SUBJECTS: Labor's Aged Care Announcement; 2022 Budget Reply; Coalition Wasting Taxpayers Money; Newspoll; Western Sydney; Morrison's alleged Claims Against Michael Towke; Morrison-Joyce Government Reckless Spending.


PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: Joining us live is Michelle Rowland, the Shadow Communications Minister. Michelle, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. So, according to the Newspoll we just saw there, it is a three point drop. Polls are always tight and the closer you get to the election, everyone knows that. How concerning is that for you that it might be heading in the direction that you don't want it to head in?


MICHELLE ROWLAND, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS: I don't think it says much to be honest, other than this election is going to be tight. It's going to be fought in every seat across every state. But I do believe that New South Wales is going to be a key state for both parties to pick up seats. It's no surprise that these polls move around, and it's also very important to concentrate on the people that really matter at this time, especially since they're switching on, and that is local residents in our specific communities and what their needs and concerns are.


STEFANOVIC: You've got access to metrics and data. What's it telling you about why you think it would come down to New South Wales?


ROWLAND: I think it's very clear that cost of living pressures are very high in New South Wales, in particular, and when you look at these outer metropolitan seats, that is very much impacted by the nature of commuter societies; tolls going up, the cost of petrol, everything seems to be going up, and people are openly expressing that their wages aren't keeping up. Representing an area like Greenway, we have some of the highest rental and mortgage stress going around in the entire country. So to hear Scott Morrison saying, look, the solution to rental stress is just to buy a house, really just demonstrates how out of touch he is.


STEFANOVIC: Do you believe people can differentiate between what our state issues and federal issues when it comes to an election?


ROWLAND: They do. But when you're looking at your bank balance and your wallet, you're not differentiating anything there. All you are seeing is that your money isn't going as far as it used to, and there's less of it.


STEFANOVIC: Yeah. The Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese hasn't been definitive when it comes to whether or not taxes are going to go down or whether he's going to have to increase taxes to pay down the debt. Is that a problem for you?


ROWLAND: I think it's very clear our statements in relation to utilising multinational tax loopholes and closing those, ending the waste and rorts that have been going on. We've spent billions of dollars, as we found out in estimates last week, on a submarine contract for which we have obtained nothing. I think the public has every right to examine the misuse of public funds in everything from these decisions they've made in the past, the car park rorts and so forth, buying a parcel of land at the Leppington Triangle for $30 million when it was worth $3 million. All these things add up in people's minds. They do not like rorts and waste.


STEFANOVIC: But you're going to have to increase taxes, though, aren't you? Because you have, if you win government, a debt mountain that you will have to pay down.


ROWLAND: We have made it very clear that that's not where our focus is. We have made it clear that we will be better economic managers, and that we will be cutting down on the rorts and waste that have typified this government.


STEFANOVIC: That may not be your focus, but your focus can change, right?


ROWLAND: Let's be very clear, we have made commitments, a number of them in the budget reply that Anthony Albanese just made, and will be very clear before the next election on all our costings in all of these areas.


STEFANOVIC: There was the big announcement relating to aged care last week, but the Coalition is very quick to jump on that. We all want workers to get a higher wage, but there is no definitive answer on how much that is going to cost. Dave Sharma pointed out on the show a short time ago, that when it comes to one on one care in aged care, your policy is only 15 minutes extra. So it's not going to be that much. And your policies aren't actually that different when it comes to the two. Do you agree with that?


ROWLAND: Okay, I think he's got a bit of a hide in this. This government is looking to go into a second decade in office, not having implemented the full recommendations of a Royal Commission that found that old people were literally starving in nursing homes. We've got people who are leaving the sector in droves because they're overworked. The Government have done nothing to address this, despite the billions of dollars they have thrown at it. I think they have a real hide, going out there, criticising what so many in the sector have welcomed. Let's be really clear-eyed here, there needs to be fundamental change in this area. This government has proven incapable of doing that. People are concerned about their loved ones. We should all be concerned about this as we get older as a society, and start treating people with a bit of dignity and respect.


STEFANOVIC: On the subject of Michael Towke over the weekend. And also put this down a short time ago. He said look this thing, it happened 15 years ago, why does this need to be a thing right now? Now it's kind of just dredging up the past for a cheap attack. What's your thoughts on where that's at?


ROWLAND: Well, it is curious that this cheap attack is coming from friendly fire within the Liberal Party. It's also curious, and indeed, it seems to be a pattern of behaviour that the people who seem to know Scott Morrison the best like him the least. Now, whether or not there is validity to any of these claims, I have no special insights into the internal factional wars going on within the Liberal Party at the moment where they are completely focused on themselves rather than Australians. But let's be very clear — there is a pattern of Scott Morrison not being trustworthy. There is also a very clear pattern of this person wanting to do and doing whatever it takes.


STEFANOVIC: The line that's being pushed at the moment is that Scott Morrison has done more for the Lebanese community than any other Australian leader. Your husband has Lebanese heritage. Is that an accurate statement? 


ROWLAND: Well, it's a big call from Scott Morrison. I would say the people who have done the most for Australians of Lebanese heritage are Australians of Lebanese heritage because they are aspirational. They came here for a better life. My husband couldn't speak English when he started school, and grew up in a public housing estate. He is the embodiment of aspiration from Western Sydney and the people I'm proud to represent. Now he's a partner in a national law firm. So I would say the people who have done the most here are these people themselves. We should always be mindful in formulating policies that give them hope and their children hope, so that they can give them a better life than they had themselves.


STEFANOVIC: He does have support from Dr. Jamal Rifi though. That's fairly significant, isn't it?


ROWLAND: Dr. Jamal Rifi is a free citizen who is welcome to support whoever he wants. I think the key issue here is this Prime Minister has clearly demonstrated himself to be incapable of governing his own party and he is welcome to go and sort that out. I have no interest in that whatsoever, and neither does any other candidate for Labor in New South Wales for that matter. We are all focused on the people whom we are seeking to represent, including outstanding candidates like Sally Sitou in Reid and Zhi Soon in Banks.


STEFANOVIC: Okay, Michelle Rowland thanks for your time. As always, we'll talk to you soon.