ABC South East SA Mount Gambier, Breakfast with Becc Chave

15 May 2024



Becc Chave, Host: We're joined this morning by Labor's Senator Tim Ayres, the Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing. Good morning to you. Thanks for your time on the programme.



Senator Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing: G'day, Becc. It was good to have a bit of Ian Moss on a Wednesday morning.



Becc: Now, is this the right time to have a surplus budget again, given the cost-of-living crisis?



Senator Ayres: Well, it's a responsible budget that's designed to do two things. Firstly, to deal with the challenges of here and now, so downward pressure on inflation, responsible budgeting, and cost-of-living relief for households. But secondly, it's about making sure we set Australia up for the future, for a future investing in the manufacturing jobs of the future, making sure that Australia is on the global stage, competing for the big opportunities. That's the real framework of this budget. So, dealing with the challenges here and now, but also setting Australia up for the future.



Becc: A lot of money being spent to build new homes in the country. The government has recognised that they probably won't meet the 1.2 million new homes promised. Why is that?



Senator Ayres: Well, we're certainly not saying that we've set a target. We believe it's achievable. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, you don't meet a target by not aiming for it. And we're aiming for 1.2 million homes over the next five years with constructions that commence next year. This is one of the big challenges that faces Australians, not just in the big cities, but also in country towns and regional Australia. 1.2 million homes is a stretch target, absolutely. But it's necessary. Not going to be a government that sits on its hands. The last government had nothing to say about housing. They didn't convene a meeting of the state housing Ministers from 2017 until we were elected. But the truth is we're going to make progress on housing. It involves a substantial investment from the Commonwealth government and that's what we're doing. An additional $6.2 billion in this budget. Overall, it’s a very big housing package, but it also involves working with states and with local government to make sure that we're opening up land for new housing, that we're building higher density housing in our cities and we're making sure that every family's got the opportunity, whether it's through the rental system or to own their own home. There is in this budget almost $2 billion there to again provide more support for low-income households with Commonwealth rent assistance. So, that's a 10% increase on the back of a 15% increase in the last budget. So, 25% in two back to back budgets to support low-income households, because we know it's tough out there on the housing front.



Becc: We have heard from the South Australian Council of Social Services this morning. They don't believe the budget addresses housing crisis for those low-income renters. Is there too much reliance on waiting for a housing supply to increase instead of active measures through services?



Senator Ayres: Well, as I just indicated, there's, over the course of the last two budgets, back-to-back the largest increases in Commonwealth rent assistance. That's not an answer to the whole problem, but it is certainly a substantial contribution to supporting low-income households. In the end, the answer here is about increasing housing supply and houses are not built overnight. It involves marshalling, yes, the additional support, very substantial support the Albanese government is delivering through this package, but also working with the states and with local government, working with the private sector as well, to make sure that we're building homes. New homes are not built overnight, but we have made a very significant start to that work. The passage of the $10 billion Housing Affordability Future Fund. The measures in this budget for building housing generally, but also building public and social housing and low-income, low-cost housing. These are all directed towards achieving that objective. And it's the first time in a long time that we've had a Federal Government that is so committed to building housing and to building housing where it matters.



Becc: Senator Ayres let's move on to issues of the environment. $3.2 billion will be spent over the next decade under the government's Future Made in Australia initiative to accelerate investment in renewable hydrogen, solar battery supply chains. But Labor has recently reversed its distaste for gas and confirmed that it would be a non-negotiable part of the energy mix until 2050. Is investing in coal and gas past 2050 a helpful step towards a cleaner, greener Net Zero Australia?



Senator Ayres: Well, the Future Made in Australia strategy is a $22.7 billion plan for the manufacturing jobs of the future. The Commonwealth government does not invest in coal and gas, but gas is part of the pathway for Australia to Net Zero. It's inescapable. The problem with the argument about gas Becc is you've had slogans instead of policy here. And the truth is that in many manufacturing processes, gas is a core part of their processes and part of the pathway to Net Zero and it is for a number of our big energy partners, particularly our partners in Japan and Korea. It is part of their transition to Net Zero. This budget focuses on the future made in Australia about making sure that Australian industry is positioned for the jobs of the future. 97% of our trading partners have Net Zero targets. The world is undergoing the biggest economic shift since the Industrial Revolution. And we can either sit on our hands and let investment in hydrogen, in green metals manufacturing, in critical minerals processing, we can allow that to occur offshore and Australia would then maintain its position as essentially exporting raw commodities offshore. Or we can value-add in Australia and compete for those jobs in the new competitive environment. That is what the Future Made in Australia strategy does. It offers, in large part, production tax incentives for investment that's made in Australia and manufacturing that's made in Australia. And the benefits from that will flow not to the CBD's of our big cities, but to our outer suburbs and our regions where new factories and new blue collar and engineering jobs will be. We have a choice. We either set ourselves up for a future made in Australia or we get the future made for us. And this government is there to make the investments and put Australia in the race for the jobs of the future.



Becc: Childcare is a major issue, impacting many different areas. People moving to regional areas, people staying in regional areas, people gaining employment, returning to work. What has the Federal Government set out for childcare?



Senator Ayres: Well, one of the critical things here is that this budget does is to provision for increases in the wages of childcare workers and aged care workers as well. We have historically undervalued these roles. Early childhood education and care is a critical function, a critical part of the education of our young people and looking after little kids and making sure that they grow and come into school ready to learn, are ready to contribute. That is a core function. We have undervalued those jobs, mostly done by women. This is also the case in aged care, where looking after old Australians has traditionally been undervalued. This budget provisions for wage increases that mean that more young people will enter these professions. In childcare in particular, more people will stay and build their skills and build their capabilities, and that will strengthen the childcare system overall. In the last budget, there are very significant investments there that have kept the cost of childcare down. Reductions in childcare costs rather than what was projected to occur, increases in childcare costs. So, it has an impact on the cost-of-living, downward pressure on the cost-of-living, but we're also supporting the workers in the system.



Becc: Senator, thank you very much for your time on the programme this morning. We do appreciate it.



Senator Ayres: Good to talk to you Becc.