Transcript - TV interview - Sky News, Breakfast with Jaynie Seal

JAYNIE SEAL [HOST]: Joining me live is Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Labor Senator for Queensland, Anthony Chisholm. Thank you so much for joining us this morning. So, what do you think are the better long‑term solutions to housing that are needed in regional and remote Australia that are suggested by the University of New South Wales?

ANTHONY CHISHOLM [ASSISTANT MINISTER]: Thanks, Jaynie. Good to be with you. I certainly know that this is a problem throughout regional Australia. I've travelled to regional Tasmania, I was in remote Northern Territory the other week, and I've travelled extensively through regional Queensland, and I don't think I've come across a town that didn't need more housing and more affordable housing. So, I accept that it is a significant national challenge. Since we've been in power for the 12 months, we've certainly provided national leadership, so previously the Housing Ministers, Commonwealth Housing Ministers hadn't met and they're meeting now, which is important. But we're also putting money on the table, the Prime Minister announced an extra $2 billion to partner with States and Territories to build more social and affordable housing. I'm confident that some of those will be built in regional Australia. But we've also had the Housing Australia Future Fund, which was a signature policy that we took to the election, that we've been frustrated that we've been unable to pass that through the Senate, despite it passing through the House of Representatives months ago. What we've seen over the last couple of months in the Senate is the Greens using every delaying trick in the book, and it really got to a low point on Monday when they partnered with the Opposition and deferred it into October. So, that's really disappointing, because that's a four‑month delay to passing this important piece of legislation that some of the peak bodies have said that they'll start building affordable homes straight away. So, that's a key plank of what our Government's plan was, which the Greens and Opposition have delayed at every turn.

SEAL: We certainly have heard some emotional conversations, a fiery finish in Question Time yesterday where the Prime Minister was trading barbs with Greens MP Max Chandler‑Mather over the social housing issue, and the PM storming off after the exchange, only to double back and continue. Also, on Tuesday, as you know, Independents Senator Jacqui Lambie, who supports the bill, spoke about the Greens saying "Stop playing with people's lives" regarding not supporting the Government's Housing Australia Future Fund. So, yes, as you mentioned, the Coalition, the Greens, against this. Why are they against it?

CHISHOLM: Well, that's the difficult part for us to understand Jaynie. They try and run these arguments about, it's gambling on the stock market. Well, that's how superannuation works, which has been an outstanding success. Similar to a Sovereign Wealth Fund, that I've heard the Greens talk about saying we need. So, their arguments against it are disingenuous, it seems like their preferred option here is to play politics, and I think almost every Australian would know how the Prime Minister grew up and how passionate he is about delivering on affordable and social housing, because it was really key to his life and his Mum’s life, and he wouldn't be here today without it. So, we've got a Government that wants to deliver on it, we'd say it's the first government in 10 years that really wants to provide the national leadership, and we’re frustrated about the role the Greens are playing here. We think it is childish political behaviour, and the frustration is that some of these organisations want to start building homes straight away. So, it would start to alleviate the challenge immediately, and that's what country and regional areas are desperately crying out for.

SEAL: Turning to another topic, tens of thousands of Australian families are certainly seeking hardship support to help pay for their power bills, and there's more pressure from July 1 when residential customers on standard retail plans are going to see price increases, for some States and Territories that will be up to around 20 per cent at least, for Tasmania perhaps around 10 per cent. So, another big increase for people along with food prices, rent, mortgages. What is the Government doing to support people?

CHISHOLM: We know it's a significant challenge for people out there, and they’re doing it tough, and the price of electricity is a contributing factor to that. The Government have acted, just before Christmas, we capped coal and gas prices and that's put downward pressure on electricity prices. We understand that the challenge is still there, but we did act. We also, through the Budget, announced money to partner with States and Territories to provide cost‑of‑living relief for those on lower incomes. So, we're doing what we can in a responsible way, but we also don't want to add to the inflation challenge. So, that's why we're taking responsible steps to put downward pressure, but we do know it is a significant challenge for many Australians.

SEAL: And not to mention the mental health issue as well that many Australians are feeling, not from just the cost‑of‑living but the ongoing pandemic, and floods, droughts, you name it.

CHISHOLM: That's right, Jaynie, there's plenty of challenges out there in the community. I'm involved in my local St Vincent de Paul, and I really feel as though that helps me keep in touch with the challenges that every day Australians are facing and certainly that cost‑of‑living challenge is a significant one, and I know that the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, the Finance Minister, every decision they make, particularly with the Budget, is about doing what they can to ensure they're playing their part to help people keep their head above water. Because we know that the cost‑of‑living challenge is a serious one.

SEAL: All right. Well, let's change topics now, and were you at the Midwinter Ball last night?

CHISHOLM: No, I had my family in town actually last night, Jaynie, and my children have become mad Rugby League fans, so I took the night to watch the football with them, and as a passionate Queenslander, I have no regrets, because it was an outstanding performance by the Queensland team last night.

SEAL: Oh, we don't want to hear that, us New South Wales Blues fans, but no, congratulations, you certainly won the 2023 State of Origin with that stunning 32 to 6 triumph. Yes, it was hard to watch, but we also have your fellow Regional Development Minister, Kristy McBain coming on in the program in half an hour, and she's from New South Wales. Any words for her?

CHISHOLM: She'll be a bid sadder.

SEAL: Would you like to pass on anything?

CHISHOLM: Well, she did beat me in a State of Origin touch football game the day before, but I'll take the win in the main game, and hopefully the Queensland women win their game tonight which would be a win for the men and women's team this year, which would be an outstanding result for Queensland Rugby League.

SEAL: Well said. Is that a maroon tie you've got on there?

CHISHOLM: It is and I've already worn it once this week. So, I'm getting away with it for a second time.

SEAL: All right.

CHISHOLM: It's the only maroon one I've got. But don't tell anyone.

SEAL: No, we won't tell anyone. Well deserved. Maybe we'll have to, as you said, wait for the women's game, and perhaps next year. But thank you so much for your time, Anthony Chisholm, and certainly, yes, your fellow people there in Canberra will be wanting to hear how the Midwinter Ball went last night. Take care, thank you.

CHISHOLM: Thanks, Jaynie, good to be with you.