ABC New England North West Tamworth, Breakfast with Kristy Reading

15 May 2024



Kristy Reading, Host: Tim Ayres is the Labor government's Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing. He's also the Duty Senator for New England and is here to tell you how he thinks the budget can help the regions. Tim, thanks for your time today.



Senator Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing: Hello, Christy, good to be with you.



Kristy: Look, I don't think I've ever seen more distaste over a budget in our region than this one. The majority of those reaching out to us this morning aren't happy. Has Labor forgotten about regional Australia?



Senator Ayres: Well, the centrepiece of this budget is the Future Made in Australia strategy. $22.7 billion. That is about setting Australia up for a manufacturing future, rebuilding our manufacturing capability as the world shifts. 97% of our trade partners with their own Net Zero targets. The biggest industrial transformation in the global economy since the Industrial Revolution. And this package sets Australia up in those areas where there is a clear national interest and where Australia has a comparative advantage, in areas like critical minerals processing, battery manufacturing, renewable energy technology. Now, these jobs are not jobs that are located in the CBD's of our big cities. We're building new factories, new investments in our regional centres and in our country towns. The future-focused part of this budget is all about that. The second part of the budget, of course, is for every Australian, and that's about the here and now, dealing with the pressures of here and now, particularly the cost-of-living issues. Every single Australian taxpayer, 13.6 million of them, get a tax cut. Bigger tax cuts than were available under what the last government had planned. Assistance for renters’ Back-to-back increases, particularly for low-income renters, to Commonwealth rent assistance. Assistance with energy bills to push energy prices down, again, after what we did last year, opposed by Barnaby Joyce and the federal opposition, but had a material effect, assessed by the economists and the agencies, to have pushed inflation down by half a percent. So, the battle against inflation is not won, but, but when we came to government, inflation had a six in front of it. It now has a four in front of it. It is projected to keep coming down. This budget does more of the heavy lifting and hard work to put downward pressure on inflation. So, I think this is a budget that is about every corner of the country now and for the future.



Kristy: You are the Duty Senator for the New England. Electorate-specific funding is all but non-existent. Why?



Senator Ayres: Well, this isn't a budget that's about the political cycle and politics. This isn't. I mean, the last government indulged in this corrupted grants process where grants were doled out for electoral reasons. This is a budget that's in the national interest here. Now, there is funding for regional road infrastructure.



Kristy: NSW Farmers Association says that that funding isn't enough, though it's nowhere near enough.



Senator Ayres: Well, the requirement is so vast, Kristy. I mean, you only have to drive our regional roads to know how massive that network is and the impact, particularly of weather events, on roads. There is an enormous amount of work there for Federal Government, State Government and Local Government to do. This budget and the last budget have the Federal Government playing its part. But this budget is about primarily the here and now cost-of-living issues and the future focus on jobs, blue collar jobs, engineering jobs, new manufacturing in Australia. Now, there is a strong contrast, of course, between us and our opponents on these questions. They, in the Liberals and Nationals, want to sit on their hands and do nothing about the race for the jobs of the future, to drive wages down, cut government services, cut support for industry. We're taking the opposite approach, building support, building investment, making sure that we're engaging with the private sector to create good-quality manufacturing jobs.



Kristy: Of course, we understand this budget is likely to be the last one before an election. We're broadcasting this morning to areas that are represented by Nationals MP's. Do you think this budget will help, firstly, the government win election or even the Labor party win some votes in electorates like ours?



Senator Ayres: Well, three points. Number one, I'm not so sure about that assertion that there won't be another budget. The election, all things been equal, is likely to be in the first half of next year. Our preference is always to go a full-term. Election timing at the end of the day is a matter for the Prime Minister, but he's been pretty clear on these issues, and I wouldn't be surprised if we have our May 2025 budget or thereabouts. That's the first point. The second point is, you know the cynicism of the Liberals and Nationals on these questions, that budgets are just about politics. That budgets are about harvesting votes and you should only see the expenditure of public money through the prism of narrow partisan self-interest. Like, Australians have rejected that approach. We are all about in the Albanese government, spending public money in the public interest, using this budget to put downward pressure on inflation now and support families and businesses now, but also set the country up for the future. What's going to be a series of decades that are full of challenges and opportunities for Australia and set up regional economies in particular, and make sure that they are the beneficiaries of that. And, thirdly, whether people vote National or Labor or whatever, they are all Australians. Everybody has a stake in the decisions of the Federal Government. This is a government that governs for all Australians in every corner of the country. And that is the way that we see it, and I'm confident that's the way that most Australians see it, whether they live in the city or the bush.



Kristy: Tim Ayres, we'll have to leave it there this morning, but thanks for giving us some time on the breakfast programme today.



Senator Ayres: Any time, Kristy.