Prime Minister – Transcript – Press Conference – Armstrong Creek, VIC

Liberal Party of Australia

STEPHANIE ASHER, LIBERAL CANDIDATE FOR CORANGAMITE: Good morning, everybody. Welcome to [inaudible]. It’s wonderful to welcome the Prime Minister Scott Morrison back to the Corangamite region for the fifth time. And to Armstrong Creek for the second time. We’ve just met some home owners, and somebody who’s actually going to this morning, which is fantastic. Another great thing is to share the celebration of the announcement of the $200 million to the Barwon Heads Road duplication, which was announced recently as part of a commitment if the Morrison Government is re-elected. So, fantastic and I welcome Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you.

ASHER: I’ll hand over now.

PRIME MINISTER: Well, thank you very much, Steph. It’s great to be here with you and Sarah, but also another Sarah today who we’re we’re at her home today. And she’s got the keys to her home today and she’ll be moving in here over the weekend. And it was wonderful to meet some other young people here today who are looking to do exactly the same thing that to build their home. And another young man who’s looking to buy his first home. And, you know, as I was coming here this morning with Jenny, and we were driving here and I looked around these new communities that have been built up in this area, in the electorate of Corangamite. Young families coming, setting up, moving here, building their homes. Grandparents walking kids to school. Kids on their bikes. This is what it’s all about. This is the great aspiration of Australians to come, build a home, make a life, build a community, get involved in local sporting clubs, be part of all the things that are happening in this wonderful part of Australia and to build a life together. And you know, what we seek to do as a Government is just back people into that, and give them every chance and every opportunity to realise their aspirations. Because our great belief in Australia is based on them, about them taking those risks, about them making those commitments, about them making those sacrifices. We heard from Sarah this morning, some five years – she saved before she went and built this house and now she’s moving in. And that is a great achievement and that is setting her up for the rest of her life. And, you know, in communities like this, they need the support of the infrastructure and the services that will ensure that the decision that they’ve taken to come and make a life here is backed in and we are seeing new skills built here. But that’s why we’re also very pleased to commit to $200 million to the Barwon Heads Road upgrade stage two. And I want to congratulate Stephanie Asher for the great work that she’s done to enable us to build on the commitment that we’ve already made for stage one of that project, which was $292 million for stage one – the duplication of the Barwon Heads Road between Settlement Road and Reserve Road, and that’s currently under construction supporting some 300 jobs and is expected to be completed by the end of 2023. Now we’ve committed all the funds to ensure that the Federal Government’s doing its job, to ensure that this important road project gets done and supports these communities, just not now with stage one being under construction, but to move to stage two. Because when you make a decision to come and build your home here, what you’re what you’re doing is you’re giving a vote of confidence in this area for the future. And we’re backing in that vote of confidence by ensuring that we’re supporting these decisions with infrastructure. But those who want to come here and live here, we’re supporting them with our Super Home Buyers Program. And let me be really clear about what this is again, because only by voting Liberal and National this Saturday can you get access to your own savings in your own super to ensure that you can have a bigger deposit, which means that you can pay less on your mortgage and you can get into your own home sooner. And down the track, many years down the track, when you sell that home, or perhaps if you refinance, if you wish to, at that point, you can will transfer what you took out of your super in the first place and the capital appreciation. So you’re preserving your superannuation savings for when you retire. This policy deals with both challenges about getting Australians into their own home, so when they retire they’re not retiring and having to rent. And it also is preserving their superannuation over the course of their life by allowing their own super to invest in the most important thing that that young couple or that Australian couple or individual will ever invest in, most likely over their entire lifetime. But that’s not the only thing that we’re doing to support Australians, deal with the challenges and cost of living pressures that they face. There are many things that as governments you can’t control. We can’t control the war in Europe. We can’t control the disruption that has taken place to world supply chains from COVID. We can’t control the shutdown that has occurred in China, which is adding further price pressures to the global economy and to shipping and all of these issues. We can’t control the natural events that take place like the recent floods, which pushed up the prices of fruit and vegetables. But what you can control as a Government is how you manage money, and if you can’t manage money, then you can’t do anything to take the pressure off Australian families dealing with these pressures that are coming from outside of Australia. The fact that in the last 12 months our economic plan meant we could turn around the Budget by over $100 billion. It meant that we could step up and halve the petrol tax. We could step up and provide that additional $250 to pensioners and others across the country to help them deal with those cost of living issues. It’s enabled us to step up and ensure that families here and individuals and right across the country can get additional tax relief so they can keep more of what they’ve earned $420 for people earning up to $126,000 to ensure that they have that little bit extra support to help them get through these difficult times. It’s what’s enables us to cut the price of non-concessional medicines by $10, helping independent retirees in particular. It’s what helps us to extend the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card to another 50,000 Australians and freeze the deeming rates. It’s what helps us ensure that Australians continue to get tax relief into the future. During the next three years, in the next term, our plan legislated is to ensure that between $45,000 and $200,000 earnings a year, you will pay no more than 30 cents in the dollar top marginal tax rate – 30 cents down from 32.5 and down from 37. That’s a big change that’s going to make a big difference because we are the party of lower taxes. We’re always about lower taxes, and in fact, we’re so committed to it, when I was Treasurer, I made it Government policy that there had to be a speed limit on taxes. The taxes as a share of the economy could not rise above that speed limit. Labor has said they’re going to abolish that speed limit. And so with the hole in their bucket on their Budget that we’ve been able to highlight today, $25 billion worth of commitments, only $5 billion to pay for it. And a Shadow Treasurer who’s running around saying – a couple of billion dollars here and there over a year is not much, it’s not a big deal. Well, it is a big deal, Jim. It’s a very big deal. And that’s how we think about it. You can’t be loose with the nation’s finances. You can’t be loose with your understanding of the economy. Because what that does is that puts further pressure on Australian families. That puts further pressure on the cost of living. That puts further upward pressure on interest rates. There’s already enough pressures on these things without having a Labor Government that doesn’t understand the economy, thinks they can just have a few billion lazy here and there and it isn’t much of a big deal and not be able to cost their policies or be transparent about it. I mean, yesterday Anthony Albanese did the full Forrest Gump when it came to being asked about his costings. Off he was running. Run, Forrest run. That’s what we saw him from yesterday doing when he was asked the simple question, how are you going to pay for your policies? All of our costings, all of our policies announced during this election campaign have been submitted all the way through – over 35 of those policies. Yesterday, day before, we were very clear, yesterday, about how we were paying for those policies, and we even made sure that would be able to improve the situation of the Budget that we recently outlined. Labor won’t tell you a thing. What are they hiding? Why do they want to get rid of the speed limit on taxes? We know Labor taxes you more when they can’t manage money. That’s their form. That’s the risk of Labor.

