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6 April 2022

Interview with Michael Rowland, News Breakfast, ABC

Note

Topics: Budget 2022-23; Labor’s taxes; clean energy;

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Lots of talk about this morning, so let's bring in the federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg. Treasurer, good morning to you.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Good morning, Michael. Nice to be with you in wintery and wet Sydney.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Yes, I believe it's very wet indeed. We're heading down to Sydney tomorrow. Now, I want to talk about the seat of Hunter. The longstanding member Joel Fitzgibbon, who's bowing out of politics this election, had that near-death experience last time, the big swing against Labor, he nearly lost this seat. How confident is the Coalition of picking up Hunter? It is a battle ground seat whenever the election is held.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

That’s one of the seats that we'll continue to focus on. We announced the Budget, as you know, four priority regional areas, Michael, for extensive economic development – Hunter was one of those. The Pilbara in Western Australia was another, central and northern Queensland and the Burdekin was another and, of course, we're also investing in the Northern Territory in Middle Arm, proximity to Asia, great opportunities for energy and clean hydrogen development. So our focus is on the regional seats with some $21 billion of economic support being committed, whether it's in telecommunications, water, transport infrastructure as well as more doctors and MRI machines for the regions, and at the same time focusing on our cities and the challenges that we face here recovering from COVID.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

It's a big coal mining seat. As you well know, Treasurer, the Australian economy is transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy and there are a lot of workers here still very deeply concerned as these power stations close, as these mines close. They hear these promises from Government about them being transitioned into other jobs, but often transpire and often those jobs don't pay nearly enough compared to what they're earning now. What can the government offer these workers in the coal mining sector?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Firstly, on the issue of jobs, as you know, I think that's been one of the highlights, the standouts, of Australia's economic performance during the COVID pandemic, that, unlike the '80s and the '90s where we saw unemployment rates at extended highs for a decade after the initial recession, here in Australia we've seen the unemployment rate get back to where it was within just a year and now even lower still. And in the Budget I printed a number with a 3 in front of it for unemployment, which would be the first time in 50 years. So we have a strong labour market and workers are moving between industries and jobs quite readily. We see great opportunities in the energy sector…

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Yeah, but it's not that easy though, is it, when it comes to coal mining. You say that, but, in reality, it's not that easy for workers in coal mines and power stations to make that transition.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

And that's why we're investing, for example, in clean hydrogen hubs right across regional areas because we see great opportunities for jobs in this area. That's why we're investing in pumped hydro facilities across the country, not just Snowy 2.0 because, again, they become the big batteries to smooth out the energy grid when you get more wind and solar, which has more intermittent power into our energy system. We're heavily investing, whether it's micro grids, clean hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, large-scale solar or pumped hydro, we're investing in our regions with a view to creating more jobs in our energy system, even though it is transitioning from some of those fossil fuel-based power generating sources to more renewable sources.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Okay. So just to another issue – the New South Wales Liberal Party has been in a bit of turmoil it's fair to say in recent weeks and months with captain's picks and court challenges internally to Liberal Party candidates. You're also the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Josh Frydenberg. Do you look on from Victoria at the New South Wales Liberal Party and shake your head?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

It has been less than ideal, but I'm glad that it's heading to its conclusion and that we've secured new candidates for these seats. But I don't want you just to focus on the Liberal Party, Michael. This election is a choice between a Coalition between Liberals and Nationals and Labor and Greens. And the Labor Party was in the High Court just over a week ago having their own federal Labor takeover of the Victorian division challenged.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Yes, and, Treasurer, when the Labor Party's – when Anthony Albanese's on we put these issues to him, which I have.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Good.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

But you're on. We're talking about the Liberal Party. What do you think about what's going on in the New South Wales Liberal Party?

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Less than ideal, but I'm glad that now we are securing those candidates to contest the next election because, as you say, there are seats there that not only we need to hold, but seats that we can actually win off the Labor Party. And later today I'll be heading to a couple of Sydney seats as well as speaking at events here in Sydney as well. We've got a focus on Australia's economic future and, of course, our national security future with significant announcements overnight from the AUKUS partnership with the United States and the United Kingdom as well as our Budget plan, which we're now explaining to the Australian people – more investments in small business, more investments in our regions, more investments in manufacturing and new technologies. That's our economic plan for the future. That's what we laid out on Budget night.

MICHAEL ROWLAND:

Treasurer, I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

JOSH FRYDENBERG:

Thank you.