KARL STEFANOVIC, CO-HOST TODAY SHOW: Welcome back to the show. The Treasurer is defending the Government's extra spending on welfare this morning amid concerns the cost-of-living centric budget leaves out ‘Middle Australia’.
Joining us to discuss is today's headline grabbers themselves Minister for Sports and Aged Care Anika Wells in Canberra and commentator Scott Emerson in Brisbane. Good morning, Anika. I watched the Budget the other night. You were front and centre you through the whole lot. Where is the money for middle Australia?
ANIKA WELLS, MINISTER FOR AGED CARE AND SPORT: It's a budget for middle Australia, Karl. Do middle Australians not have children? Do middle Australians not have energy bills? Do middle Australians not need medicine? Do middle Australians not need to see a doctor? Preferably a bulk billing doctor near where they live.
We do all of those things in the budget, it’s a cost-of-living budget. Let me tell you, as the Minister for Aged Care every middle Australian has someone that they love who is in aged care or they know someone who’s been disappointed by their experience in aged care. Everyone agrees we need to lift the standards for older Australians in this country and there’s $36 billion worth of funding in the budget to do it.
STEFANOVIC: The big worry here is that economists are saying this morning we could have one or two interest rate rises and that will break a lot of middle Australia.
WELLS: Yeah and I was just listening to your advisor Chris say we’re all waiting for the RBA to weigh in on that and obviously that is a concern for all of us waiting to see, in what is a cost-of-living crisis but there’s plenty of economists out there who are backing in the Treasurer and the Albanese Government's decision saying that this is a Budget that will put downwards pressure on inflation.
STEFANOVIC: OK, a lot. Disagree. Scott, what do you think?
SCOTT EMERSON, COMMENTATOR: Well, I think Anika might make that claim but the reality is, if there is another interest rate rise next month, or a month after, this’ll be Albo's rise. This Budget clearly is inflationary and is putting pressure on interest rates. If they go up middle Australia will hurt. All those people that, Anika, missed out on in this Budget they are feeling the pain. They’ll feel more pain if interest rates go up.
STEFANOVIC: I think that’s the big risk for you and the Government right now, Anika.
WELLS: Look, nobody wants to see more interest rate rises. I guess when I say nobody, I mean people who live in the suburbs like myself. Australians want cost-of-living relief. The RBA is an independent body. Here at government, we are doing what we can and pulling all of our levers, and there was a lot of really good levers. $14.6 billion worth of them in Tuesday night’s Budget.
STEFANOVIC: You know I just, I mean, you would know, you’d have friends in your electorate. You'd have friends in life...
WELLS: I try, they don't see much of me.
STEFANOVIC: You’re a very affable lady. I just think with businesses as well at the moment, a lot of them are coming off their fixed interest rates on to variables. The cost of producing anything at the moment, finding staff, the costs, wages costs, I mean, they're astronomical. A lot of businesses are closing down. You would see that personally. Any more rise by the RBA is going to break people.
WELLS: 100% I agree with you that workforce and workforce shortages are the biggest issues for so many industries in this country. Over in aged care it absolutely is and that's why we are putting $11.3 billion towards a wage rise for aged care workers.
I agree with you everyone is feeling the pump for interest rates and that's why I think we’ve used this opportunity to focus in on cost-of-living and what can be done in this budget. Obviously, there's no magic salve for it but we are really pulling all the levers and we’ll continue to do that.
STEFANOVIC: Scott, I’ve got a number of friends who have businesses and they’re sailing really close to the edge.
EMERSON: Oh, look. Businesses, households, everyone is feeling the pain. And this budget, we know now that the interest rate rise that comes… I think the Reserve Bank is on the edge at the moment trying to work out what to do. And clearly this budget puts more money into the economy. It will send them over the edge.
If there is an interest rate rise in June or July it will be Albo's rise, it will be Jim Chalmers’ rise. That’s what it’ll be.
STEFANOVIC: 100%. Alright, Anika, you and Jim Chalmers, you’re flying the Queensland flag on Budget night but what is going on with your dodgy cousins in Queensland right now? Taxpayers are forking out $187,000 for MPs to stay at ritzy hotels during this week's regional parliament. I mean, this is the kind of thing that really gives people the irits.
WELLS: You certainly sound irritated, Karl. That surprises me because like yourself as a Queenslander, who can resist the lure of travel around Queensland? We all understand the temptation. I think with respect to regional parliaments that's something that Federal Governments have done in ages past. The Queensland Government's brought it back. I'm sure they are complying with the travel rules with which they are bound, I certainly hope they are.
But let me tell you, I do a lot of travel as a federal politician sometimes the hotels are nice, sometimes they’re less nice. None of them match being at home with your kids.
STEFANOVIC: OK, I understand that and that's a very good point. However, a luxury hotel in Cairns, Scottie, I mean what’s wrong with the Big Four at White rock just up the road from my auntie, niece. My mum’s got a house at Yorkey’s Knob she’d happily rent out to four or five of those pollies up there. Here it is, look at it. Absolute camping luxury at the Big Four. What’s wrong with that Scottie?
EMERSON: Oh, there’s a few of Airbnbs out there as well I’m sure up in Cairns. Look, I love regional Parliament. It's great they’re up there. You’ve got to put 90-plus pollies somewhere. Could they have found accommodation at white rock, maybe but look I’d never attack having pollies go out, outside the city, go out to the regions, rural places to make sure they see the people and I tell you Cairns, it is sensational especially this time of the year for all those people suffering down south as winter starts to come, come up to Queensland, come up to Cairns.
STEFANOVIC: I will actually roll over on that story. I think it’s a good thing, especially Cairns, the economy’s not doing too flash up there. In other news, Blue Wiggle Anthony Fields has revealed his dream of one day buying the footy team, The Wests Tigers. Anika, you know, he’s obviously this morning stipulated The Wiggles need to be sold off for a couple of billion before he buys it. However, if you were going to buy a sporting side which one would it be around the world?
WELLS: Broncos. (LAUGHS) I just said that cause they are playing tonight against the Storm, go Broncos but look, maybe... maybe the Matildas. We’ve got the World Cup coming up, but I don't think they could be bought. You know, they're a values-led team but let me say, I was so happy you wanted to ask me about this, Blue Wiggle as the Minister for Sport, young kids, Blue Wiggle buying Wests Tigers is like a top order priority for me today. I’ll be watching this closely. I think Wests need all the help they can get. He probably could get it for a bargain price.
At the moment, this guy's a genius. Their season’s been a total fruit salad so far. I can't wait. I'm watching. Top order item for me today.
STEFANOVIC: Scott? Yummy, yummy…
EMERSON: I reckon the Tigers would need a bit of wiggling on the field given how they've been this season, I have to say. Broncos, of course I have twist Rupert's arm to sell a bit to me but love to own the Broncos. Or can I say, just do something like Ryan Reynolds has done over in England. Find some sort of, you know, B side team and get it up into the premiership.
STEFANOVIC: Like St George. I say nothing. Only joking St George people. Good on you, guys. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.