JOURNALIST: In many parts of Melbourne we’re seeing petrol prices go back past $2 a litre.

PRIME MINISTER: True.

JOURNALIST: Can you level with Australians and confirm that if you’re re-elected, petrol excise will rise by around $0.22 in September?

PRIME MINISTER: That is, that is the position.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] Australians are facing a petrol price rise of $0.22, if you’re re-elected?

PRIME MINISTER: That is the position of both parties, major parties, at this election. And what we will watch closely over this period of time is what continues to happen with petrol prices. We put in in the Budget a six month period of halving the fuel excise. Now we did that on the basis of Treasury’s advice about what they believed would happen with fuel prices over that period of time. Now they actually fell a lot faster than we anticipated, and those savings were passed through a lot more quickly by the big petrol companies. And and we appreciate that. And we’ve seen prices go up. We may well see them go down again, because they’re all being driven by a lot of these forces that are going on in the global economy. And so we’re only, we’re only a month in, a month and a bit in. And we will see this volatility and we will watch that. But I’ll tell you what, if you don’t know how to manage money, you can’t have the fuel excise. And that’s what we have done, because we know how to manage money. Labor doesn’t know how to manage money. That’s why they’re such a risk to you and your family. And the cost of living pressures that you will face. Jen.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, isn’t it a fact that everything is going up except for people’s real wages?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, wages are going up. Inflation is the challenge. Wages are going to go up because unemployment is coming down and unemployment has fallen to 4 per cent in this country. And we’ll find out later in this week where it goes to in in the most recent data. Youth unemployment has fallen to 8.3 per cent. There are 400,000 more people in jobs today on this side of the pandemic than there was before. This is the strongest employment performance of any of the advanced economies in the world. And more importantly, we’ve just gone through an economic downturn because of the pandemic that was 30 times worse globally than what the global financial crisis was when Labor was last in power. But our employment performance is 50 per cent better than what Labor were able to achieve. The way wages go up is when you get unemployment down and you get businesses that are able to earn more so they can afford and pay higher wages. Now I want to see wages go up. I want to see the minimum wage go up, of course I do, but how that’s set has to be done carefully and done in a way by the Fair Work Commission, because they will be thinking carefully about all the forces that are there in the economy. The economy has so many moving parts at the moment. And you’ve got to be careful, otherwise, all you end up doing is pushing interest rates up even higher, pushing the cost of living up even higher, which leaves people worse off. That’s why you’ve got to understand the economy. You can’t be a loose unit on the economy. You can’t be loose with public finances as Labor have, and it seems from Jim Chalmers they’re happy to be again, because that only pushes up inflation, which makes that real wage challenge even more difficult.

