Radio Interview – ABC RN Drive

Minister for Finance, Minister for Women, Minister for the Public Service

ANDY PARK, HOST: The Finance Minister Katy Gallagher joins me on RN Drive. Welcome back, Minister.

SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Thanks for having me on Andy.

PARK: The Bill passed the Senate 37 votes to 30. Was it ever in doubt?

GALLAGHER: Look, I think we never take anything for granted in the Senate. That’s something that I’ve learned, it is a minority chamber. So anything can happen and every vote is a contested vote, where you could lose – the government could lose the vote. So we put a lot of effort into working across the chamber. I’m not sure a lot of the public see the amount of work that goes in, you know, working either across parties or with independents to make sure that we get the best legislation we can through the parliament. And this climate change bill was, you know, a great example of that, we relied on support from the Greens, we relied on support from independents to help navigate it through the Senate and we’re really pleased after 10 years of, I think, denial and delay and a lot of dysfunction around this public policy area, we’ve passed this landmark legislation and you know, I think certainly for people who’ve watched the debate closely, particularly in the parliament, it was a pretty big day today.

PARK: The government agreed to some of the amendments not all that Senator David Pocock brought in conjunction with Jacqui Lambie, what were they and how did they affect this bill?

GALLAGHER: Yeah, so and again, I’d say this isn’t unusual in the sense that we agree on some areas and don’t agree on others. But there were some suggestions that Senator Pocock made around transparency, more reporting, tighter rules about the Climate Change Authority’s advice and when it should be tabled. And I think the intention, certainly from our point of view, was that we would probably do that as part and parcel of making progress in this area, but with Senator Pocock wanting it enshrined in the legislation, we were happy to accommodate that. So I think again, it sort of sends a message of what the Prime Minister has been leading on, which is we want more coming together and working together and less division and disunity, and this is an example of that , this bill.

PARK: Having said that, the Greens have indicated today that you’re likely to have a fight on your hands when you move to legislate changes to the safeguard mechanism. Of course, you could always do a deal with the Liberals to ensure its passage or, as they say, come up with a scheme that might cut pollution. Are you willing to work with the Greens on that?

GALLAGHER: Well, we’ll always prefer to work across the chamber with anyone who wants to work with us, but you know, I guess we’ve got our eyes open. There will be areas where we don’t agree with the Greens, the Greens don’t agree with us. And we have to navigate that on a whole range of areas, just not on climate. I think, you know, I think there’s no shortage of legislation that will be contested through this parliament, I imagine changes in the environmental law when they come before the parliament will be similarly contested. And it just means you’ve got to work try and reach agreement and consensus where you can and when you can’t, you know, I guess you move to the next stage, you try and reach agreement with the opposition if they prepared to work with you. But this is sort of standard business in the Senate trying to get 39 votes to get a bill through.

PARK: You said earlier that the public don’t often get to see a lot of the kind of dialogue that happens across the floor or within parties. Many of the visuals from the Senate this week have shown you speaking with the independent Senator David Pocock, in the chamber over the last couple of days, how would you describe the working relationship with him? Is he now the go to person to negotiate with when the government wants to get legislation over the line?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think, a couple of things there. I talk with a lot of people and a lot of senators all the time and everyone has their own influence and importance and you know, certainly I spend a lot of time with Jacqui and Tammy and with opposition senators as well. So in relation to working with Senator Pocock he’s a fellow ACT senator, so we have more things to discuss from time to time and also we’ve been navigating the territory rights bill which he and I are working on together as well. So I think you know, part of it is he’s new to the Senate and so sometimes it’s also about just explaining what’s going on. But yes, his vote has been critical in a couple of areas this week. And, you know, I’m pleased that he’s been able to support particularly on an issue like climate which is so fundamentally important to the people of the ACT.

PARK: I know you’re not like the government’s climate change minister, but your major portfolio, finance, plays a big part in the sort of, I don’t know next part of the equation. The bill sets the climate change targets, they are legislated. When will we see the government produce a long term roadmap, something which charts how we will get to net zero?

GALLAGHER: Yeah, so that has been such a subject of discussion in the chamber. So we’ve already outlined it in an in general sense and the Minister is moving forward with a range of components of it, but through the election campaign, in order to meet that 43% reduction, we had all that modelled, and we went through our policy. So it’s a major component of it is to rewiring the nation, so that upgrading the electricity grid so you can actually accommodate more renewables. That’s a big part of it. The safeguard mechanism that you referred to is a part of it.

PARK: What about the Climate Change Authority, are you in a position to guarantee its future?

GALLAGHER: Oh, for sure. Yeah, I mean, we have. It was a previous government that we spent years trying to abolish the Climate Change Authority. No, they’re all important for our agenda going forward. But you know, there’s a range of initiatives that we have outlined around electric vehicles, around the use of the national reconstruction fund to support new technology in this area, energy efficiency, solar banks, community batteries, I’m trying to remember them all, but they were all part of our commitment which will get us to 43% reduction.

PARK: The government has passed its climate change bill, if you’ve just tuned in, in part ushered through the Senate earlier today by Finance Minister Katy Gallagher, who’s joining me here. To matters strictly within your portfolio. The Reserve Bank Governor Phillip Lowe spoke today saying he expects at least two more rate rises to combat the scourge of inflation. Do you think Australians are prepared for even more costs piled on to their already stretched budgets?

