Colour head shot of Katy Gallagher, current Minister for Finance.

Senator the Hon Katy Gallagher

Minister for Finance

Television Interview - 10 News First, Midday

Minister for Finance
Minister for Women
Minister for the Public Service

Senator Lidia Thorpe; Voice to Parliament; cost of living

NARELDA JACOBS, HOST: Leaders have given their party rooms a pep talk to outline their vision for the year ahead, which means it's Party Time on Midday and joining us is Senator Katy Gallagher from the Government, Senator Bridget McKenzie from the National Party and Senator Sarah Hanson-Young of the Greens. Thank you so much for joining us senators, for our inaugural Party Time. Alright now, you've just come from the Senate. Senator Hanson-Young, it's looking a little bit different on day two.

SENATOR SARAH HANSON-YOUNG, MANAGER OF AUSTRALIAN GREENS BUSINESS IN THE SENATE: It is Narelda, and of course, as people know, Senator Thorpe left the Greens yesterday to move to the crossbench. So our team is a little, we've had a change of seating, but we are ready for this new year, and we are excited to be backing the 'yes' referendum. We've had a party room this morning and we've talked about the importance of all getting out and campaigning on that. And of course, making sure we can deal with some of those other big issues facing Australians like cost of living. This year is going to be a really tough year for a lot of people and making sure that we have money in the Government's Budget for, you know, to help those, fund those essential services. And that means, Katy's team, the Government, need to dump their stage three tax cuts, that's the tax cuts that give money to the rich, while everybody else is suffering under these terrible times with inflation and the hike of interest rates.

JACOBS: We'll get to cost of living costs in a moment. Senator Gallagher, does Lidia Thorpe sitting on the crossbench now pose a challenge for Labor in the Senate? You're going to have to rely on both Pocock and Lambie, can we expect to see new working relationships emerge?

SENATOR THE HON KATY GALLAGHER, MINISTER FOR FINANCE: Well, I think the Senate's a mix of different parties and independents. So this changes that slightly, but it is a chamber where we have to work together, we have to work across the chamber, we have to engage with crossbenchers. So in that sense, not a lot changes. I mean, we're still minority Government. We don't have the numbers in the Senate. So any vote that happens in the Senate, we have to go and get some extra votes to support the Government's position. So yeah, it'll change, we'll adjust, you know, but we do try and work, I mean, people don't often see how well, I think, the Senate works across the board. We have disagreements, we vote differently, but at the end of the day, we have pretty good relationships across the board.

JACOBS: Senator McKenzie, should there be rules to stop somebody who has swept in on a ticket say, using Lidia Thorpe as an example here, she's got five more years now that she'll be sitting as an independent. But, you know, Greens supporters voted for a Greens senator, and now she's an independent, should there be rules to stop this from happening, and for it to be decided by a by-election?

SENATOR THE HON BRIDGET MCKENZIE, LEADER OF THE NATIONALS IN THE SENATE: Well you ask a really, really interesting question, it's great to be in the inaugural Party Time discussing these matters. We had a similar issue in the National Party with one of our MPs leaving and becoming an independent and we were calling for there to be a by-election because as you rightfully say Australian voters go to the ballot box, and they elect MPs and senators based on a political philosophy in the main. And when those MPs or senators leave that political philosophy, you can leave the voters that have voted them in feeling a bit short-changed. Lidia's made, obviously a very principled decision. I was on Q&A with her last week, she has very strong views about the Voice to Parliament, and whether Australian should be voting for it or not. You know, we come from it from different perspectives, but we share her concerns, obviously, with the Government's proposition, and when you're changing something as important as our founding document, our Constitution, we hope the Government will join us to actually make sure that Australians get both the 'yes' case and the 'no' case and therefore can make up their own mind when the referendum is held.

JACOBS: Sarah, back to you, the situation was becoming untenable, but did you see the resignation coming?

HANSON-YOUNG: Look, Lidia was very, Senator Thorpe, was very upfront with the Greens party room about her position on the Voice and it was with odds, at odds, with where the rest of our party wanted to go. She's made her decision and Bridget's spoken about the kind of rights or wrongs of MPs staying in the parliament if indeed, they leave that party that they were elected on. The rules are as they are, I think, you know, there'll be members who are extremely disappointed and upset by that. But it is now the opportunity for us to get on and to have a clear, positive role in getting this referendum through. I think this is an important moment in time that we have, an opportunity to progress First Nations justice in this country. And I didn't, I don't want to see that wasted. We need to have our shoulders to the wheel, we need to be talking with voters, we need to be bringing the community along with us. Because as I see it, there is one important question we're being asked here. And it is whether we think First Nations people deserve a say, in their own lives and over their own lives. And ultimately, that is, yes, of course they should. That's what this referendum is about.

JACOBS: Do you think the fact that Lidia Thorpe was given so much license to go against and speak publicly against the party line, did that damage the Greens brand?

HANSON-YOUNG: Look, I think, you know, it's been a, there's been ups and downs as we've gone through this process. But we are now at a point where we are fully backing the 'yes' campaign. We want to see all elements of the Uluru Statement implemented. And that includes treaty and truth. There are important elements to making sure we get justice in this country for First Nations people. So you know, we were all working together towards that. Lidia Thorpe has decided to take another pathway. That's her choice. But the Greens are there with the majority of Australians, the new polls out today, the majority of Australians want this as well, and so do the Greens and we're going to work together, united, to make sure it happens.

JACOBS: Alright, let's leave the Voice there for the moment and talk about the Reserve Bank, who is going to be announcing what we're expecting, is another interest rate rise is afternoon. Katy, if I can go to you, this morning Peter Dutton told his party room that the Coalition was the party of the working class, does that mean Labor has lost his touch?

GALLAGHER: Well, I don't listen to too much Peter Dutton says when he's trying to gee-up his party room. Look, we're focused on cost of living, that's the main issue, it's a defining challenge for the Parliament and for the Government is dealing with how some of these high inflation numbers are impacting households, whether it be through rising interest rates, or the cost of buying groceries or all of those things. So, part of the job we've got is implementing our plans, but also looking at how we can manage some of those cost of living pressures in the Budget, particularly around electricity prices, those bills that are hitting households so hard. So we've got a job to do. The Reserve Bank's got their job, they've got to deal with the inflation challenge, because we have to get that back into more normal range, and then, the work of the Government is really about how we manage, you know, to support the economy, support households to deal with some of those cost of living pressures in a Budget sense. And we're doing that work now. We started before Christmas, and we're right in the thick of it now.

JACOBS: We're running out of time, but to Bridget, I'm just going to go to you now. Is there any more that can be done?

MCKENZIE: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I'm really disappointed that costs are going up right across the family budget under Labor. The last time we saw interest rates this high for Australian families was when the Rudd-Gillard Government was in control of our public finances. And every decision...

GALLAGHER: They did start…

MCKENZIE: I didn’t interrupt you, Katy.

GALLAGHER: Sorry, but they did start rising before then.

MCKENZIE: So whether it's fuel costs, whether it's food costs, whether it's energy, or our mortgages, every single turn, families are seeing their own budget under pressure under Labor. We are asking for the Treasurer to do more than write essays over the summer break, to actually assist with putting downward pressure on the skyrocketing costs for Australian families.

JACOBS: Wish we had more time. Thank you so much for joining us. The inaugural award for our Party Time senator who parties hardest goes to... Sarah Hanson-Young, because well, there's one less Greens senator. Thank you so much, senators.