SUBJECTS: Grace Tame; newspoll; NSW State by-election; Senate Estimates; Tax.

PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Let’s bring the Deputy Labor Leader Richard Marles. Out of Canberra now, have you got any skills, Richard Marles that the public might not be aware of such as playing the ukulele?

RICHARD MARLES, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY: Definitely not playing the ukulele. And no, I don’t think I’m going to offer up any skills.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, well, what do you make of the Prime Minister’s musical skills by playing the ukulele, just for one more?

MARLES: Look, admirable effort, obviously an attempt to humanise. I think he can do better than to have one line to the tune. But yeah, you’re not gonna see me attempting to play a musical instrument on TV, I can assure you of that.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, on a more serious matters, Richard Marles. Now, Josh Frydenberg, he was on the program, as we know, just a short time ago. He remains tight lipped at the moment on an extension of the low and middle income tax offset. Would you like to see that extended?

MARLES: Well, let’s see what the government ultimately does. But I think that the point of this discussion is it’s highlighting the cost of living pressures which are being felt by those on low incomes, indeed, people throughout the economy. If you look at the cost of childcare, if you look at petrol, for example, but most critically, if you look at the fact that wages have been stagnant, really the standout stat of the economy over the last nine years is that wages have flatlined- record low wage growth- and that is putting pressure on low income earners. And that’s why we’re very focused on that obviously, and matters around it in terms of childcare, and making that more affordable, making sure that we can get wages going again.

STEFANOVIC: There are problems either way, when it comes to extending that tax offset, would you concede, because it is either a tax increase or it’s an expense that adds to inflationary pressures? So is it a bit of a lose-lose in that regard?

MARLES: Well, again, I think I’ll wait until the government actually comes forward with its plan before responding. But as I say, again, I think what the whole debate highlights and the fact that we’re in this conversation is really a reflection of the very difficult cost of living pressures, which are being faced particularly by low income Australians.

STEFANOVIC: Yeah. Well, by that measure you’d like to see that extended then?

MARLES: Well, you know, again, we’ll have a look at what the government brings forward. I don’t want to get ahead of that, this is ultimately the government’s budget, and it’s a matter for them, and when they deliver it, we’ll respond.

STEFANOVIC: Okay, all right. Frydenberg, also says don’t believe the denials, Labor would govern with the Greens. Can you rule that out?

MARLES: Yeah. And it’s completely desperate, as we’ve seen so many desperate attempts on the part of the government over the last few days, the last few weeks, really, to distract from, you know, the train wreck that is playing out in the parliament, when it comes to this government’s performance. We’ve made it really clear, we’re not going to go into any coalition with any other party- we seek to govern in our own right. And we are, right now very focused on making sure that we are putting forward an alternative at the next election, one, which I think the Australian people are crying out for. And what we seek to do is to win government in our own right.

STEFANOVIC: When it comes to partnerships with the Greens, though this is – this is the ghost of the past that continues to haunt you, isn’t it?

MARLES: Well, we’ve made it clear, that’s not going to happen. So, you know, I’ve got no doubt that Josh and others will continue to try and rattle cages as much as they can. But let’s be clear; these are acts of desperation on their part. And what they are about is trying to divert attention from their total failure to govern this country. And I think all Australians can see the way in which the government has failed to properly respond to the pandemic. The fact that we continue to lag behind the rest of the world in terms of vaccine rollouts, booster rollout, access to rapid antigen tests, you name it, there are problems everywhere. And so we’re seeing the government increasingly desperate in its attempts to try and divert attention from that. And this is just one example.

STEFANOVIC: Well, Peter Dutton is rattling your cage, too. He said last week that Labor is weak on China, weak on border protection, is he right?

MARLES: He’s absolutely not right. And the irony of that coming from what really is the worst national security government in our history, and I don’t say that lightly. I mean, we are in a period of time where the strategic circumstances facing the country are as complex as any that we face since the end of the Second World War. And the starting point in terms of dealing with those strategic circumstances is to get the decisions right in relation to the building of our hard power, our defence forces, so that we can create as much strategic space as possible. Now, principle amongst that is having a capable long range submarine- this government have completely botched that, I mean, totally botched it.

STEFANOVIC: But you supported that, though, right?

MARLES: What we wanted to see is the long range submarines, the successor to the Collins Class, coming into play in a timely way. Now, when we left office that was expected to be in the mid-2020s, you know, in a few years’ time, and that was the expected life of the Collins Class submarines. Right now, this government is saying we’re not going to get a new successor submarine to Collins until the mid-2040s. I mean, it’s an astounding capability gap that they have opened up. It has made the country much less safe at a time when our strategic circumstances are really complicated. So you needn’t go off and have ‘reds under the bed’ kind of scare campaigns, which is what we’ve seen the government do, but when it comes to national security, this is a serious space where serious decisions have to be made and where proper management has to be undertaken. And when you actually run a ruler over what this government have done in the last nine years, they have been singularly hopeless, and they have made our country less safe as a result. So, it is unbelievably ironic that we should be hearing these claims from this completely hopeless government when it comes to national security.

STEFANOVIC: Richard Marles, we’ll leave it there. Thanks for your time. We’ll talk to you soon.

MARLES: Thanks Pete.


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