5AA MORNINGS WITH MATTHEW PANTELIS
TUESDAY, 14 FEBRUARY 2023
SUBJECTS: Avoiding charity scams; Reserve Bank of Australia; Government policy and reducing inflation.
MATTHEW PANTELIS (HOST): Well, we know of the tragedy in Türkiye and Syria, the earthquake there has killed tens of thousands of people. A miraculous rescue just overnight, I think, after 178 hours a young girl pulled out from the rubble, which is fantastic. But there's a lot of appeals that have been launched to try and raise money for the earthquake victims. The Federal Government has issued a warning about some appeals being scams and what to look out for. The Assistant Minister for Competition, Charity and Treasury, Dr. Andrew Leigh is on the line. Andrew, good morning to you.
ANDREW LEIGH, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CHARITIES, COMPETITION AND TREASURY: Good morning, Matthew. Great to be with you and your listeners.
PANTELIS: Thank you. Now, obviously, this is concerning that people are trying to benefit out of human misery, essentially.
LEIGH: It sure is. This is one of the worst earthquakes in world history. It's the worst in Türkiye since 1268. We've got more than 30,000 deaths, more than $80 billion US dollars in damage. So the idea that there'd be some lowlife out there trying to line their own pocket based on the misery of others is just horrifying. That's why we're calling on people just to check the bona fides of any charity you give to. The Charities Commission website, ACNC.gov.au has a really straightforward lookup function where you can quickly check any charity that's asking you for money.
PANTELIS: Okay, so apart from that, are there any obvious signs people should look for?
LEIGH: If you don't recognise the name of the charity, if there's typos in the email, if the person on the other end of the phone sounds a bit suspicious, you can always just hang up and donate online. All of the reputable charities have good websites and if you're giving to an organisation that's a household name, you can be much more confident that the resources are going to go where they're most needed. Now, the scale of the human misery here is appalling. Australians have been out there as part of the rescue teams. So many people are giving generously of their time and their money, and it's really important that all of those resources go where they're needed.
PANTELIS: You say, just hang up and that's one of the things that I think, as Australians, we hate to do.. It's probably human nature. It's just so rude. But having done it, there's nothing more satisfying than hanging up on a scammer.
LEIGH: It absolutely is, yes. And we're working hard to block scam SMSs, which are coming through, trying to ensure that those scam messages aren't getting through. My colleagues Michelle Rowland and Stephen Jones say that they've blocked 90 million SMS messages since the middle of last year that have been coming from scammers.
PANTELIS: That must be hard to do, because they just hijack ordinary numbers and when you ring them back, it's somebody else that answers. Not the person that rang you from that number, but the legitimate owner of that number.
LEIGH: That's right, and so if you're getting a call from a scammer and your spidey sense starts tingling, it's best just to hang up, particularly if they're asking for your personal details. Scammers are out there trying to solicit money from the earthquake, but they're also out there trying to scam people on Valentine's Day who are looking for love. They're out there trying to get bank details. They are a constant nuisance in our lives. So and a bit of vigilance, conversations with friends and family who you think might be vulnerable to scams, all of that can help minimise the amount of money that's going to scammers and maximise the amount that's going to reputable charities.
PANTELIS: Yeah. All right. So this is the Australian Charities and Not For Profits Commission. So if you Google that, Australian Charities Commission will probably get you there if you don't remember the whole title and the website there, and you can look at the charity register on that.
LEIGH: That's right, ACNC.gov.au will quickly give you the charity register where you can look up the charity, make sure you're donating to a reputable cause and give generously. Australians are remarkable for the generosity with which we give to these causes. I remember after the Boxing Day earthquake hit Indonesia and other countries in the region, the huge outpouring of generosity, and we're seeing it again with the Türkiye and Syria earthquakes. Australians want to help out and we want to make sure that those resources are all going with they're most needed.
PANTELIS: Yeah, while I've got you, Andrew, wearing your Treasury hat, particularly. The Federal Government is putting a lot of pressure on the Reserve Bank not to increase interest rates again, or at least not too soon, and by too much, obviously, concerning the government, I suppose, from a political sense, but also the damage potentially that might occur to the economy down the track.
LEIGH: The Reserve Bank is independent and that independence has served Australia well. What we're doing as a government is making sure that we're helping with cost of living relief through cheaper medicines and cheaper child care. That we're unlocking supply chain blockages through the National Reconstruction Fund and investing in housing and that we're not adding to inflation pressures. So in the last budget, 99% of the revenue upgrades were banked, rather than going into new spending, as tended to be the case under the former government.
PANTELIS: Do you think, though, I mean, you bring up the independence, which is exactly the point, by arguing there should be and arguing publicly, the Reserve Bank Board saying, well, that's not very helpful to the message we're trying to get out there. Do you think you're undermining that independence?
LEIGH: I haven't seen anyone on the government side undermining that independence. I think every one of my parliamentary colleagues recognised that that electoral boom and bust cycle that came in the era before we had monetary policy independence was really problematic. The reason that we got central bank independence was governments seeking to engineer a boom in the election year and then the economy going bust the year after. We don't want to go back to those bad old days. Central bank independence does make sense and the system has served Australia well. Our job as a government is to get on with making sure that we're providing the cost of living relief, unlocking the supply chain blockages and not adding to inflationary pressures.
PANTELIS: JB-HiFi, their CEO yesterday released their latest sales figures showing slowing sales growth. Do you think the interest rate cuts are starting to bite and we've had enough of them and the bank should just sit back and look at the future?
LEIGH: Look, I certainly hope that inflation will come under control and the Reserve Bank's aim - is to engineer a soft landing. There's a great deal of uncertainty over inflation forecasts. We saw in the last period inflation spilling over somewhat from goods inflation to services inflation. But I'm optimistic about the health of the Australian economy. I think we need to be investing in the long run, making sure we're making the most of the transition to clean technology, because the world's climate crisis really is Australia's jobs opportunity. There's a great economic future ahead for Australia and the Albanese government is keen to grab it with both hands.
PANTELIS: So nine rate rises are enough, you reckon?
LEIGH: I will have to see what flows through. That'll be a job for the independent Reserve Bank. Clearly, I'm not going to comment on what they're doing, but I'm confident about the health of the economy and the ability of the Australian people to sustain that growth that's boosted living standards and allowed us to be that generous nation that does give when an earthquake strikes countries on the other side of the world.
PANTELIS: All right, Andrew Leigh, thank you for your time this morning.
LEIGH: Thanks so much, Matthew. Take care.