88.9 FM with Macca

13 May 2024


Matt “Macca” MacCarthy, Host: Fourteen degrees out there, definitely going to need the jacket. You probably need it in Canberra too, New South Wales Senator Tim Ayres, how's are you this morning?


Senator Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing: Macca, I am good. It's cold. Only thing you know about Canberra is it is only going to get colder still.


Macca: Absolutely. The snow not too far away from there well and truly. Perisher as they tell me, cooling down as we speak. Mate what's been happening in Canberra, I guess speaking of Canberra.


Senator Ayres: This is budget week, Macca. This is a big week for the government. The thing about budgets is that what they do is make it clear what the priorities are the government, where we allocate expenditure, how we approached the fiscal challenge, that is how we deal with revenue coming in, and expenditure going out, and where we direct that expenditure, to the quality of the spend, really says a lot about the government. This budget, I'm very confident tomorrow night, will do the right thing for Australia at the right time.


Macca: Just elaborate on that a little bit more. What are we looking for? I guess for our region, in particular infrastructure with water has been a good one, the Dungowan Dam has been knocked on the head. We’re still waiting on a couple of projects such as Goonoo Goonoo Road, which you've told us the start will be Christmas. The big one is Port Stephens Cutting, $20 million apparently already in the bank, but this hasn't started yet. Are we still waiting on that money to be released from government, and have you traveled that road yourself Tim? It's pretty dangerous.



Senator Ayres: Can I just go back one step? The biggest priority for this budget will be about the cost of living. That means that the budget will do two things: one is responsible relief for the cost of living in a way that isn't inflationary, that is the key here. You saw what the government did last year by capping gas prices and working with the States to cap coal prices. That had a big impact on electricity prices, 25% lower than they otherwise would have been, so that had a downward effect on inflation and interest rates. The other big priority of the budget will be to be fiscally responsible. Last budget was the first surplus in 16 years, and that's what we need right now- responsible budgeting, again, to keep downward pressure on inflation. Now, the budget will have a whole lot of measures in there I'll leave them to be announced tomorrow, but you've seen some of them about the Future Made in Australia and manufacturing, and rebuilding manufacturing onshore in Australia. That's absolutely critical in the national interest as well. Then of course, to come back to your question, there will be announcements about infrastructure, particularly road infrastructure. I've traveled the bush roads long enough to know how much pressure there is on those roads. We've made some announcements already and I think we've talked about some of them in your program. The rest, of course mate, are going to have to wait until tomorrow night when they'll be in the budget papers themselves.


Macca: I know the community of Inverell are looking for $7 million funding for the pool that apparently has been promised and they're waiting on as well. Will there be any news on that?


Senator Ayres: I think we talked about the Tamworth pool last time I was on the show, the proposal there. All these sporting infrastructure proposals, you know, they are high quality proposals, they are really necessary for country towns, and we've got a merit-based process that it's working through dotting the i's and crossing the t's, and I haven't gotten any insight into that process and nor should I. To merit based processes politicians like me should be leaving that to the process itself. So, we'll see if there's any additional announcements about sporting infrastructure in the budget, but otherwise, as I understand it, those proposals are into their second round of assessments at the moment.


Macca: You mentioned cost of living Tim, Australia as a whole obviously, will benefit from this as far as getting things back into the black. Individually, how's this budget going to help us? Are we going to see education cost cuts? Are we going to see increase Medicare? I mean, how's this going to help me as Matt McCarthy from Tamworth from tomorrow evening?


Senator Ayres: The last budget was the first surplus budget for 16 years. The last government left us with a trillion dollars in debt and very little to show for it. We're focused on both sides of the equation one is responsible budgeting and the Treasurer will make an announcement about whether the budgets in surplus or deficit tomorrow night. But the last budget, the first full year budget of the Labor government was the first surplus budget in sixteen years. The last government couldn't do it, but Jim Chalmers and Anthony Albanese achieved a budget surplus last time around. That matters because it keeps downward pressure on inflation and we've seen over the course of the last 12 months, inflation moderate. It's gone from the highest level, just before the new government was elected, a little bit over 7% from memory, now to heading south of 4%. That's an important achievement, but of course, the battle is not won yet. Ordinary households are still under pressure on the cost of living. This budget will be focused on making sure that it's a responsible budget without a big cash splash, as tempting as that is with focus on quality spending. The second element for Matt McCarthy, Tamworth, is there will be a focus on providing responsible cost of living support, where that is an inflationary and doesn't feed into inflation itself. This is a tough balance that has to be achieved on the cost of living. And then thirdly, it's about responsible expenditure that is nation building that is in the long-term interests of the country. Future Made in Australia, making sure that we're building the infrastructure, all of this means good jobs in the outer suburbs and in the regions. More manufacturing, more infrastructure means higher levels of productivity, which is good for the long-term health and growth of the economy and that is the thing at the end of the day, that is going to continue upward pressure on living standards for Australia. This is the budget task, managing those three things, responsible fiscal management, responsible cost of living support, and a Future Made in Australia and making sure that we're doing things in the long-term interests of the economy and the country.


