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

Senator the Hon Katy Gallagher

Minister for Finance

Doorstop Interview

Minister for Finance
Minister for the Public Service
Minister for Women

E & OE
Cost of living; Inflation challenge; Budget savings; Energy bill price relief; Canberra stadium.

JOURNALIST: The announcements that have been made so far today - you've got the $14.6 billion cost of living price tag. How certain are you that the measures that the government is announcing won't be inflationary?

SENATOR THE HON KATY GLLAGHER, MINISTER FOR FINANCE:  Well, we've been very mindful of that. Obviously, there's a lot of pressure on the Budget, not just in terms of seeking, you know, cost of living relief and households seeking that support, but also how we manage that against this high inflation environment, not making that, or, adding to the inflation problem. So, you know, that has been central to our thoughts. I mean, part of the answer to that is the savings that we're announcing in the Budget, the fact that we have found $17.8 billion worth of savings and reprioritisation. So we're actually, you know, looking at where we can tighten our own belt as we're making investments in other areas of need. That's part of the answer, but you'll see the Budget in its entirety tomorrow. And I think that will answer the question because, yes, we're mindful of the inflation challenge, but we also know that we have to make some investments in the cost of living for households because they're doing it so tough. How that, how we do that, how targeted it is, the size of that has all been central to our thinking.

JOURNALIST: A number of respected economists point out that energy rebates have an indirect effect of being inflationary because it frees up money for people to spend elsewhere. Are they wrong?

GALLAGHER: Well, we're taking the advice obviously, of our Treasury around how we design that and how we target that and the advice to us is that it's not inflationary. And you know, again, we're not going to just go around throwing money out the door, in an environment like this. Every single decision we take has been mindful of the inflation challenge in the economy. But we also accept that households are doing it tough and they're doing it really tough when it comes to energy and some of those other costs and so we've got a carefully targeted and tailored cost of living package, and we're finding room in the Budget for other measures as well, but we're also returning money to the Budget where we can, where it's sensible and responsible to do so.

JOURNALIST: It looks like JobSeeker will be increased for older Australians, will Australians of other ages also see their JobSeeker payments increased?

GALLAGHER: Well, we've carefully looked at payments. Obviously, the Prime Minister said that every Budget we did, we would be looking and assessing what we could do on the payment side of the Budget, and we've been doing that. You'll see the outcomes of that and the various measures as part of that in, on Tuesday night.

JOURNALIST: In the $14 billion cost of living package, we've got somewhat of a taste of what's in that - including energy rebates - but can you give the Australian people a bit of a sneak peek as to what else is part of the $14 billion?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think we are in this very frustrating - believe me, I feel the frustration too, I really do - where decisions have been finalised, but we've got 36 hours to go. So you'll just have to hang in there a bit longer. We have to have something to talk about on Budget night. The cost of living package really has been targeted. You know, it's a significant package. There's a number of measures, it goes across age groups. And it's been really, I think, carefully put together to make sure that we're not adding to the inflation problems in the economy but providing sensible cost of living relief for families.

JOURNALIST: Senator, just on the energy rebate. Can we just clarify - is that money that's going to go to people, are they going to see that in your bank account, that rebate, or is it just going to go through the electricity bill?

GALLAGHER: Well, we're working with states and territories on that and you will see the final design of that. We're mindful of, you know, there's eight various different arrangements that we're having to negotiate through, but we think we can land that and we are mindful of making sure that it doesn't add to the inflation challenge.

JOURNALIST: Is it up to $500?

GALLAGHER: Yeah, it's slightly different depending on your jurisdiction and the arrangements that they have in place. I mean, obviously, you know, it is different across the country, and we've had to be mindful of that, but it's around up to $500 for around, just over 5 million households and about a million small businesses.

JOURNALIST: Can you just also confirm I think earlier, when you were talking, you're saying that you found another $17.8 billion in savings, that's on top of the $20 billion that you announced in October, is that right?

GALLAGHER: Yes, that's right. So we did that big effort in October. This has been a harder effort, or it's been harder to find the savings. In October, we were able to return to Budget some of those big lumps of funds that the former government had put into the Budget, but, so, that was an easier task. This has been harder. Of that $17.8 billion, about 7.8 is through, you know, reprioritisation through the Defence program, so through the strategic review, but the 10, other $10 billion is across the board. It's looked across, we've looked across every department. We're looking for unallocated money, we're looking for programs that can be redirected, and ministers have done a huge job and I thank them for it.

JOURNALIST: What's the biggest pieces of that $10 billion extra savings?

GALLAGHER: Well, you have to see, you'll have to wait till Tuesday night, and we've been really clear in the Budget papers where we have attributed a save and also whether that's been reprioritised into another area. But you know, I don't think it'd be a secret that when you look at the larger departments, they have more capacity to find, you know, to find money.

JOURNALIST: Is it efficiency dividends or are they actually targeted programs?

GALLAGHER: No, it's not an efficiency dividend, or the standard efficiency dividend remains. We will also be applying the consultants and contractors save that we took to the last election. If you remember in October, we allocated one year of that save and then wanted to do some more work about how we applied it across the board. And so you'll see that application across the forward estimates as well. So that is in there, but we counted that in October. But the additional $10 billion is in programs and services within departments.

JOURNALIST: Is there much of a difference in the value of the energy bill relief between states, is there a substantial dollar figure announced there?

GALLAGHER: Look, you'll have to wait and see on that one. You know, it does depend, like in in the ACT, for example, where we've got 100% renewable energy, you know, that is different to say, New South Wales, which doesn't operate under that arrangement. So, the Treasurer has been working with Treasurers in every jurisdiction to finalise that program.

JOURNALIST: Just one local question, Minister, is there any chance of some money for Canberra stadium in the Budget?

GALLAGHER: Yeah, look, there won't be any money for Canberra stadium, and that's really because we haven't seen a business case. I don't think the ACT Government has finalised their thinking on what they want to do about a future stadium in Canberra. We're working with the Chief Minister and his government to look at where we can work together, how to work together on this. We know it's a, you know, we know it's not just a stadium. There's a whole range of infrastructure and programs the Chief Minister wants to talk to us about and we'll continue that.

JOURNALIST: Will the Budget contain any new fiscal rules, building on what was in the October Budget, or will it be exactly the same fiscal strategy?

GALLAGHER: You'll have to wait and read that, John, in the scintillating Budget papers that we'll be releasing tomorrow night.

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