JOURNALIST: This really big concern about cost of living, and you did mention that people can dip into their super to buy a house, but people already did that during COVID. So is there some concern for young people trying to buy a house? Because rent at the moment is the same as a mortgage. Is there another solution, maybe?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there are many solutions that our Government has put into place. And over the last three years, 300,000 Australians have been able to get into their own home directly because of the policies of our Government. Those policies, the First Home Super Saver account and you’ve asked questions, so let me go over them. The First Home Super Saver account I put in place when I was Treasurer. What that meant was, rather than putting your savings in a bank account where it attracts the higher levels of tax, you can actually save for your own home by putting the money in your super account, which means your savings can grow faster. Labor opposed that. Then we had the HomeBuilder program during the course of the pandemic and Sarah here has been able to build this home because of that program, adding new supply to the market, filling these lots, when you get build more homes, then that puts downward pressure on housing prices because you’re putting more stock into the market. Labor mocked it. Labor thought it was a joke. They thought it was a program for the rich. It’s putting Sarah in our own house and she’s moving in this Saturday. On top of that, we established the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation, working with community housing organisations to help them finance the development of affordable accommodation, particularly for key workers, police and so on, and those on very low incomes. 27,500 units of accommodation are being provided through that Scheme. Now we’ve got the downsizing program. The downsizing program, which is freeing up housing stock for those at the other end of buying a home, when they’re looking to change what their accommodation requirements are. And we had a bit of a chat last night about that on ACA. Thing is, when you release stock of those larger homes, well, people in the housing market move up and buy them. And that means other houses are freed up in the housing market. That’s how it works. It’s a $9 trillion valued market here in Australia, $687 billion of turnover in housing transactions every year. And what this means is it’s freeing up stock. So our housing policies work right across the spectrum. Now, it’s important that we see more land release. It’s important that we see more units approved so we can put downward pressure on house prices. And we need to continue to work with the State Governments to achieve that. But what this is doing is getting people into their own homes. 164,000 people bought their first home in 2021. The average is around 100,000. 64,000 more people last year getting into their first home – that’s an extraordinary achievement done in a pandemic at a time when house prices were actually rising. They are housing policies that work.

JOURNALIST: There’s been a massive amount of pre-poll votes cast this year, I think one in five voters. Why do you think voters are in such a hurry to vote? And are you worried that they’ve made up their mind about you and want this election over and done with?

PRIME MINISTER: The same thing happened last election. It just went over a longer time. Pre-poll’s come from three weeks down to two weeks. And, you know, people will be in a lot of different places on polling day. And we’ve seen about, about a third or thereabouts of people pre-poll now before elections, and I’d be expecting it to be about the same. It’s just being done over a shorter period of time this week. And I got to tell you, the response we’re getting from people on pre-poll is, you know, really encouraging. And I thank all of our workers who are out there having those conversations with on booths and I’ll tell you what they’re telling them today, if you want to get access to your superannuation to help you or your kids buy a home, then the only way that’s going to happen is if you vote Liberal or National at this election, because Labor will never, ever let you do it, because the unions will never, ever let them do it. I want you to be in charge of your money. The Labor Party doesn’t think it’s your money. They think it belongs to somebody else and that they can tell you where to spend your money. That’s what Labor always does. That’s why they like higher taxes, because they think your money is better in their pockets than it is in your own stuff.

