Sky News AM Agenda with Laura Jayes

27 June 2024


LAURA JAYES, HOST: Joining me live now is Assistant Trade and Manufacturing Minister, Tim Ayres. Tim, thanks so much for your time. A stark reminder, really, yesterday, that cost of living is front and centre for most, if not all, Australians at the moment. The central component or goal of your government has been stated time and time again, is to ease this cost-of-living pressure. But we now have the data, Tim, over the last six months it's gotten worse. So, do you need to do more or are the measures you put in place not working? 


SENATOR TIM AYRES: Well, I certainly think that it is right that this is the central issue, the here and now issue, for Australian households and business, and it is the centre-piece of the government's approach. That is what this government is all about. That's why we've delivered two budget surpluses, the first in nearly 20 years, budget surpluses back-to-back, downward pressure on inflation. That's why the cost-of-living measures that the government has in the budget are there, targeted for households and businesses. And a significant part of those start, of course, on Monday: tax cuts for every single Australian, $300 off energy bills. And thirdly, Laura, that is why our advice is, and the publicly stated advice of Treasury and the Reserve bank and the institutions in the economy, is that those cost-of-living measures themselves, on rent and energy, take off half a percent of inflationary pressures. Now, we've also been really careful to say that we have made significant progress on inflation. It is half what it was when we came to office, but we are not out of the woods yet and there is still significant work to do. 


LAURA JAYES: Yeah, but doesn't this show that fiscal measures and monetary measures need to be acting in concert here? And the fiscal ones don't appear to be? 


SENATOR AYRES: Well, they certainly are. Two budget surpluses. Our opponents, our political opponents, who have opposed every single measure that the government's announced, could never deliver a surplus. Even in happier times, they couldn't deliver a surplus. They left us with a trillion dollars in debt. It can’t be wished away. 


LAURA JAYES: But if we could talk about the inflation data just for a moment, Tim. Let’s look at the here and now, I understand that. But, in a couple of weeks, your government and you were spruiking a tax cut for absolutely every Australian. That is welcomed. But don't you have to admit today, that there's a real risk that more money in people's pockets in just a couple of weeks’ time could make that inflation story even worse, and actually force up another interest rate? 


SENATOR AYRES: No, Laura, absolutely not. What those tax cuts do, apart from providing welcome relief to Australians alongside wage increases that middle-Australia is receiving because of the government, pushing for wage increases in the economy, what they do is lift workforce participation. They show the first signs of assisting businesses and firms and workers to lift productivity. These measures are productivity measures as well as measures that are assisting ordinary households and businesses. I watched some of the commentary on your program a little bit earlier. These measures, particularly the energy and the rent measures, directly take pressure off inflation, directly feed into the rest of the economy. They are real measures that help real families and real businesses, and they flow into the economy in a way that helps with the task of reducing inflation. Now, that's what government should be about. We are doing this against the backdrop of some pretty tough systemic issues. We had the lowest productivity growth in our history over a decade of the last government. We've had energy policy stasis, nothing achieved in the energy system so crucial to the competitiveness of Australian firms. But this government has- 


LAURA JAYES: Well, that’s still a bit of a mess I would argue, and without bipartisanship on that issue-  


SENATOR AYRES: We have used the last two years really carefully. 


LAURA JAYES: Yeah, okay. Sorry, Tim, tiny little bit of delay there. 


SENATOR AYRES: Yes, I can hear you. 


LAURA JAYES: We're going to have to leave it there anyway because we've just seen, not to trump you or anything like that, but we've just seen Julian Assange’s lawyers.