SKY AM AGENDA WITH LAURA JAYES
WEDNESDAY, 15 FEBRUARY 2023
SUBJECTS: Avoiding charity scams; Reserve Bank of Australia; energy policy; reducing inflation.
LAURA JAYES (HOST): Well, security experts are warning scammers are preying on people’s goodwill in the aftermath of the Türkiye–Syria earthquake and there’s instances of people being tricked into donating to fake causes.
Joining me live is the Assistant Minister for Charities, Dr Andrew Leigh. Thank you so much for your time, Dr Leigh.
ANDREW LEIGH , ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CHARITIES, COMPETITION AND TREASURY: Real pleasure.
JAYES: I mean, we shouldn’t be surprised that this kind of disgusting behaviour is going on, but so soon after this tragedy. What should we be looking out for?
LEIGH: Laura, I think it’s key to look out for things that are a bit out of the ordinary. We know there’s been scammers posting things on Twitter and TikTok asking for people to give based on a compelling picture. Sometimes those pictures don’t look quite right, as in the infamous one of a so-called rescued person who has six fingers – obviously, an image generated through an artificial intelligence engine. But if you’re being asked to give to a PayPal appeal, then be a little bit suspicious because PayPal hasn’t operated in Türkiye for a number of years. It’s better to give through an established charity and if you’re not sure whether a charity is established, just go to the charity commission website, ACNC.gov.au —
JAYES: That’s a really good tip. Give us that again because I interrupted you, sorry.
LEIGH: Go to ACNC.gov.au, the charity commission’s website, and you can find all the details of a charity. Find out immediately whether they’re a legitimate upstanding charity or whether they’ve got some question marks over them.
JAYES: Really good advice, and I really want to reiterate what you said there. PayPal hasn’t operated in Türkiye and Syria for a number of years, so anyone asking for PayPal donations, steer clear.
LEIGH: Certainly if they’re saying they’re operating inside Türkiye, then that’s a red flag. In general, just be aware of not giving to people whose bona fides you don’t understand. If they don’t look fair dinkum, then don’t give them your hard-earned cash. We need the maximum amount of money to be going to Türkiye and Syria. This is the worst earthquake Türkiye has had in nearly 800 years. The death toll has now passed 40,000 and the total cost of the earthquake is upwards of US$80 billion. They need all the help they can get so we really need to make sure those scammers are going home empty-handed. My colleague Stephen Jones has been doing a lot with anti-scam procedures right across the spectrum -- but in the area of charities, that’s one you need to watch out for right now.
JAYES: Okay, Dr Andrew Leigh, before I let you go, you are an economist, so we’ve got to get your read on the situation at the moment, where the economy is headed, how mortgage holders are being hurt and will continue to be hurt if the RBA Governor’s words are to bank on by the end of the year. Perhaps another three interest rate rises. Today we also see a record profit for the Commonwealth Bank. How should we view that? I mean, it would be pretty jarring for people who are struggling to make ends meet at the moment, wouldn’t it?
LEIGH: That’s right, Laura. We’ve got the ACCC monitoring the prices to make sure that banks are passing on interest rates to savers as they do to borrowers. More broadly, we as a government are focused on unlocking these supply chain blockages, via investments in fee-free TAFE places and cheaper energy. And we’re providing immediate energy bill relief, which the Coalition voted against. Through our cheaper child care and cheaper medicines policies, we are ensuring that we’re providing support to Australian households –
JAYES: So, by you listing off those issues, are you essentially admitting that monetary policy and the levers that can be pulled there to dampen inflation are either not working or they’re getting to the end of working and the government needs to do the heavy lifting here?
LEIGH: Fiscal and monetary policy need to be working together and the Reserve Bank Governor has acknowledged that they are. If we don’t have that, then –
JAYES: But inflation remains staggeringly high.
LEIGH: – you end up with higher interest rate rises.
JAYES: Why have we got inflation stubbornly high then, not coming down?
LEIGH: Well, inflation has gone up as a result of a number of factors. The Chinese zero-COVID approach, the war in Ukraine, supply chain blockages. Long-term forecasts for inflation are still within the RBA’s target band and the forecast that the Reserve Bank has for inflation has it coming back within that band within a couple of years. But it is important to get inflation under control because it has a damaging effect right across the economy, damaging to consumer confidence and to growth. That’s why our government put 99 per cent of the revenue upgrades in the last Budget back into the bottom line, compared to an average of just 40 per cent under the previous government. We understand that fiscal and monetary policy need to be working together.
JAYES: Sure. So, this upcoming Budget is going to be a really difficult one for Jim Chalmers. Any spending is going to be inflationary, isn’t it?
LEIGH: You need to be investing in the long-term drivers of growth. We recognize it’s absolutely vital to be expanding educational opportunities, to be providing more onshore manufacturing. So, the National Reconstruction Fund, again which the Coalition will vote against, is about ensuring we don’t have those supply chain problems which have plagued the economy in recent years by expanding the diversity –
JAYES: What about direct subsidies because I know Labor will be tempted, and rightly so, to give cash handouts to those people that are really struggling at the moment but is that ill-advised?
LEIGH: We’re aiming to do that in a way that has the least impact on the Reserve Bank’s decisions. We’re very conscious of the importance of getting this right, but we know that households are doing it tough with energy bills. And the idea that Australian businesses would go to the wall, rather than pay wartime gas prices was one we weren’t willing to countenance. That’s why we stepped in for $12 a gigajoule price gap last year –
JAYES: But what’s that done to supply long term –
ANDREW LEIGH: – again measures opposed by the Coalition.
JAYES: What’s that done to the supply long term? We’ve seen companies just not go ahead already with projects.
LEIGH: Well, if you look prior to the war in Ukraine, you had 97 per cent of the contracts being concluded at a price less than $12 a gigajoule. You can make good money at that price. We recognise that those gas producers deserve to earn a profit, but not at the expense, Laura, of causing household chaos and business collapses. So, that’s why we’ve stepped in there. That’s why a number of the states have stepped in on the coal side. We are keen to ensure that Australians don’t suffer as a result of the conflict in Ukraine.
JAYES: A number of the states have stepped in on the coal side. I mean, New South Wales talked about a 10 per cent cap and then backflipped within a week after pressure from the industry. Who’s doing that?
LEIGH: Well, New South Wales and Queensland have been taking measures on coal. The Federal Government has been taking measures on gas. That reflects the different constitutional responsibilities of those two. Then as a Federal Government, we are sharing the responsibility of the states in providing that energy bill relief. We recognise that this is a big pressure on households and, opposed by the Coalition, we’ve stepped up to do our bit in ensuring that households are provided that energy bill relief, and that will be a part of the budget that Jim Chalmers will announce in May.
JAYES: Okay. Looking forward to that Budget. I tell you what; it’s certainly going to be a balancing act. Thank you very much for your time, Andrew Leigh. Appreciate it.
LEIGH: Thank you, Laura.