JOURNALIST: PM, you’ve been to Geelong now five times since December.

PRIME MINISTER: It’s great, isn’t it? I love Geelong.

JOURNALIST: Obviously Corangamite is, you know, front of mind for you. But given the contest that are going on in the teal Independents Seats in Swan, in Bruce, in Reid and Chisholm. If you don’t win Corangamite, can you realistically hold onto Government?

PRIME MINISTER: Look, before the last election, I remember what everyone was saying before it, but you know, Australians are making this choice. Pollsters aren’t making this choice. Commentators aren’t making this choice. Journalists are not making this choice, except in your own vote, and you know, however you choose, Australians are making this choice. And at this election I think there’s a fundamental difference and that is in the Liberals and the Nationals, and Stephanie Asher here in Corangamite, we believe the answer to securing Australia’s future opportunity is you. And that’s why our policies, particularly like what we’re talking about here, enabling you to buy your own home, with your own money demonstrates our belief in you, just like JobKeeper did, just like the cash flow boost, just just like enabling you to get through with tax reductions for small business to allow them. It was all about backing Australians. Labor believes the Government is the answer. That’s why they want the Government to own your own home. When it comes to housing policies, their only answer is to put people in government homes or to have the Government buy your home. We have a very different view. We believe in Australians. The Labor Party believes in Government and I believe Australians believe in themselves too.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, in your own electorate of Cook, surely your constituents have a right to know whether you’ll serve a full term. Will you rule out today, switching from politics, in the event that you’d lose?

PRIME MINISTER: I am focussed on one thing and that is the return of the Coalition Government, because that is what is necessary. And I have served and I’ve been so grateful to the people in my own community. Jenny and I are so grateful to the people of my own community and I’m standing for election in Cook once again and I’m looking forward to their support. Thank you.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: So, no, it’s behind you, behind you, behind you. No, I said behind you. I said behind you.

JOURNALIST: Sorry, Prime Minister, you’re you’re attacked on your character for being untrustworthy and a liar. And now I week out from the election, you’re saying you’re a bulldozer. Why the mea culpa only a week before? Are you worried Australians will see it as a political ploy? And also, why should Australians trust that in a future crisis you will consult with them more? Because you said the reason you didn’t consult was you had to make fast decisions.

PRIME MINISTER: I think you’ve misunderstood what I’m trying to say. I’ve been very conscious about my approach for a very long time. And I’ve got to tell you, in the roles that I’ve had, it served the country extremely well. I can tell you couldn’t have been weak and stopped the boats. You couldn’t have been weak and stood up to the Chinese Government. You couldn’t have been weak and made the decisions we had to make during the pandemic, where there wasn’t time, as you say and rightly, to be going and consulting on every decision. And in crises, that’s what you do have to do. And in a crises, again, that’s exactly what I’d have to do. And Australians know that when things really get down to it, that I can make those calls, that I can have the confidence to make those calls. And that’s what’s enabled Australia to come through what has been one of the biggest challenges we faced since the Second World War. What I’m talking about is that we’re coming out of that period, we’re putting the pandemic behind us and the crisis and urgency of those times gives us the opportunity as a Government to move into another gear. I’m very optimistic about the next three to five years. Australia has great opportunities that we’ve worked hard to set up during the course of this pandemic. Investing in skills, investing in infrastructure, ensuring that we’ve got more apprentices in trade training – 220,000 – than at any other time in Australia’s economic history. Investing in advanced manufacturing capabilities, which we’re already seeing the dividends of. Investing in our security, in our defence forces, in our defence industry. We have big opportunities ahead of us and I’m intending for Australians to realise those and we can move out of the mode we’ve been in where decisions have been difficult and tough. There’ll be many challenges ahead. There’s no doubt about that, and I can assure you the same strength that I’ve demonstrated as a Prime Minister over these last three and a half years. You can count on that strength in the future. But what you can also count on is us shifting into this new gear of realising these opportunities.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, 31 former judges have made a rare election intervention by backing a stronger integrity watchdog. Are you concerned about judges entering the political debate and does it breach the separation of powers? And just on Anthony Albanese, he says if he wins the election, he’ll swear in himself and Penny Wong on Sunday to go to the QUAD. But is his plan feasible? Wouldn’t it leave Australia without an acting PM to effectively run the country?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, that’s all true and that’s for him to explain. But you know what, he seems to be getting a bit presumptuous, Mr Albanese. He seems to think this election is already done and we saw this last time when we had the last election. You remember, we had Bill Shorten there with the Addams Family photo before the last election. They’re all there pretending they’re already in their jobs. We’re seeing a lot of that, again, from the Labor Party. You know, when I, I was asked about this the other day when it came to what we were, what would be the arrangements for the QUAD meeting that’s coming up after the election. I said, look, I’m not going to be presumptuous about that. There are conventions in place that deal with those issues. And I’m sure depending on the outcome of Saturday’s election, that they’ll be put in place. But what I do note for Mr. Albanese is he does seem to be getting a bit ahead of himself and you know, Australians will make this decision, Anthony. You don’t get to make it before the election.