GALLAGHER: Yeah, and the national accounts and a lot of the data we’ve had coming out in the last few weeks, I think, goes to show just how hard these cost increases, inflation, interest rates rising is having on household budgets. So we completely understand. People are feeling it. It’s difficult. And I think the Reserve Bank Governor today in his remarks, I’ve read as much as I can of them in the midst of a sitting day, but I think goes to the challenge that’s before us, which is reducing inflation, trying to get – for us – trying to get wages growing and deal with the some of these cost of living pressures without necessarily adding to inflation. I think that’s the sort of that’s the challenge that’s before the Treasurer and myself as we work our way towards the October Budget, you know, how can we meaningfully make a difference in people’s cost of living pressures, whilst not making the Reserve Bank job harder at the moment, which is to try and pull back inflation into the target range.

PARK: But are you confident the Reserve Bank has Australia on the right course after correcting a position itself, acknowledged, was quote: flat footed?

GALLAGHER: Yeah, I think the Reserve Bank Governor has been really accountable for those decisions that have been taken and you know, I saw in his remarks today, using the work ‘surprise’ around how quickly inflation rose over the past year. I have a lot of, I have complete confidence and faith in the Reserve Bank. They have a difficult job to do at the moment. I think for the government, it’s not to second guess those decisions that have been made appropriately by the independent Reserve Bank, but it is about what are the ways that where we have responsibility that we can work alongside monetary policy to ease some of those cost of living pressures, deal with some of the long term productivity challenges in the economy and make a real difference both in the short term and the longer term and they’re all the decisions that are currently before us. And before ERC as we work our way through the October budget, but people will remember we made commitments in childcare, in skills, in cheaper medicines, all of those areas, reducing you know, putting downward pressure on power bills for through the 43% reduction commitment. All of those are areas that we are busily implementing at the moment.

PARK: Those measures, not withstanding, before the October budget. Are you ready for the barrage of calls to spend more considering the kind of scale of the cost of living challenge?

GALLAGHER: Well, we get quite a number of representations about spending more on and I think one of the things we’re conscious of and we’ve said this in the campaign was we acknowledge the need to use fiscal policy in the Budget to make really high quality spending decisions and that’s why part of the work I’m doing now is going line by line through the Budget to make sure that existing allocations are going, you know, meet that high quality spending criteria and look at where we can reallocate or reprioritise within that because I think there is an issue at the moment when we are trying to work alongside the Reserve Bank in this high inflation environment where interest rates are rising, that we don’t want decisions that might make that job harder. So I think we have to be mindful of that which is why our long term investments in the productive side of the economy are so important. So skills, childcare, energy policy, you know, all of those areas that will make a long term difference but at the same time ease cost of living pressures on households.

PARK: I know you’ve been in another part of Parliament House today, but the opposition spent a large chunk of Question Time in the House of Reps, probing whether senior ministers of your government broke the ministerial code by having conflicts of interests through various investments, and this includes the Attorney General Mark Dreyfus who’s seeking urgent legal advice. Firstly, do you have confidence your ministers have upheld the code and secondly, will this tarnish the government’s independent anti-corruption bill due to be introduced next week?

GALLAGHER: Well, look, I think I do find, I haven’t seen a lot of what’s happened in the house. I’ve heard some of it but I think from a start to have an opposition who, when in government, had zero standards in this regard is you know, it is interesting to see them now pursuing these matters when we have actually worked to strengthen transparency and accountability through the Minister’s Code of Conduct. I know Mark Dreyfus very well. He’s a man of enormous integrity. And I saw his comments in Question Time today. I think part of what is happening here is that ministers have been very clear and transparent about all of their financial arrangements as required by the Minister’s Code of Conduct. But I have you know, we were looking forward to bringing that national anti-corruption commission. It was a big issue in the election campaign. People want to see it. We want to restore trust and faith in politics and politicians. And it’s clear that this anti-corruption body is a central part of that. So the legislation will come in as promised, and we’ll have some good debates about that. But I know Mark Dreyfus very well and I have complete confidence in the arrangements that he has, and the end the declarations that he’s made.

PARK: Senator, before I let you go, one of your hats of course, in the cabinet is the Minister for Women. We know women bear the sort of mental load of organization in households, lots of unpaid work involved in that role. We’re going to be talking about it in just a second but I thought I’d ask you, how do you divide up the chores in your house given your very busy lifestyle?

GALLAGHER: Well, I’m a bit of a control freak. So part of it is actually my own making, a problem of my own making. I still do things like the lunchboxes, the washing, the groceries, all of that sort of stuff and always have right throughout my career. But you know, now the kids are a little bit older I think there is a better share, I have to say some of those domestic responsibilities, but part of it has been me having to let go as well.

PARK: He just doesn’t do it right.

GALLAGHER: Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly it.

PARK: That’s fair enough, we can get things a bit wrong-footed sometimes.

GALLAGHER: But it is a really big issue unpaid work and you know, it is one of those things that we’re going to try and deal with now under some of our gender equality work that we also undertaking at the moment.

PARK: Senator I appreciate your time tonight. Thanks for your time.

GALLAGHER: Thanks very much, Andy.

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