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Shadow Minister for Science and the Arts

Shadow Minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy

Manager of Opposition Business in the House




22 JANUARY 2024


TOM CONNELL: Well, we've got the Prime Minister flying Labour MPs from around the country to Canberra this week as he starts to put some meat on the bones. What cost of living measures will be included in the budget? Perhaps even easier and even earlier than that. Joining me now is shadow government Services minister Paul Fletcher. Thanks for your time. We've had the opposition say let's get to some cost of living measures. And now the government's convening the party and going to go through some of those. And you're saying it's political theatre? Isn't this what governing is about?

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, there's been a cost of living crisis underway since shortly after the Labor Party were elected in 2022. It's taken Mr. Albanese quite a long time to realise the seriousness of this. But of course he could have been working on measures to deal with this crisis at any time, and certainly well before Parliament rose last year. What he's now chosen to do in what really smacks of a pretty politically desperate stunt, looking to be doing something about it, is call all of his MPs together on Wednesday ahead of giving a speech on Thursday. And this raises a lot of obvious questions. Why is it necessary to bring people together for this, but specifically what's going to come out of it? Because he's really raising expectations here. It's also a real question, frankly, as to the cost of this. It's about half $1 million to bring the labor caucus to Canberra. The airfares and overnight, what's called travel allowance for people staying overnight on Wednesday night The main reason for that seems to be so they can go to a party that Mr. Albanese is hosting at the lodge and then stay around to watch him give his speech at the Press Club on Thursday. So Australians, I think, would reasonably have some questions about the cost of this exercise. But as well the question as to why is this particular political stunt necessary and why is it only now that Mr. Albanese is waking up to the seriousness of the cost of living crisis, which most Australians have been dealing with on a daily basis for many, months?

TOM CONNELL: Pretty standard, I think, to be able to travel, to watch the Press Club speech. Not sure about the party side of things Um, what about the actual policy element here? What cost of living measure do you think it could be rolled out maybe earlier, before the budget, wary of, course, inflation and not putting any heat under that?

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, that's really for Mr. Albanese and the government to demonstrate to the Australian people. We'll have to wait and see what he comes up with. He's certainly raising expectations with this political stunt. He wants everybody to be looking at what he's doing. But I think Australians will judge the merit of this based not so much on this political stunt of gathering people together. Only, uh, two weeks before Parliament is due to resume, in any event. But substantively, what is going to come from this? What's going to be different? -

TOM CONNELL: So what about on energy then? Because the strong indication seems to be that energy rebate might continue. That's the one worth up to $500 for households. And crucially, it's a rebate. It comes off bills It's not a cheque in the mail. So that sort of helps on the inflation side. Is that a pretty sensible thing to continue, do you think?


PAUL FLETCHER: Well, let's be clear. Mr Albanese promised that energy prices would go down by $275. Instead for a typical household, they're up by about $1000, price increases of over 20% in gas and electricity since the Albanese Labor government came to power. What's been done with the rebate is spending taxpayers money to offer some kind of artificial reduction rather than getting in place the right industry and market conditions so that you are seeing lower prices. So again, let's wait and see what Mr Albanese has to offer. But the fact is on this issue, as so many others, there's been a huge gulf between the rhetoric between what Mr Albanese promised before he came to government and what they've actually delivered. What they've actually delivered is a very sharp increase in energy prices and now they're scrambling to spend taxpayers money to try to mitigate some of the impacts of that

TOM CONNELL: On that guarantee on price or pledge. They've got until 2025. Not tracking well but they do have time. You've been a strong supporter of Israel. What do you make of the Prime Minister's comments? The Israeli prime minister's comments that sovereignty for Palestine would be incompatible in terms of Israel's security. Is it disappointing that seems to kill off a two state solution?

PAUL FLETCHER: Well, let's be clear The murderous terrorist thugs of Hamas launched an attack on innocent Israeli citizens on October 7th. Over 1100 people died. 240 people were taken as hostages. Still, well over 100 are still hostages in Gaza, we trust. Sadly, some of them may have already been killed. Uh, these murderous terrorist thugs are the people who are now saying they've got some kind of offer that's going to improve the situation. The fact is, the democratically elected government of Israel naturally enough, will be focused on maintaining the security and safety of the people of Israel. Of course, the coalition supports and has consistently supported, and it's a bipartisan position in Australia achieving a two state solution. -

TOM CONNELL: But don't these comments from Netanyahu go away from that? There's no way, he says, for a Palestinian sovereignty to be compatible with Israeli security goes away from that two state solution, doesn't it that comment?

PAUL FLETCHER: The priority facing the government of Israel is to achieve security for its people. Of course, what everybody wants to see is a return to peace, but the best way to achieve that would be for the murderous terrorist thugs of Hamas to release the Israeli hostages. They've now held them for some three months, uh, in appalling conditions. And it is, I think, entirely understandable that the first focus of the Israeli government, regardless of who may be heading it at any particular time, the first focus is on maintaining and restoring security for Israel. And of course, the victims here are civilians, both Israeli civilians and Palestinian civilians who are subject to the murderous rule of Hamas, a rule that they never asked for and certainly didn't get the chance to vote for.

TOM CONNELL: Paul Fletcher, appreciate your time. Thank you,