JOURNALIST: And on the [inaudible]?

PRIME MINISTER: Sorry, what was the second part?

JOURNALIST: And on the judge’s intervention, do you think they’re breaching the separation of powers? Are you concerned about them entering a political debate so close to an election?

PRIME MINISTER: Oh, look, they’re entitled to their opinion. It’s a free country. I express opinions on judges, myself, and courts from time to time. It’s a free country. I’m happy for them to make their contribution. But what I do know is that we have a policy of 347 pages with extensive powers, which is part of our program, to ensure that we can put an Integrity Commission in place, and that’s what we’ll be proceeding with.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] highest transmission rates in the world, one of the highest COVID transmission rates. We’re approaching 6,000 deaths so far this year. Was a decision taken that this is an acceptable number? And if not, what are you doing to stop 50 deaths from COVID a year, a day in Australia?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, there’s been 7,853 deaths where people have died with COVID in this country, there’s been 200 – 2,376 in aged care since the pandemic started. There’ve been 65 deaths in the last 24 hours of people who died with COVID and 15 of those were in aged care. And every single one of these deaths, from the outset of this pandemic is a terrible loss for the families of those who have been lost. Now, you will also know that as the number of case numbers has risen, and that’s what was always going to happen, as part of the national plan that we put together with the states and territories, the case numbers would rise, and there was some 53,000 case numbers yesterday. And what you see when you have case numbers at that level is that people, when they pass away for many other, from many other causes, they will die with COVID. And their deaths are recorded as COVID deaths. But that doesn’t necessarily mean, as the Premiers themselves have set out, that they passed away because of COVID. That’s a very different proposition. That’s a very different proposition. And that’s also the position of the Chief Medical Officer and the other health authorities around around the country. But let me make this point, you may have seen the article in The New York Times and in an article in The New York Times, they said very clearly, if the United States had followed the path that Australia had, there’d be 900,000 more people alive in the United States today. Now, that is more than the metropolitan population of San Francisco. Australia has one of the lowest death rates from COVID anywhere in the world. Now that that –

JOURNALIST: Our deaths are rising. Our infections are rising. We have the highest infection rate in the world, Prime Minister. What are you doing to curtail that? And will you extend the fourth booster to the whole population to protect them?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, what we’ll, what we’ll do is we’ll continue to follow the medical advice. We will continue –

JOURNALIST: What’s the latest medical advice?

PRIME MINISTER: We will continue to put in place the winter preparedness plan, which we agreed with the states and territories, and all the Chief Health Officers and Chief Medical Officer, which has been extending those vaccination boosters, particularly into the most vulnerable population. You’ll note also in that New York Times article that one of the things they referred to was the strategic way in which we prioritised vaccines for the most vulnerable and elderly in our population, which was exactly our plan. That’s that’s who got vaccinated first to ensure that we could minimise the impact on those most vulnerable populations. Now, that has continued to be –

JOURNALIST: Will everyone get a full booster, Prime Minister?

PRIME MINISTER: … that has continued to be the medical advice. And the medical advice has not been to extend to four doses.

