Television Interview with Natalie Barr – Sunrise – Friday 15 March 2024


SUBJECTS: Budget; GST distribution

NATALIE BARR: Treasurer Jim Chalmers has declared his third budget will be more protein than carbs, warning Aussies there will be no big cash splashes. He says any extra help will be targeted, responsible and affordable. But is that the right approach when people are struggling with the cost‑of‑living crisis?

For more let’s bring in Education Minister Jason Clare and Deputy Opposition Leader Sussan Lee. Good morning to both of you.


SUSSAN LEY: Morning.

BARR: Jason, the Government has been talking a big game on cost‑of‑living but now there won’t be much help on the way. Is that the right way to go?

CLARE: I think it’s definitely true that inflation is still the biggest issue in the economy, it’s the dragon we have to tame.

We’ve seen inflation drop by about two-thirds over the last two years since we were elected. Wages are going up as well, wage growth is about double what it was when we were elected. So, they’re good things.

Those tax cuts that come into place from 1 July are really important because people are doing it tough. You know, people are feeling the pinch. So those tax cuts that come in on 1 July are really important. What Jim has said is that it’s likely that there’ll be other cost‑of‑living measures in the Budget, but they’ll be targeted and designed not to add to inflation. That’s important.

BARR: Jason, is it still the beast we have to tame? Isn’t the economy about to hit the crapper? We’re just about in a recession, aren’t we?

CLARE: No, we’re not. But, you know, there are countries like Japan that have gone into recession. I think what Jim said is that we’re seeing inflation come down but there’s still more work to do there, but we do need to focus on making sure that we continue to see the economy grow so there are two challenges there that we need to meet as part of putting together a responsible budget.

BARR: Sussan, what do you think? Do you think the government should be spending more or is this the right approach to be careful seeing as we’ve come out of this inflationary period?

LEY: Nat, I don’t think Australians expect a cash splash, but they do expect an economic plan. The Treasurer’s talking about protein and carbs and singing slogans and having pictures. Proteins or carbs, has he been to the supermarket lately? The price of everything is going up and all we are hearing is this sort of sloganistic approach. So there isn’t an economic plan.

I’m really worried. I mean people would expect me to come up with an opposing position because we’re in the Opposition but I am actually worried about Australians who can’t fill up their supermarket trolleys, who are terrified of what is going to be rung up at the checkout and are listening to this Treasurer talking in slogans, and almost trying to be funny about things that really matter to them.

So back to, where is the economic plan? And Jason mentions tax cuts. But if all that’s on offer is $15 a week in July, that’s not enough.

          BARR: Okay. Let’s look at the news of the day. A battle is looming in Canberra this morning as the State Treasurers prepare to meet to discuss the future of GST distribution.

New South Wales Chris Minns has called for shake up, claiming richer States should no longer be responsible for propping up poorer ones.


CHRIS MINNS: New South Wales taxpayers send enormous amounts of money to the Commonwealth Government. We deserve our fair share of resources from the Federal Government, and we won’t rest until we receive it.

[End of excerpt]

BARR: Okay, Jason. Chris Minns not happy Jan. What do you make of his comments?

CLARE: I think everyone watching knows that we see this argy‑bargy every year when the Commonwealth Grants Commission hands down its independent decision.

I’m old enough to remember Bob Carr making the same argument to John Howard. It was only a couple of years ago that Dom Perrottet was making the same arguments to Scott Morrison.

The key point to make here is that this is independent of the Australian Treasurer, it’s independent of the Australian Government. It’s a Grants Commission that make the determination about how the GST is allocated across the States.

BARR: Sussan, wasn’t it when Scott Morrison was trying to win seats in WA that he caved and gave WA a lot more money and they’re happy now and a lot of the other States aren’t?

LEY: Well I think this is all sounding a bit shouty and loud, Nat, and I would suggest to the Labor leaders that maybe they dial down the testosterone.

We’ve got the West Australian Premier calling, you know, his colleagues whingers. We’ve got the New South Wales Treasurer calling his colleagues absurd. We’ve got Anthony Albanese trying to pull the curtain down and saying, “There’s nothing to see here”. So let’s see how the meeting of State Treasurers goes today, but let’s be constructive.

BARR: Okay. Well hopefully not ‑ I mean no one likes shouting, so we don’t like that. Thank you very much. Hopefully no more shouting when all the Premiers meet. We’ll talk about that next week. See you guys.

CLARE: Thanks, see you.