TV interview with Minister Wells, Karl Stefanovic and Sarrah Le Marquand, The Today Show – Thursday, October 27

Date published:

October 28, 2022

Spectators:

General public

KARL STEFANOVIC, HOST OF TODAY’S SHOW: Aged Care and Sport Minister Anika Wells and Stellar and Body and Soul magazine editor Sarrah Le Marquand can join us now. Nice to see you, ladies.

Appreciate your time. Anika to you first. Here’s a little music to start things off today. It’s a bit of Cruel Sea from the Underground Night Club in Brisbane, circa 1992, and it was the honeymoon over, are you worried the honeymoon is over, Anika?

ANIKA WELLS, MINISTER FOR ELDERLY CARE AND SPORT: Well, I was seven then, so I wasn’t in that nightclub with you.

STEFANOVIC: Go on.

WELL: I’m also Minister for Aged Care, so we went straight into a terrible winter surge, so I don’t think I’ve had that experience. But is it good, Karl, to finally have a government that is honest with you about the reality of things?

STEFANOVIC: You might have put a little more into the budget to prepare us for the bad times to come, right?

WELL: This budget does exactly that. It does not gild the lily. It doesn’t give you a sugar hit. This tells you that things are really difficult, we recognize that, but the only way out is to be responsible for them.

STEFANOVIC: I do not know. It just didn’t do anything.

WELL: The budget consolidated all of our election commitments. There’s $3.9 billion in the budget for elder care, as someone who cares for people who depend on elder care and workers, that’s $3.9 billion of which we desperately, desperately need. And that’s what we are doing.

STEFANOVIC: Where are you going to find the workers.

WELL: In elderly care? Yeah, I’m pulling all the levers. I try. I knock on every door. There is no miracle solution. You would hope that if there was a silver bullet, the person in my position would have pulled it off already.

It will take a number of different things – immigration, education, training, training, opportunities for people and pay raises, which, you know, we have put forward a proposal for. And we hope to hear good news from the Fair Work Commission this summer.

STEFANOVIC: Let’s see what’s going on there. Sarrah, are you worried right now?

Sarah LeMarquand: Yes, very, very worried. Even playing Cruel Sea on loop isn’t going to make up for that. Did it help, though? A little.

STEFANOVIC: Thanks.

THE MARQUAND: Because we woke up to a lot of bad news. The honeymoon is definitely over.

As I always said during the pandemic, you know who would be prime minister? Who would be in government? Be careful what you wish for, Scott Morrison. I think the same will apply to Anthony Albanese and the ALP for the next few years.

Look, these are some really dire numbers, you know, not to dwell too much on the really grim news, but for the average consumer, we’re looking at a 50% increase in our electricity bills over the next 18 months. at two years old. There’s no way an average household could afford it. And we haven’t seen anything yet. We haven’t heard anything. We get assurances.

Look, I think, Anika, like I said, I don’t envy your job or the job of anyone in government right now, but if the best we hear is that we’re being honest with you, there is some comfort in that, but it does not change our bills.

STEFANOVIC: But then in Anika, you can’t go and promise people on an election campaign that the bill will be $275 cheaper under your government when that can’t happen.

WELL: Well, that’s a great example of the importance of being honest, because the previous government knew about skyrocketing energy costs. They knew that before the election, and they chose not to tell any of us, including us.

STEFANOVIC: Well, you didn’t know that was coming.

WELL: They certainly didn’t tell us. They changed the law to hide the information they received.

STEFANOVIC: Concede yourself this morning, and I think it’s good considering what’s going on in the world, the $275 cheaper labor bill for energy is just not going to happen.

That’s right, it’s a furphy.

WELL: But that promise was for 2025, we’re in 2022. I think that’s a good example of the things that are really uncertain right now, people are finding it really difficult and we’re really, really trying our best to clean up the mess and be honest about the difficulty of the challenge ahead.

STEFANOVIC: I understand all that. But you can say it’s a broken election promise this morning.

WELL: I’m not doing it, because as I said, this commitment was to get there by 2025 and we’re in 2022.

STEFANOVIC: Do you have any hope of getting there by 2025? I mean, I don’t know how it’s going to be when it goes up 50%.

WELL: Well, we talk about how uncertain things are and with things like the war in Ukraine and the uncertainty that we face around the world. I think uncertainty is what’s happening both in the world and in people’s kitchens, at people’s kitchen tables.

People feel really uncertain about it. So I think. What I can assure you as a new member of the government, we are doing our best. We are honest and we are responsible.

STEFANOVIC: OK. Flood victims are also eligible for emergency payments. We learned this morning that they will have to tax the funds as income because the federal government has not granted an exemption.

Can you enlighten us this morning?

WELL: Yes. So firstly I don’t want to contribute destructively to people who are still dealing with flooding across the country and in northern Victoria or northwestern New South Wales as they watch you on their televisions this morning.

It’s a really terrible time for people and we have so many flood victims in Australia. The hits keep coming. Flood payments are much needed. I saw this in February when my community was affected.

Unfortunately, these are the usual tax arrangements for them. Same thing with the previous government. But I think the difference here is that we’re getting more payments faster to more people and we’re doing that because we’re working with states, not fighting with them, which is what the previous government did on things as important as flood payments.

STEFANOVIC: You are will still tax them.

WELL: These are the usual provisions that each government has applied.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, Sarrah, what do you think? I mean, small business owners, farmers, they’re all affected, getting tax credits of up to $75,000 and then you know.

THE MARQUAND: This is not beautiful. And the fine print is really that there is a right to grant an exemption. And the opposition has already been very quick to take advantage of it.

We may see that in Peter Dutton’s budget response tonight, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has certainly said that we have always made a point of making it an exemption. So the fact is that this decision was not made.

So it looks bad and I think to the average bettor it looks like you’re giving money with one hand and taking it with the other.

Karl M. Bailey