Outback Radio 2WEB with Rod Corfe

27 November 2023

Rod Corfe: Outback Radio, 2WEB. That is Willie Nelson and Ray Charles, Seven Spanish Angels. We had Gretchen Wilson, some Gina Jeffreys, very nice, and Bryan Adams. It's 22 minutes past nine, Monday morning with Corfey, and it's time to say good morning to Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing, Senator from New South Wales, Tim Ayres. How you doing?


Senator Ayres: I'm going good, Rod. Good morning, to your listeners, it's always good to have a bit of Willie Nelson on a Monday morning.


Rod Corfe: Certainly, is great, and I can't believe he's still going, must be something he's doing.


Senator Ayres: Still going strong. He really is.


Rod Corfe: Let's go with the positive news of today. Prime Minister Albanese is still more popular than the Opposition leader.


Senator Ayres: Well, I think there is some coverage of polls this morning. My approach to polls, Rod, is I don't get very excited when they're good. And I don't get depressed when they're not good. I really think what people expect from the government in Canberra is to is to keep focused on our actual job. We are in a pretty circumstance where many Australians are doing it tough, rising cost of living is has been a big issue for Australian families and Australian businesses and farm households as well. While inflation has moderated, it's half of what it was, when we took office, we are absolutely just focused on that, and if we don't allow ourselves to get distracted by polls, or the sort of ins and outs of what's going on week to week in terms of polling, we've just got to be focused in our day job.


Rod Corfe: And the fact is, you did have to get on top of situations and sometimes you need to make tough decisions.


Senator Ayres: Well, I think that Australians are learning about the Albanese government, that we are a government that does what it says it's going to do. Whether that's popular, or whether it's not, if it's the right thing to do and we've given commitments during the election, we are steadily working through ticking those commitments off, getting this work done for Australia building a better future for the country, dealing with our big challenges, but also focusing on the day to day issues that we've got in front of us now, particularly the cost of living, which we know is putting real pressure on households. We've got a $23 billion package there. That's about lowering the cost of living for households, where we're delivering relief that that doesn't put upward pressure on inflation and interest rates. We're keeping very tight fiscal setting, so the budget is putting downward pressure on inflation and making the Reserve Bank's job easier. But we're not going to take our focus away from that issue in particular.


Rod Corfe: There's a bit of concern locally from the Federal member for Parkes at the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Catherine King, has dropped a couple of important projects for Maury and Narrabri.


Senator Ayres: Well, this flows on from the review that the Government's taken into the infrastructure pipeline spend. And one of the messes that we've had to clean up is that the previous government were very good at making announcements particularly about infrastructure, but not very good on delivery. So for example, Barnaby Joyce, and Tony Abbott promised that they would build 100 dams when they took office. They built two. 2 out of 100. If they had actually built all the dams that they said they would build, the sea level would be lower. But they made extravagant promises, but couldn't back them up, and of course, the cost buyout with some of these programs and just the incapacity of some of them to be delivered, has meant that there's been a full review. Now there's no cuts to spending but what we've done, and what Minister Catherine King has done is deliver in conjunction with the states and territories, a program of infrastructure that will be delivered. Consistent with what I said before, we are a government that delivers what it says it can deliver, we aim to keep our commitments and that's what's happened here. Now, there is still $27 billion worth of expenditure there on infrastructure, almost all of it in the regions for improving freight corridors, major highways, there is a doubling of the roads to recovery program over the coming three years, from $500 million a year to a billion dollars a year. So, there's a very substantial uplift across the board for regional infrastructure. And this is a government that cares about the region's and understands the role of the region's in fuelling the national economy. And that's why you see projects like all those big freight corridors still fully funded under the Government's program.


Rod Corfe: Small and big business have been calling for something to be done with the amount of people that take on work and roughly 500,000 new migrants have poured into Australia, and that's putting a bit of pressure on homes?


Senator Ayres: Well, so there's a couple of issues in there, Rod. The first thing is on unemployment broadly, we have we have around 600,000 new jobs created since this Government was elected. Now that is a record number for any term of government, and we've done it halfway through the term. Unemployment has got a three in front of it. These are unprecedented figures in terms of employment growth, more people getting into the labor market and getting jobs and that is welcome news. Now, there has been a pickup in terms of migration. And that's really a response to the COVID period, when of course, as you'll remember, for temporary workers coming from overseas and for students, you know, one of our major export industries is university educating overseas students, one of our major export earners, we've seen a pickup in temporary migration in particular over that period. That is something that the Government is paying very close attention to. The third issue in there, of course, is the one of the big projects in front of the Government is making sure that we are delivering enough homes for Australians to keep pace with the growth in population. And to keep pace with, you know, what is a pretty tough set of circumstances for young people trying to buy their first house, whether it's in the capital cities or regional towns. That's why we've got the biggest homebuilding package of any government since the Second World War, both public housing and affordable housing on one hand, but also making sure that we meet the target of building 1.2 million homes over the next five years, and the Housing Affordability Future Fund, which is there to build 30,000 additional homes. All of these programs are there to support homeownership, there to support pushing down the price of rent, and making sure that housing is affordable, because as you know, and your listeners will know is that one of the big challenges, particularly for young people, is finding their way into stable housing, whether that's rental or whether that's buying their first home.