JOURNALIST: So, no?

PRIME MINISTER: That is not – well, that’s the medical advice. So that that is –

JOURNALIST: How often are you getting briefings from the Chief Medical Officer?

PRIME MINISTER: We speak regularly, as particularly does the Health Minister.

JOURNALIST: And what’s his latest advice?

PRIME MINISTER: There’s been no change to that advice.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible]

PRIME MINISTER: So we will continue to ensure that we follow that advice and ensure that Australia continues to have one of the most outstanding track records in managing the health impacts of this pandemic. But I would stress again, as I know, the premiers have on many occasions, what we are seeing now when people are passing away, because there are more people who have COVID, that doesn’t mean that passed away because of COVID. And that is a very different issue from a public health point of view in terms of how you manage it. You asked me what we’ve done about it, well we have one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. The third dose rate is now just on the tip of 70 per cent. This is one of the highest vaccination rates in the world and Australians have got in there.

JOURNALIST: Sounds like the job is done, Prime Minister? You think the job is done.

PRIME MINISTER: This job is never done and that’s the job, the job is never done and that’s why on each and every day. You know, the sub variants that we’ve seen come forward, these are issues I’ve been in dialogue with, with the Chief Medical Officer, and we watch that evidence very, very carefully. And if there are issues that arise, then we will act on them. But the advice we have is consistent with the approach that we’ve continued to take, and there hasn’t been a change to that. And Australia has been one of the standout performers in managing COVID anywhere in the world. And I’d add this, and I’d add this about COVID, we’re living with COVID. I’ll tell you what we’re not going back to, we’re not going back to those daily press conferences of people talking about COVID every day and putting the threat of shutdowns and lockdowns and interfering in people’s lives again. I’ll tell you, that’s not what I’m going to do if I’m re-elected on Saturday. I am not going to drag Australia back into those times again. I’ve noticed that Anthony Albanese is keen to get back into that type of approach. That’s not the approach I’ve taken.

JOURNALIST: So you’re just not going to talk about it. Is that what you’re saying?

PRIME MINISTER: I’ve been, no, I will answer every question on it, as I have for the last two years, and and convened over 60 meetings of the National Cabinet to work with Premiers and Chief Ministers around this country, which has ensured that Australia has had one of the lowest death rates of COVID anywhere in the world. Now that’s a record that Australians can be very, very proud of. And I thank Australians, particularly our health workers, particularly in Indigenous communities, for those working in aged care settings, for the amazing job that have done. What their work has done is enabling Australia to live with COVID without fear. And that’s where our Government will continue to take that issue forward.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, please. Prime Minister, if you remain Prime Minister, will wages keep up with inflation, even underlying inflation? And what is that?

PRIME MINISTER: Wages will rise for all the reasons that I’ve said. Wages will –

JOURNALIST: But will they keep up with inflation?

PRIME MINISTER: Wages will rise because of unemployment coming down. The economy continuing to strengthen and businesses doing well so they can pay –

JOURNALIST: But will they keep up with inflation? That’s the question that’s been asked.

PRIME MINISTER: … so they can pay their employers, employees more. And inflation –

JOURNALIST: And what is underlying inflation?

PRIME MINISTER: 3.7.

JOURNALIST: Will they keep up with inflation, PM?

JOURNALIST: So, do –

JOURNALIST: It’s supposed to have come up to 6 per cent. So, are they going to keep up with inflation?

PRIME MINISTER: Inflation is the challenge when it comes to real wages.

JOURNALIST: But underlying though?

PRIME MINISTER: Rising wages will be driven by the forces that I’ve said. So that’s why this election is so important.

JOURNALIST: But if they’re not –

JOURNALIST: So when will it keep up?

JOURNALIST: If they’re not keeping up with inflation, how can you say it’s better off under your Government?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, the Reserve Bank says by the end of ’23. That’s what the Reserve Bank says. That is their most recent forecast is by the end of ’23m mid to ’23 to late ’23.

JOURNALIST: So Australians will have to wait until then before their wages will stop going backwards?

