Prime Minister – Transcript – Interview with Richard Wilkins and Sylvia Jeffreys, Today Extra

Liberal Party of Australia

RICHARD WILKINS: Scott Morrison joins us now from the campaign trail in Darwin. Thank you for joining us, Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER: G’day.

WILKINS: On your superannuation news yesterday, why leave until the 11th hour to make this policy announcement?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, similarly before the last election we made it very clear that housing affordability was such an important issue. And as people get close to the election, I know they’re focussing more. And I wanted to make sure that they understood fully that if they vote Liberal and National at this election, they will long, something they’ve wanted for a long time, they’ll be able to get access to their superannuation to help them get that start in life with buying their own home. When they sell the home, they put the money back into their superannuation so they preserve their superannuation nest egg. But this helps them get that start. It’s so hard to get that start. It was 30 years ago for Jen and I, it’s much harder now and this helps people get that start, reduce their mortgage payments, because they’ll have a bigger deposit. And this is what can really help families realise their biggest ambition often, and that is to own their own home.

SYLVIA JEFFREYS: There are questions, Prime Minister, around how much thought was put into this policy. When was it devised? Was it days ago, weeks ago, months ago? Can you give us a ballpark, even days ago?

PRIME MINISTER: Months [inaudible]. No, many, many months we’ve been working on this policy and it has been carefully thought through and informed by surprise by Treasury analysis. But the key point is, I mean, the hardest thing to do when you’re buying a home is to get that deposit. And this builds on things we’ve already done, the Home Guarantee Scheme, the First Home Super Saver Scheme, the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation, the HomeBuilder Program [inaudible] policies we’ve already introduced in the past and in the last three years that has helped 300,000 Australians get in [inaudible]. Now there was about 164,000 1st home buyers last year. That’s up from the level of around 100,000. Our policies are getting people homes, but it’s getting tougher. And so that’s why we think they should be able to have access to their own money. It’s theirs. They saved it. They earned it, through their superannuation and where it can help them get into that first home, they should have the choice about that. The Labor Party says no, they’ll never let you do that. They’re not treating it like it’s your money. It’s your money and you should have access to it. And I know the families of those who are looking to buy their own home, their parents and others, they want to see their kids get a fair go with this. And this enables them to use their own money.

WILKINS: A lot of people tapped into their superannuation fund as you would be aware during the pandemic, with your blessing. I’m sure a lot of them are saying, gee, it would have been nice to know that this was around the corner and get a bit of a heads up on this.

PRIME MINISTER: What we did during the pandemic was unprecedented, and that was an emergency measure which was only done for a very short period of time. And that’s not something we would contemplate, and nor would we ever contemplate it going beyond buying your first home. Retirement savings are important, that’s why we designed this policy to not to take away from your superannuation, but to actually reinforce it because, you know, when you get into retirement, if you don’t own your own home, you’re a lot worse off. And the best time to buy your own home is when you can do it early in life and to be able to get that headstart, to be able to get that ability to kick start your first home ownership by using your own money, not having the Government own 40 per cent of your home. People don’t want that. They want to own their own home, and they want that to be their place, and for them to have total control over it. And that’s how it should be. Otherwise, it’s not a family home. It’s a Government-owned home.

JEFFREYS: Okay. I’d like to ask, Prime Minister, about disability housing. Last year your Government made a commitment that nobody under the age of 45 would be living in aged care by the end of 2022 and no-one under the age of 65 by 2025. Now, over the last financial year, only 72 young people, that’s 72 out of 3,500 were moved out of aged care and into specialist disability accommodation. Are you happy with that number?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there’s more in the years before that, I’d note. And we’ve been making progress on that goal. It’s, it’s not an easy thing to achieve and and particularly when you’re trying to do that in the middle of the pandemic. Which I’m sure you appreciate [inaudible] –

JEFFREYS: But you’re you’re way off meeting those, you’re way off meeting those targets. Sorry to interrupt. You’re way off meeting those targets. 72 individuals out of 3,500 who would like to be moved out of aged care and into specialist accommodation, which is available. You can’t be happy with that progress?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, not all that specialist accommodation is available, and that’s part of the challenge. And that’s why it’s –

JEFFREYS: There’s a 40 per cent vacancy rate. There’s a 40 per cent vacancy rate across all SDAs.

PRIME MINISTER: And what we have – what we are, what are we will be doing is continue to double down on ensuring that we meet those important targets. It is it is difficult to get people moving from one accommodation to the other and it is difficult to have been doing that during a pandemic. It remains an important goal for the Government, and we’re going to continue to pursue it very enthusiastically.

WILKINS: Wage figures are out tomorrow, Prime Minister, we know they won’t match the rise in inflation. Are you concerned that this is proof that families have gone backwards on your watch?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the minimum wage has actually increased by 7 per cent in real terms since we came to Government in 7 out of the last 8 years, the minimum wage, which is linked to about 25 per cent of all wage earners in the, in the economy. There’s only a 2 per cent of people on the minimum wage, but there’s another 23 per cent in the workforce whose wages are linked through rewards to that minimum wage decision. Now what that means is in the last 7 out of the last 8 years, the wages have risen higher than inflation. When Labor were in power, 3 out of the 6 years, it was actually less. And so we’ve been able to do this, Richard, during the middle of a pandemic and a global recession, 30 times worse than what happened during the Global Financial Crisis of more than 10 years ago. We got 400,000 more people in jobs than before the pandemic and when it comes to cost of living, we all know what’s causing that. It’s the war in Europe. It’s the disruption that has been caused by the pandemic to supply chains and transport costs, and even the pressure from the recent floods on fruit and vegetable prices. But when you look at our cost of living here in Australia, inflation running at 5.1 per cent. In New Zealand, it’s 7 per cent. In the United States, it’s 8.5 per cent. And when you look at interest rates, ours went up 25 basis points from historical lows. In New Zealand, they went up by 125. In the UK and the US and they’ve gone up to 100 basis points. So yes, these pressures are real, but we put up an economic shield, Richard, to protect Australians from these global forces and we’re doing so much better than other countries as a result.

JEFFREYS: We know that you don’t want to say whether or not you will step down as Leader if you don’t win the election on Saturday. But are you confident that you can pull off another miracle?

PRIME MINISTER: This is the choice of the Australian people. I was saying the same thing to me three years ago and so speculating on, on, on outcomes that I’m not working towards is not something I engage in. What we’re trying to make very clear at this election is there is a choice and how strong our economy is in the future will determine the choices that Australians have as families. Whether they can buy their own home, whether they can be able to deal with the rising cost of living pressures. We’ve demonstrated as a Government our ability to manage money. We’ve demonstrated our ability to grow a strong economy and we’ve got an economic plan which will now take us to the next level. The Labor Party are a risk. We’ve got a leader of the Labor Party in Anthony Albanese who’s been very loose on the economy, not knowing key fundamentals about the economy. And that’s a great risk to you and your family. If you can’t manage money, you can’t run a Government, that means you can’t support essential services like Medicare and indeed, disability accommodation.

WILKINS: Well it’s been a relentless campaign. Just four days to go, I’m sure you’re looking forward to Saturday. Thank you for your time this morning, Prime Minister we appreciate it.

PRIME MINISTER: Thanks very much. Good to be with you.

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