4BC Drive with Scott Emerson - 29 March 2022


SUBJECTS: Budget 2022; Federal Election. 

SCOTT EMERSON, HOST: How are you Milton?

MILTON DICK, MEMBER FOR OXLEY: Hello Scott, Happy Budget Day to you and the listeners.

EMERSON: Well we just had your brother on as the State Treasurer a little bit earlier on, and I actually asked people here do you realize they're both, they're brothers? Amazing how many people didn't know!

DICK: He's just my warm up act, really.

EMERSON: I'm sure he's listening in on that one so-

DICK: He will be, he will be.

EMERSON: He will be indeed. All right then well let's get down to it. Look, the Federal Budget. Your brother Cameron Dick did give the federal government a serve already on this. So let me just talk about Labor's policies going forward, because how soon will we know Labor's policies? On Thursday night, Anthony Albanese says, look, we're going to- there's a budget reply, but he said he's not going to reveal everything about a response to the budget in Thursday night's speech. So when are we going to find out what Labor is planning to do?

DICK: Well, there's already a lot of policy on the table, Scott, but Thursday night is the opportunity for Anthony Albanese- and Jim Chalmers and our finance team are currently poring through the budget in the lockup. And during Question Time today the government gave a few pointers about what we can expect, but Thursday night will be Anthony's opportunity to really showcase where a future Labor Government's priorities will be, but also, as a good opposition, what we'll do is finding fault or finding the scrutiny where it's needed to be on this Government. And tonight the Government will hopefully unveil some policies to deal with cost of living but I really - and for your listeners' sake Scott - I really hope that this isn't just, I guess, a short term Band-Aid fix, because the election is going to be called in five minutes. And we do have real policies on the table because I think all of Australians are looking at both sides of politics to tackle the cost of living issues because you know, I know talking to people on the weekend, businesses as well. They're really doing it tough and feeling that squeeze at the moment. So Thursday, we will reveal more policies on the table, but we've already got, you know, obviously, a number of issues out there with childcare and energy policies and all those things and infrastructure plans that we've got, but we're still a little way to go the election - all in time. Labor's policies will be on the table for Australians to make their judgement.

EMERSON: All right, then, well, we've already heard this afternoon, one announcement and this is kind of an increase in the tax offset. We're going to see people who are up to $126,000 per year getting $1,500 as a one off cash payment after they put in their tax return after July 1st. Does Labor back that initiative?

DICK: Well, we want to see all the details released, obviously, but any relief we can to look at the cost of living issues putting money back into the pockets of Australians, but I have to put my cynical cap on for a moment. Look, we've seen these announcements before. The Government I guess, needs, I guess, a political fix to fix their problems. We'd rather there be some long-term policies on the table and with a decade of this Government, and now it does appear five minutes to midnight. That cash - a fistful of dollars being put forward on the table to manage their political fortunes, rather than I guess the long-term economic fortunes of building back stronger from the pandemic, but tackling some of those big issues and I'm hopeful tonight Scott, we will see, I guess, movement on things like wages. Everything's going up in price at the moment except wages. And we've had a government really stalling on the issue of wages growth, which really has added to the cost of living pressures. So in about an hour or two hours time all will be revealed but I'll be having a good look on those infrastructure and also cost of living issues, particularly for both suburbs that I represent, but also to help the flooded communities get back on their feet as well. I believe there'll be announcement in tonight's budget. There's so many Australians that need a hand at the moment to get their lives back on track.

EMERSON: We say the communities you represent, you the Member for Oxley, isn't one of the best outcomes for people in your area is a strong workforce, the unemployment rate 4% forecasts and I understand that in the budget, it will be forecast to get down to about 3.75%. That's a pretty good outcome. Isn't the best form of welfare and helping people getting them a job? So this government's been successful on that.

DICK: Of course it is Scott but uh, you go to any workforce, go to any businesses and they say the same thing. They need a skilled or semi-skilled workforce to add to that and we just simply haven't been investing in the skilled workforce in this country. We've got a skills crisis in my own electorate Scott. We've lost around 1400 apprenticeships over the last eight years now, that's not just staying the same. That's not keeping up to pace with what business needs. We've gone backwards, and that's right across Australia. So the big issue here is real wages falling, and that's one of the reasons why families are falling further and further behind, because their wages aren't keeping up with cost of living, but also delivering those long term secure jobs. We've got the rise of insecure work here. And businesses that I know are all looking for more workforce, and it's good, the unemployment rates coming down. But what we need is a diversification to get the skills base up. That's how we grow the economy. That's how we lift economic productivity. And get more people in those full time long term jobs.

EMERSON: I know you're a former ALP State Secretary, former ALP strategist there, Milton Dick, you've gone through, watched a number of elections, been obviously involved in a lot of elections as well. What is your tip of when the Government will call the election? Budget tonight, the election's going to be held in May or May the 7th, 14th or 21st. There's some speculation they could call it this weekend. What's your tip?

DICK: Look, I suspect that they'll want to get a bounce from this budget. Most governments always do, Scott. I'm not sure if that will be the case, because we already kind of know what's in the budget, I don't I think there's too much left to announce tonight. I predict that the Prime Minister will be keeping his options open for Monday to call the election for the 7th or the 14th. Whatever the case is, Australians will be casting their judgment on this Government probably within three or four weeks. That's when people will start casting ballots and federal Labor's got a huge job. It's going to be a really close election. But we'll be doing everything-

EMERSON: -Will it be a close election? The polls are saying you are going to rock it in at the moment, that sounds like you're trying to get the underdog status. I'm going to get Anthony Albanese saying we're the underdogs on this.

DICK: Well, well, only look at the 2019 election.

EMERSON: Yeah, yeah.

DICK: The polls are not always right. And the facts are, Labor has taken Government three times since World War Two. We really are up against one of the most tricky incoming politicians we've seen with Scott Morrison. He'll do anything to get re-elected but we're going to be putting our best foot forward.

EMERSON: Won't Labor do anything to get elected?

DICK: Well the way to get elected is putting a strong narrative and a strong economic agenda forward through skills training, innovation, making things in Australia again, that's exactly what we'll be outlining and you'll hear more of that on Thursday night from our leader Anthony Albanese.

EMERSON: Alright, Milton Dick, always good to have a chat. We'll speak to you post budget next week.

DICK: You betcha. Thanks, Scott.