Sunrise Interview with Minister Plibersek 5/02/24

05 February 2024






NATALIE BARR: Well, voters have had their say on the government’s overhauled stage 3 tax cuts with the majority backing the PM’s decision. The latest Newspoll has revealed 29 per cent of voters think Labor should have kept its promise while 62 per cent of voters believe Anthony Albanese did the right thing. For more, I’m joined by Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce. Good morning to both of you.




BARR: Before we start, Barnaby, you’re not in the plains of Danglemah this morning. Where are you?


BARNABY JOYCE: No, I’m in the suburbs of Canberra and parked outside someone’s flat, and they’ll be wondering what on earth is going on. But these things happen. Logistical issues happen, such as cars don’t turn up so you can’t get to work.


BARR: Right, okay. So let’s start with you. What do you think of this poll out this morning? It seems like most Australians think the PM did the right thing – they are forgetting the backflip?


JOYCE: And the polling didn’t go up for them, but, look, I think everyone recognises that straight away he still didn’t tell the truth. He went along and said his word is his bond, and then he changed his. They should have brought back further legislation in addition to keeping his word, keeping his promise. You can’t just – what’s the point of going to an election saying all these things you’re going to do if people say, “Well, look, you said you were going to bring down power prices and you couldn’t. You said you were going to bring in stage 2 tax cuts and didn’t. And now you’re saying to us, oh, we’ve got to believe you this time.” People don’t. They just give up on you and say you’re unreliable, unbelievable and just occupying the office.


BARR: Tanya, what do you think about this poll, I suppose the first gauge on how people have responded to your government’s move on the tax cuts? Two-thirds of people say, “Look, we like what you’ve done.” But two-party preferred, the Prime Minister’s approval rating hasn’t gone up at all.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, we’re not focused on the polls; we’re focused on doing the right thing. And the right thing is to give more Australians more money in their pocket. Under Barnaby’s proposal, people at the lower end get nothing at all, people in the middle don’t get much, people at the high end get lots. And our proposal, people at the high end still get something, people in the middle get a lot more and people at the bottom end get a tax cut too. So every single one of 13.2 million Australian taxpayers gets a tax cut, and those on middle and lower incomes get a much bigger tax cut than they were expecting. That’s what we’re focused on.


JOYCE: You voted for our proposal, Tanya. Remember voting for our proposal? You actually supported it.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Yeah, I remember –


JOYCE: So we don’t talk about our proposal and your proposal – it was both of our proposals. You voted for it.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Yeah, I remember trying to amend it so that people on middle and lower incomes got a bigger tax cut as well, Barnaby. That’s what we wanted at the time. But we didn’t want to stand in the way of people getting anything at all.


JOYCE: You voted for it.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: So, yes, in the end –


JOYCE: You voted for it. Just nod your head.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: We voted for people getting something because it was better than nothing.


JOYCE: Just nod your head – you voted for it.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Don’t tell me just to nod my head, Barnaby.


JOYCE: You voted for it.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: We have gone to the Australian people and said we can offer a fairer tax cut so that more people get more money. We’ve worked out that for the same amount of money we can give people in the middle and the lower income brackets more money in their pockets. At a time when people are doing it tough, you should back that.


JOYCE: Stage 1 tax cuts did precisely that, Tanya. There was stage 1, stage 2 and stage 3. This is the last stage.


BARR: And stage 1 ended, didn’t it?


JOYCE: Stage 1 gave a rebate to low-income earners, so basically if you’re under $40,000 you didn’t pay tax.


BARR: Yeah. And, so, look, as we said, the poll has been the first gauge, and 62 per cent of people support. Let’s move on to something else now – the automotive industry is warning tradies and families are at risk of higher prices and less choice for popular SUVs and utes under Labor’s proposed vehicle pollution caps. Tanya, we have heard a bit about this before, but now it’s going to be legislated. Can you explain to the viewers how the fuel efficiency cap will work?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Yeah, it means that when new cars are being brought into the country, makers will have to offer more fuel efficient cars on the market. It means that if you’re driving a petrol car, a diesel car, whatever it is, you will pay less for fuel. We estimate a $1,000 a year saving for people on these new vehicles.


Now, you’ve got to remember, Russia, Australia, we’re the only advanced economies in the world that don’t have fuel efficiency standards. And all this nonsense about how there won’t be four-wheel drives, there won’t be utes, have a look at America. America has had fuel efficiency standards since the 1970s and there are plenty of SUVs in the United States, plenty of pickup trucks to choose from.


BARR: Yeah.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: It’s nonsense. This is about saving people money every time they fill up their cars – up to $1,000 a year. You know, it’s crazy – you can buy a more fuel-efficient Mazda CX-30 in England than you can buy in Australia. Like, same model, but the one sold in Australia uses more fuel than the one sold in England.


BARR: Okay. So –


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: It’s just not fair for consumers that we are the dumping ground of the least efficient cars.


BARR: So, Tanya, just quickly before I go to Barnaby – you’ll save money at the bowser, but will the price of a car go up, of an SUV and a ute?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: No. No. All the experts tell us this won’t affect car prices at all. What it means is consumers will save money when they’re driving, particularly people who are driving long distances, like Barnaby’s constituents there in regional and rural communities who are, you know, filling up the tank so often at such a great expense. When they buy one of these new, more fuel efficient cars they will save money every time they fill up at the bowser.


BARR: Okay. Barnaby, that sounds like a win, does it?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, once more, it’s Labor’s fiasco. They haven’t consulted with anybody. The Australian Automobile Association said it would be really nice if it had proper consultation with them. So I’ll pose two questions to Tanya: where – tell me one place in Australia where I can buy these vehicles now, and tell me one place in Australia that produces its fuel now?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, there’s plenty of increasingly fuel efficient cars on the market, Barnaby. But this is the point: we actually don’t want to be the dumping ground of the least efficient cars in the world like we are at the moment.


JOYCE: But where do I buy these cars that you’re bringing this down for? Where do I buy them?


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Australia and Russia are the only advanced economies in the world that don’t have fuel efficiency standards,.


JOYCE: You’re not answering the question, Tanya. I’ll help you out – you can’t buy these vehicles In Australia now, and no-one in Australia produces this fuel.


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: Well, I don’t know what your question is, Barnaby.


JOYCE: What? Sorry? Where do you buy – tell me one place –


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: What do you mean produces this fuel? This is about petrol cars.


JOYCE: Tell me one –


MINISTER PLIBERSEK: This is about petrol cars, it’s about diesel, it’s about electric.


JOYCE: Tell me one car lot anywhere up and down Parramatta Road anywhere that sells these cars?


BARR: Right, so it’s not just EVs. They’re more efficient petrol cars, as well, Tanya. Okay, we’re going to hear a lot more about that in the coming days.




BARR: Thank you very much. Big week in Canberra. Thank you both. We’ll see you next week.