Rod Corfe: Mentioned in there a couple of good points that are currently going around, like the unemployment rate and so forth, is the Albanese government good at selling its' good message.


Senator Ayres: We're not marketing people, that's for sure. We're in the business of doing. That's what we're focused on. You know, we are in the middle of our first term in office. We don't take anything for granted. Our job here is to deliver on the commitments that we made and to deliver a responsible government, that's acting in the national interest in in the interests of ordinary Australian households. That's the focus that we're taking, and we're working through the issues in front of us in a in a calm and deliberate way. We've got an opposition of course, Rod, who are negative and angry. Peter Dutton is the most extreme leader of the Liberal Party in its history, and he's only got one speed here in Canberra and that is negativity, he says no to every reform. If you look at all of the reforms that we have undertaken, around the cost of living, the caps on the prices of gas and energy which have meant that while household electricity prices have gone up, they've gone up by about 18% less than they would have gone up if our reforms hadn't been undertaken. Peter Dutton opposed it. Our reforms to childcare that have pushed down the price of childcare by 12%, rather than what was projected to happen, an increase of 6%, Peter Dutton opposed those reforms as well. In Medicare, where we've tripled the bulk billing incentive, so more people have access to bulk billing, and we've done reforms in terms of PBS and pharmaceuticals, so particularly pensioners have lower costs for their chronic illness medicines; Peter Dutton and the Liberals opposed those too. Now, these characters say that they are worried about the cost of living but everything the Government has done, that has materially put downward pressure on prices for households, the Liberals and Nationals have opposed. We have got an opposition in Canberra that is all about saying no and isn't grappling seriously as a party of alternative government with the big issues that Australia is facing. They've got only got No; they've got no solutions. That's the problem for the Liberals and Peter Dutton. And while all that politics is going on, we are just going to keep focused on the job in front of us; downward pressure on inflation, dealing with the big challenges in the economy, including the productivity challenge, making sure we can fund and deliver the infrastructure that Australia needs, rebuilding our manufacturing industry and making sure that Australia's place in the world is in a stable and secure region. Those are the priorities for this Government, and we are just going to get on with the job.


Rod Corfe: We're talking to Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing, Senator for New South Wales, Tim Ayres. Finally, before I let you go, tell me about the National Rail Procurement and Manufacturing Strategy and why it's so important and good for the country.


Senator Ayres: Oh, mate we could talk about this all day. You know, one of the things that happened over the course of the last decade is that a series of Liberal and National State Governments started offshoring the building of rail rolling stock and passenger rolling stock offshore. So, the New South Wales Government and the Campbell Newman Government in Queensland, offshored big rail projects, billions of dollars’ worth of these rail projects and what that mean meant is that we lost 1000s of jobs and we lost 1000s of apprenticeship opportunities. But also, these trains were delivered over budget. The promise was we're going to send them overseas, Gladys Berejiklian said, "because New South Wales can't build trains," and we can do them cheaper overseas. In the end, they came back more expensive, over budget, over time, with big quality and safety defects and challenges that needed to be rectified when these trains finally arrived. Now, we made a commitment on our way in to government that what we would do is work with the states and territories to build a national approach to procurement from the States. That will bring all of our train building back on shore. I was able to announce that plan a couple of weeks ago, at a National Rail Conference attended by 6000 delegates from across the country, working right across the rail sector- small and medium businesses and head contractor, state governments, all there with strong endorsement for the Strategy. What the Strategy will mean is that we have more onshore manufacturing, that we get better trains designed for Australian conditions, we help lower our transport emissions, of course, but get a better outcome for rail passengers. This will mean billions of dollars’ worth of extra investment and thousands of jobs. We will publish next year, in conjunction with the state, the pipeline over the next decades of rail rolling stock investment. My objective and the Government's objective here is to make sure not only are we building all the passenger trains for Australia, but they're we're extending up and getting back into building freight for agriculture and for mining and that we're getting Australian engineering businesses back in global supply chains and we resume our position that we used to have as a country that makes things and in particular is big on  making the trains of the future.


Rod Corfe: Another good story well done! We'll catch up in a couple of weeks. Thanks for talking with us today.


Senator Ayres: Good to talk to you, Rod. Take it easy.


Rod Corfe: Here we go. Senator Tim Ayres, Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing. Outback Radio 2WEB.