88.9 FM with Macca

22 May 2024


MATT “MACCA” MACCARTHY, HOST:  Aerosmith Janie's Got a Gun for you out of the 1980s. Twelve away from ten, plenty of questions to ask in regards to the budget in particular, with Senator Tim Ayres who joins us this morning. Tim, how are you?

SENATOR TIM AYRES ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TRADE AND MANUFACTURING: I'm good mate, really good to be on the show. Good to talk to your listeners.

MACCA: Tell you what mate, you got some kahunas. Tamworth are forgotten in this budget by the sounds of things. Appreciate that you're coming on for a chat. We understand the bigger picture that we need to get everything into the black as far as nationals concerned. But I've looked at a good thirty-odd Odd different shires there mate, from, you know, different peninsulas right through to Cowra, a lot of beach places picking up money for airports and all sorts of things in the tens of millions of dollars. No money for Tamworth. What's the story?

SENATOR AYRES: Well, there's a few. There's a few streams of funding there that that councils can apply for or are the beneficiaries of. Of course, the grant funding processes for this government are not determined by ministers. So, there is a grant application process. Just because a grant application is a good application... It's a competitive process. So grant applications might meet the criteria and be really good high quality grant applications, but because they're assessed by the panels, some grant applications get through and some don't. I would make the point, of course, that the government is, for example, progressively doubling the Roads to Recovery program, that means a billion dollars of funding a year, up from just over $400 million dollars in the budget. That means nearly half a billion dollars more over that period for New South Wales. So, there are some swings and roundabouts here. There will be some disappointment in bits of the country that have not been the beneficiary of grant applications. I understand that there is real need out there. I understand that as well. But this is a budget that the Albanese government has had to make in an environment where our number one issue is cost of living, followed by the things that we need to do to set the country up for the future, including critically a very significant, in national terms the biggest ever pro-manufacturing package in our history, and in global terms, at a scale-proportionate response, to make sure that Australia is in the race for new manufacturing jobs.

MACCA: Tanya Plibersek came out around this time last year and told us in no uncertain terms in front of thousands of people at The Daily Telegraph summit Tim, that the Albanese government wasn't going to allow the Dungowan Dam. Obviously this has been mentioned. We thought the money was in the bank for this. Tanya's since come out and said the Albanese Labor government and this is a quote from yesterday, "wants to see more projects like this to help communities better prepare for drought." How can the government say that?

SENATOR AYRES: The politics of dams is, and the kinds of things that the previous governments have said about dams, really have misled rural communities. At the beginning of the last government, Barnaby Joyce and Tony Abbott said that they would build one hundred dams. They barely built to a 2% success rate. I mean, if the government had built all of the dams that Barnaby Joyce said that he was going to build, the sea level would be lower. You know, it's just this thing about wandering around in country communities, promising a thing that will never be delivered. And then when the project itself was assessed by the New South Wales Government as not economically viable, they point the finger at the government that's got to come in and clean up the mess. It's just a game. It's a political game from the Nationals. You know, it's a hoax on on regional communities. The issues in terms of water security for country towns are really tough. They are really tough. We saw in the last round. Tamworth went very close, very close to not having enough water. There were businesses that were asked to stop production or came very close to stopping production, Guyra just up the road was trucking water. So, the other side of politics, they have no regard for the national interest or the truth on these questions. The only thing they ever see is political opportunism. And the partisan interest. There is no issue that is not, for them, capable of being twisted around and turned into a political football. The Dungowan Dam proposal. You know, I watched it very closely. I come from the region. I was, I had to say, skeptical about the business case for that project. And it turns out once it’s subjected to some rigor, the business case fell over and these guys are still carrying on about it as if they had nothing to do with it.

MACCA: I do get that, Tim. At the end of the day, they're saying we get about twenty cents back for every dollar spent. But when it leads to probably 100,000 people getting a drink in a drought, does the money mean that much?

SENATOR AYRES: Well, water security is absolutely critical. The New South Wales government, of course, I don't want to shove solving this issue onto another level of government. We've all got a role to play here, right? We've all got a role to play. I won't be like the last government pointing the finger at everybody else there. But there is work to do. And I know Rose Jackson, the water minister, [is] very focused on these issues in regional Australia, Tamworth and the region have some challenges. With New South Wales, the Murray Darling Basin system has real big challenges. You know, it's interesting on the water politics, when there's a problem, the Nationals are always there pointing at the problem. When somebody advances the solution, they're always there pouring scorn on the solution. They are never an active participant. In real practical solutions to these issues, they are only ever there for the politics, and I think I think people are starting to get sick of it.

MACCA: Tim, can I run a couple of numbers by you obviously provided by David Littleproud, so you can take these as you find them. Housing costs up 12%. Since Labor won government, rents up 12%, insurance up 26%, electricity up 18%, gas up 25%, $27 billion dollars’ worth of road, rail and water infrastructure being cancelled with Labor's 2024 budget cutting $600 million dollars, promised to restore Paradise dam, the Big Rocks Weir project obviously out of our area, but mate, some big statistics there in a very short period of time. Cost of living gone through the roof.

SENATOR AYRES: He's always a source of sunny optimism the old David, but like honestly, like this is just there is there are significant cost of living issues in the economy. They are the result largely of the shock of Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine and the impact that had in energy prices and supply chains. They are partly a consequence of the post COVID supply chain issues that still bedevil some of our supply chains. And they've also, to some extent, been harder to deal with because we've had a decade of the worst productivity growth in Australian history. But these are challenges that the government has been completely focused on. From its highs, Inflation, at the highest point of inflation, was just before the Morison government lost the election. We have effectually halved that. The cost-of-living increases, CPI increases have essentially halved. But there is still more work to do. And that means respond to key issue responsible budget cost of living measures like the tax cut, for every single Australian taxpayer. Most people getting more, particularly in regional areas. 90% plus getting more under the Albanese government's tax cuts. And–action on the big issues for the future of the Australian economy, particularly the future made in Australia strategy, all about manufacturing, which is all about jobs, factories, industrial capability in our outer suburbs and and in our regions. That’s what the government is focused on, that is the national interest, here, dealing with the cost of living now and setting the country up for the future.

MACCA: Tim, I've got thirty seconds. Appreciate that. I've got thirty seconds just before the news. Just a quick question for you the Aquatic Centre here in Tamworth, that was positively spoken about two weeks ago. We’re not getting that now, not mentioned in the budget.

SENATOR AYRES: I think that the council will know. As I understand, results haven't been published, but the council will know whether the applications have been successful or not. As I said before, there's good applications that will be unsuccessful. It’s a merit based competitive grants process. They should keep applying. I'm sure it's a good project.

MACCA: Senator Tim Ayres. Thank you for the chat. Look forward to catching up with you next week.

SENATOR AYRES: Good on you Macca, see you later.

MACCA: All the best.