PRIME MINISTER: This isn’t – well, what I can tell you is it’ll take even longer if you have policies as the Labor Party propose, which means not managing money, not being able to defend for the promises they’re making. That only puts further pressure on inflation and more upward pressure on interest rates. I’ve been very candid with Australians about the economic challenges that we’re facing and you’re right to highlight the challenges that are there with real wages. Labor has no magic bullet on this. They have no magic pen or magic wand.

JOURNALIST: But nor do you.

JOURNALIST: But you you can’t do anything either.

PRIME MINISTER: That’s exactly right. That’s why the only way you get wages is by good, sensible economic policies that drive down unemployment and that support growth in the economy, which enables businesses to be able to play, pay their staff more. There’s no money tree that small businesses and businesses have. I mean, many of you will know that during the course of the pandemic, you worked for companies that had to go on JobKeeper. You worked for companies that were facing great global threats when it came to the forces of [inaudible] and others, which meant that many of you were taking pay cuts. So, you know, you know that wages can only increase in the private sector if the businesses you work for are actually doing better. And that’s what our policies –

JOURNALIST: So, Australians won’t get a pay rise until 2023, PM. Is that what you’re saying?

PRIME MINISTER: No. I’m saying wages are rising and will rise. The challenge is inflation.

JOURNALIST: But they’re not keeping up with inflation.

JOURNALIST: In real terms, Prime Minister. In real terms, PM.

PRIME MINISTER: The challenge is inflation. And that’s a global challenge. So I draw your attention to the facts. Let’s focus on the facts. In Australia, inflation 5.1 per cent. In New Zealand, almost 7. In the United States, 8.5. Let’s talk about interest rates. In Australia, they went up 25 basis points –

JOURNALIST: What about the fact real wages are going backwards?

PRIME MINISTER: … off record lows of 0.1. In New Zealand, they went up 125 basis points.

JOURNALIST: You keep saying wages are going up, but they’re not going up, because inflation is outstripping it.

PRIME MINISTER: No, excuse me, excuse me. I’m answering the question. 125 basis points. They went up in New Zealand. 90 basis points, 75 basis points, they went up in the United Kingdom and in the United States and in Canada. So on whichever way you look at it, Australia, under our policies, has put up an economic shield to protect Australians from the impacts of rising inflation around the world and rising interest rates. And that’s what Australians need. If you risk Australia’s economic management and the management of our Budget with a Labor Leader in Anthony Albanese, who is a loose unit on the economy, didn’t know what the unemployment rate was, didn’t know what the cash rate was, makes up wages policy on the run with no thought to what it means for inflation or interest rates. A Shadow Treasurer who thinks he can just have a few billion dollars loosely spreading around and it’s no big deal. Well, that is a big risk to you. And that’s why this election is a choice between a stronger economy and a weaker one, and a certain one and an uncertain one. Yeah.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, you said we won’t go back to governments interfering in lives to manage COVID, but Mark McGowan won’t rule out bringing back mask mandates in WA. Do Premiers like him now need to stay out of people’s lives?

PRIME MINISTER: I believe we need to move on from where we’ve been and that has always been my view. I think it’s incredibly important that we manage the pandemic and its future carefully, but we don’t go back to those days of shutdowns and lockdowns. Of course, we’ll monitor carefully any issues that relate to new variants.

JOURNALIST: The question was about masks.

JOURNALIST: [Inaudible] Mark McGowan.

PRIME MINISTER: New variants. But when it comes to going forward, Australians want to move ahead and that’s certainly what I want to do. We’re living with the pandemic. We’re living with the virus. And we’re ensuring that our economy is coming back to life and people are getting back into jobs. And I am not going to crush their dreams by taking Australia backwards into that environment again. We’re moving ahead. We’ve got a big few years ahead of us. We’re ready to seize the opportunities of what’s ahead of us. We want to see people get into their own homes. We want them to get access to their own super so they can realise that dream, just like Sarah has here, as she moves into this home this weekend. And we want to see more Australians to do that. Adding to the 300,000 we’ve already got in their own home only by voting Liberal and National, and Stephanie Asher here in Corangamite, can you get access to your own superannuation to enable you to buy a home. The Labor Party won’t let you do it. I would encourage you to do it so you can get the best possible start in life for you and your family. Thanks for your time.

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