Interview on Sky News Regional Breakfast

JAYNIE SEAL: Returning to one of our top stories, and investors say there's now a one in three chance of an interest rate rise in August after inflation rose to its highest level this year. Live from Canberra is Kristy McBain, Minister for Regional Development, Local Governments and Territories. Minister, thank you very much, as always, for joining us. This is certainly making a lot of people nervous across the country in terms of those potential interest rate high hikes. What is the government doing and how can it help even further?

KRISTY MCBAIN: Good morning, Jaynie. Always good to be with you. The Treasurer has said previously that we'll see the monthly numbers bounce around a bit, but when you look at what that annual figure is, it's still down 0.1 per cent on the yearly figures. Next month, we'll see those quarterly figures come out, which is what the Reserve Bank will need to make any decisions on. Next month, our budget kicks in, where we will see those cost of living measures push through to Australians, including that $300 energy bill rebate, tax cuts, as well as a number of other measures such as cheaper medicines. It is really important we continue to work within the parameters that we have, to put downward pressure on inflation. That budget was carefully calibrated to make sure that we were helping people with their hip pocket costs, without putting more fire onto the inflation issue. It is really important that we continue on that trajectory.

SEAL: And while those incentives are certainly welcomed by many, this stage three tax cuts and the $300 bonus, the Coalition believes that Labor really needs to make tougher spending cuts. And this morning I put that question to Shane Oliver, the AMP Chief Economist. He agreed. Let's hear him.

SHANE OLIVER: To be honest with you, I'd have to say yes. There's no doubt that government in Australia, both federally and in the states, has made the Reserve Bank's job harder.

SEAL. So, what would you say to those comments?

MCBAIN: When we came into government, we had one of the highest taxing and highest spending governments that we took over from. Inflation was running at over 6 per cent when the Morrison Government lost power in 2022 and interest rate hikes had already started under their government. What we have done is put a number of savings measures into our budget. We've made over $40 billion worth of budget savings. We've turned two big budget deficits left by the Liberal Party into budget surpluses. We've heard already from the Reserve Bank that making sure that we're not throwing more money into the economy is a good thing. You can only do that if you're very careful in how you're spending those dollars in this last budget. We indexed pensions, for example, something that we will continue to do, including rent assistance for people as well. Those are measures which have to be done as part of any responsible budget, so you can't cut costs there. It is quite interesting when you hear the Opposition's rhetoric. They tell us that we should be pulling back from spending. At the same time, they're saying we're not spending enough on infrastructure and pet projects that they had while in government. You can't have it both ways. What we've done is take a very carefully calibrated approach, and we’ve put downward pressure on inflation, by reducing hip pocket costs. Cheaper medicines, cheaper childcare, tax cuts and energy bill relief will be some of those measures that will assist people in their daily lives.

SEAL: Right, we've got about two minutes to go Minister. Anthony Albanese claims the Coalition's nuclear plan will undermine Labor's Future Made in Australia policy. And I believe in a speech today, the Prime Minister is going to say the use of nuclear reactors are going to set back investment in solar, wind and opportunities in green energy. That may be the case, but on the flip side as well, AEMO have come out saying that they think perhaps that nuclear is too expensive. But again, the renewables really need to fast track to get to the target. So, what's happening here, because there's so many divisive comments. What needs to be done?

MCBAIN: It's really clear that this idea that the Liberal-National party have is an idea which hasn't been cost. They don't have the land for it. They have no research to understand how many reactors they'll need or whether they can even plug into the grid on those seven sites. It's a plan or an idea that is a couple of decades away, and a lot of regional communities have not been consulted as part of this. 

SEAL: I’ve got to interrupt you, we are literally almost out of time. But just quickly. And I'm going to have to cut you off because we're getting a countdown. If the ban was lifted across the country, wouldn't we have more of an idea?

MCBAIN: There's some hurdles to get over. One, the federal ban, two, a number of state bans, and three, you've got to go out to the Australian people and tell them how much it'll cost. Matt Kean said it would bankrupt NSW to go down a nuclear path. I don't know what that would mean for Australian taxpayers, and that's something that Peter Dutton and David Littleproud will have to explain.

SEAL: All right. I'm sure we're going to talk about it more, but we've run out of time. Great to see you. Hope the rest of Parliament goes well today and we'll talk to you again same time next week. 

MCBAIN: Thank you, go the Blues.