been secured for 2023-24 yet. Sussan, is it time for this? Are you concerned?
LEY: It’s time to see the health advice. It’s great that people are back at the footy and sadly, the Swans went down last weekend. Today, people will be out, and Western Sydney will be the winner. But we do need to be confident that the health advice underpins what National Cabinet is saying. And so, I still believe it needs to be released to give people the confidence that they can get out and about and that governments are actually managing this. Because, sadly, COVID has not yet gone away.
WRIGHT: All right. Sussan, Jason. Thank you both. Enjoy the game, won’t you, on the weekend.
CLARE: Go the Eels.
Media Contact: John Flannery 02 6277 7350