Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 17 February 2023


SUBJECTS: Wages; Tackling the cost of living; Unidentified balloons over the US; Ed Sheeran.

NATALIE BARR: The Prime Minister is under pressure from union bosses now to hike the minimum wage in line with inflation for the second time in less than twelve months. Last July, the minimum wage went up 5.2 per cent. Now that was based off an annual inflation rate of 5.1 per cent recorded in March 2022. Economists expect that number to be higher next month, leaving many workers under pressure as their pay packets fail to keep up. Let’s bring in Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Ley. Good morning to both of you.


SUSSAN LEY: Good morning.

BARR: Jason, so the headline inflation rate that includes food and energy is nearly 8%. Will your government support another increase to the minimum wage?

CLARE: G’day, Nat. Well, the Treasurer is working on that submission now. But one thing you can guarantee is that Labor will always support an increase in pay for people on low incomes and the Liberal Party will always oppose it. Just like the Labor Party always drives those big reforms like Medicare and super and the Liberal Party will always oppose it. That’s what they’re doing in the Parliament now.

BARR: You’re putting in a submission to the Fair Work Commission, which of course is an independent body, to increase the minimum wage, by how much would your government be supporting?

CLARE: The point I made a moment ago is the Treasurer is working on that now, but the Labor Party will always support an increase in the minimum wage for Aussies that are doing it tough. We did that during the election campaign. Albo held up a dollar coin said that we think that Aussies on low incomes should get an extra dollar an hour and Scott Morrison said that that was crazy looney tune stuff. And that just shows the big divide between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party have never supported Aussies getting a pay rise and I suspect you’ll hear from Sussan, they still don’t support it now.

BARR: And Jason, a lot of people do. There are a lot of people doing it tough right now. On the flip side of that coin though, people are saying, well, that will feed into inflation. So how much is your government asking for as an increase in the minimum wage?

CLARE: What’s driving inflation at the moment isn’t wages. What’s driving inflation is Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine. And the proof of that is this is happening in the UK, in the US, in Europe as well. People are paying Putin prices at the supermarket at the moment. You see it at the supermarket, but you see it in mortgages as well. We know people are doing it tough. One of the things you have got to do is help Aussies on low incomes to pay the bills. The other thing you got to do is cut things like childcare and medicines, cut the price of coal and gas too, so that we can help cut the cost of electricity.

BARR: So, Sussan, do you support an increase in the minimum wage? People are crying out for help here.

LEY: Nat, everybody wants to see sustainable wage rises. All Australians do. We do. But you’ve got to avoid a wage-price spiral. So, wages pushing up inflation, inflation pushing up wages. And still with no more spending power in your pocket when you walk down the supermarket aisle. Now, Jason talks about guarantees. Well, pretty much we can guarantee that Australians will always pay more under Labor and under Labor, everything is going up except your wages. But honestly, it feels like Anthony Albanese has given up on the economy. He’s stepping back, leaving it all to the Reserve Bank and that, of course, means your mortgage rates will go up. What he needs to do is step up and show leadership. He hasn’t acknowledged the broken promises about a $275 reduction to power prices and he actually promised cheaper mortgages, and he never, ever mentions that once in the Parliament. So, we need sustainable wages, but we also need a government that understands how to manage the economy and do this way better than they’re doing it right now.

BARR: Yeah, it’s a tough mix. Look, let’s go –

CLARE: The minimum wage will always be lower under the Liberal Party. Nat, you just got the proof of that. Electricity bills will always be higher under the Liberal Party because they voted against that $230 to help people with their bills. If you want to talk about more mortgages and interest rates, interest rates were double what they are now, Peter Dutton was the Assistant Treasurer.

LEY: You have to fix the inflation challenge. You have to fix the inflation challenge.

BARR: Right now, that’s what we have to do. I think everyone agrees with that. It is hard to sort of go back in history –

CLARE: And the Liberal Party is saying no to everything, like that Little Britain character. “Computer says no”. “Computer says no”. No policies at all from the Liberal Party.

BARR: And we’re looking at what’s currently happening in Australia. That is what everyone’s talking about and that it’s hitting everyone’s hip pocket. Let’s talk about US president Joe Biden. He’s spoken this morning. He’s revealed new details about three unidentified flying objects which he ordered to be shot down over American airspace. Now, President says it’s still unclear what those objects are, but they do not appear to be part of the Chinese spy balloon programme. Biden says the objects most likely belong to private companies, or they could be weather balloons. Jason, China said they were weather balloons. Do you think this is the case? This would seem to be a surprise when he spoke this morning.

CLARE: It was an interesting development, wasn’t it? You would hope and expect that private companies, if they’ve got balloons up there, would put their hands up and tell you that they’ve been doing this sort of work because it’s right to be concerned about national security, but it’s also right to be concerned about making sure that civil aviation doesn’t run into one of these things. So, if private companies are doing this, they should be putting their hand up and making sure they’re complying with the law.

BARR: Yes. Sussan, what do you make of this? Because the President justified shooting them down and they thought they were a threat, but now says it definitely wasn’t China.

LEY: Well, that this just gets stranger and stranger and weirder and weirder. President Biden has made his remark. I think we’ll all be keeping our eyes on the sky.

BARR: Yeah, I know. It was bizarre, wasn’t it? Okay, let’s finish on this one. Ed Sheeran kicks off the Australian leg of his tour today, and what he did in New Zealand, he turned up at a couple of schools, gave them a huge surprise, made their day. Jason, as the Education Minister, how are you going getting him into some of our schools? Are you friends with Ed?

CLARE: It’s getting close, Nat. It’s his birthday today, so happy birthday, Ed. It’s his first gig in Brissy. I saw that segment last week when he popped up and did a surprise gig in New Zealand at one of the schools. I saw the reaction on the children’s faces and thought, wouldn’t that be awesome if we could get that to happen here? So, I sent him a tweet. My people have been talking to his people. I think this could happen. But there’s almost 10,000 schools across the country, so if you want Ed to come to one of your schools, send him a tweet too. We’ve got to put the pressure on here. Wouldn’t it be just bloody awesome if we could get Ed to do a surprise gig at one of our schools?

BARR: It would be absolutely awesome. The fact that you’ve got people. He’s got people. You know his birthday. It’s feeling good. Okay, thanks, guys.