Macca: We will watch it with bated breath. Of course, a lot of your taxpayers at the moment, Tim, I know they're not your specifically, but Australian taxpayers are working two and three jobs, we need to see some relief for the average household in this budget. We're hearing investigations of, you know, Woolworths and Coles and the multinationals and how it's going to cost us less in the trolley. We're hearing that our power bills are going down, when in actual fact, my listeners are ringing me saying their power bills are going up. So responsible isn't fun, responsible has never been fun. Obviously, it's needed. But the word responsible has never meant fun to me, we want to be able to see some more relief so we can go out and do the things that we want to be able to do. But at the moment, the purse strings have been tightened even more, so for those taxpayers that are doing two and three jobs just to make ends meet we need to see some relief in this tomorrow night plain and simple. Otherwise, we're all just going to go down the gurgler.


Senator Ayres: On all of those issues I agree with you. It is about making sure that Australians earn more and keep more of what they earn. That is why the government's focus in industrial relations policy and wages policy has been to support increases in in wages. We've seen the first real increase in wages for as long as anybody can remember. Now, it occurs against the backdrop of a period of rising costs, so households are under more pressure. That's why our cost-of-living tax relief, first of all Australians earning more, but secondly, keeping more of what they earn, every Australian will get a tax decrease come July 1. Low- and middle-income Australians, 85% of PAYG taxpayers, will get a bigger tax cut under the Albanese Government's tax reform than what was planned for them with the stage three tax cuts by Scott Morrison and the previous government. There are bigger tax cuts there for 85% of Australian taxpayers, when 100% of Australian taxpayers get tax relief in this budget, so it's earn more, but keep more of what you earn. Then the focus in the budget is going to be about pulling every lever that we can. You're right about energy costs, energy costs for households had continued to increase. But they have increased by 25% less than they would have done if the government hadn't taken those measures to put caps on coal and gas prices. That's fed directly through to electricity prices and while they're still going up, they're going up a lot less than they would have been and that's been really important for households. But it's also had a material effect on the inflation rate, so keeping downward pressure on inflation, and on interest rates. All of these things are hard things to do, Macca, they all involve challenging choices. But we've got the discipline and the commitment to doing the hard things in the interest of Australian people. I think you'll see that come through in the budget tomorrow night and in the discussions about the budget over the coming months.


Macca: Tim, when are our age pensioners, the people that aren't paying taxes these days, but have certainly done their bit by paying tax for 50 or 60 years, when are they going to see an increase?


Senator Ayres: There are regular increases for age pensioners that are attached to the regular indexation arrangement. I'll leave it to the budget tomorrow night. You've got me in a position here where the budget is confidential until the Treasurer releases it.


Macca: I'm trying to get a scoop, but Tim, you're not giving it to me.


Senator Ayres: You're doing very, very well. But my job is to leave these kinds of announcements to the Treasurer and the government tomorrow. But of course, for age pensioners, they have contributed all of their lives. Many of them rely upon just the age pension, an increasing number of Australians have superannuation accounts when they hit retirement too, that support their standard of living. But of course, they are impacted by cost-of-living pressures just like everybody else, and many of them don't have the capacity to earn additional income. The age pension is a really important support. We are focused on that, and we have said that whether it's the age pension or job seeker, we will as a government examine the circumstances every budget and do the very best we can for Australians who are doing a tough.


Macca: What about the Growing Regions Program? We touched on this a couple of months back. At the moment has there been any news on that?


Senator Ayres: No, I think where we were a few weeks ago on this was that a number of these proposals up to the second round of assessments. You know, it's a merit-based process, we've put in a few extra steps in terms of good governance and assessments here, because some of these grant programs were brutalised under the last government. Frankly, they were used to prop up Liberal and National MPs in marginal seats basically. What was going on there was it was all about the partisan politics. We've built in some extra processes to make sure that scarce government resources are allocated on the basis of the merit and the public interest. Those processes take time. I understand there are applications in there. I think we touched on it a bit earlier for sporting facilities and a range of other things. I'll be very keen to see those announcements made. Not everybody wins when those decisions are made, some grants are accepted, and some declined, but I know how important that sporting infrastructure is, that road infrastructure is, for building community and supporting businesses and households in regional Australia. I'm obviously very keen to wait and see what the result is.


Macca: The proverbial getting blood from a stone, not an easy one either Tim Ayres, and neither is your job. I will let you get back to it. Thank you very much for the yarn today. Appreciate that. No doubt we'll have more to chat about in the next few days after the information, which is clearly confidential, we've done our best to get it out of you, we'll get it announced tomorrow.


Senator Ayres: Good on your Macca. I'll catch you soon.