Sky News Afternoon Agenda

KIERAN GILBERT [HOST]: Joining me live now from Brisbane is the Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Education, Anthony Chisholm. Senator Chisholm, thanks for your time. It's really a bit of a diabolical challenge, though, for the Treasurer. Huge cost of living pressures, but you can't put any more money into the economy right now given those inflationary challenges that continue to drive up interest rates.

ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: Thanks, Kieran, good to be with you. It is a really tough challenge, and we welcome that the inflation numbers are moderating. But we still acknowledge that there's many people across the country that are doing it tough. It also emphasises the focus that we've had since coming to government more than twelve months ago, where we've wanted to do what we can to help people with the cost-of-living pressures. But we don't want to add to that inflationary environment at the same time. So, that is a challenge, but it's been a focus for the Treasurer and of the government and I think on balance we're getting that balance right.

GILBERT: Would you agree, it's the number one issue that people raise with you at the moment, that household budgetary pressures that people are feeling?

CHISHOLM: I think it is. I think there's obviously some associated measures when it comes to it. There's obviously the housing challenge that we face, and I spend a lot of time in regional Australia, and there's no town I haven't been to where that isn't a significant challenge. But I think what they see is a government that understands that these pressures are real and that we're trying to work in a coordinated and concerted way to ensure that we do get those balances right between doing what a government can do responsibly, but not make things worse. And that's really the difficult challenge that I think we've got the balance right on. But it is one that Australians rightly recognise as an important one for their future.

GILBERT: The Greens have really targeted that issue in taking on the government and certainly that has proven successful in your part of the world in Queensland, with the likes of Max Chandler-Mather holding up the Federal Government's Housing Australia Future Fund. But it seems an argument that's really targeted and resonating with renters, younger voters.

CHISHOLM: Yeah, I think that there are significant portions of the population that do see housing as unaffordable and a real challenge and it's something that I come across all the time. I know my nieces and nephews who are in their mid-twenties and they've never not worked a day in their life, they are hard workers but it is a challenge to be able to raise money to afford a house in the current environment. So, I think that the government recognise this. We're doing what we can on the social and affordable housing front, but we also have good programs in place for first-home buyers as well, because we want to be able to assist those people getting to the housing market, as generations of Australians have done before them. We don't want that to be unaffordable for future generations as well.

GILBERT: How do you see this issue, and I know they're separate matters, but one feeds into the other because when people are under the pump and becoming angrier with their own economic circumstances, it does have a potential flow on and effect to other issues and people's openness to an argument around something like the Voice to Parliament. Do you think it makes that whole case and campaign more difficult?

CHISHOLM: Well, I think it could, Kieran, if you're not a competent and coherent government, and I think what we've proven in the last twelve months that we've been in power that we can take on those difficult challenges around the economy or around housing and put solutions in place and largely take the Australian people with us. I think when it comes to the Voice, for me and I spoke in the Senate on this during the debate on the legislation, that there is a real practical element to this for me, and that is that governments of all persuasion continue to spend money on Indigenous issues without getting any results. So for me, governments in the future are going to continue to do that and that's why I think the Voice will be important because we will be spending money, but we'll also be listening to those people it directly impacts, and it will make better use of that money at the same time. So, I think that there is a really practical argument for the Voice that I'm keen to make and I'll certainly be doing that in the opportunity that I get between now and when the referendum is. And I think the important part of that is that I've been frustrated with the debate over the last couple of months because that has been dominated by politics and Parliament. I'm really pleased that the politics part is over, and we can actually get on to focusing on the part that is going to make a difference on the ground. I think that's when we'll see some significant movement, because I am convinced that this will help people on the ground and that's what Australians want to do.

GILBERT: Can it still be won?

CHISHOLM: I definitely think it can still be won, Kieran. I think that what you see with published polls and as much as politicians don't like to say they follow the polls, as you know, we often do. But they do bounce around and what I am confident that so many Australians want to do the right thing, they want to see advancement for Indigenous people in this country. They want us to be able to close the gap. I've got no doubt that if we actually have a voice that we are listening to, it will enable us to do that better and more efficiently, and that'll be a great outcome for government across the country. If we actually are doing that in a more efficient way than what we've seen over the last 10-20 years, where we've been spending money and haven't been closing the gap. So, that, for me, is not an efficient way to do it.

GILBERT: Big few months with the Rugby World Cup looming and a big few years for Queensland with the Olympics a decade away, bit under that now. You were opening some rugby training facilities today, talk us through it. What are the prospects here? Are there any links to the upcoming Olympic Games as well in terms of these facilities in Queensland?

CHISHOLM: Yeah, as you know, as someone who follows rugby, Ballymore has really been the spiritual home of Rugby Union in Queensland for probably 50 years, and it fell into disrepair and there's been a proposal to develop it for many years now. Finally, the Federal and State Governments have contributed money and they've built a fantastic facility where they've made use of the existing grounds. The great news is that the Wallaroos, so the female Australian rugby team, they'll be headquartered there, and these are state-of-the-art facilities are as good as anything I've seen in any of the football codes across the country. Over the next ten years, in the lead-up to the Olympics, it will end up becoming the hockey centre for the Olympics as well. So, it really is exciting to see good facilities that ensure that men's and women's teams are on an equal footing. But then we're starting to see that Olympic transformation as well, and that's really exciting for the city, the state and I think the country in terms of what will be available for the community post-2032 and in the lead up, too.

GILBERT: Finally, before you go, any thoughts on this big news out of NSW? Gladys Berejiklian, according to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, has found that she did engage in serious corrupt conduct.

CHISHOLM: Yeah, obviously it's significant news, Kieran, and anytime I think a senior politician like Gladys Berejiklian finds themselves in this sort of position, I think it does reflect on politics more broadly. One of the focuses from the Albanese Government has to be an attempt to restore integrity, accountability and transparency to politics and federal politics in general. I think this is a reminder for us that that task is important. Obviously, we've passed the legislation in relation to the NACC, which will start in a matter of days, and I think that was the right thing to do and I think only events like this reinforce that it is an important step forward so that we can rebuild the trust that the Australian people have in their institutions and in the Federal Parliament as well.

KIERAN GILBERT: Senator Anthony Chisholm, thanks. Talk to you soon.