Radio Interview - 2CC Canberra Live - 30 March 2022


SUBJECT: Budget 2022 for Canberra.

LEON DELANEY, HOST: Now the federal member for Bean, David Smith. Good afternoon.

DAVID SMITH, MEMBER FOR BEAN: Good afternoon, Leon. How are you?

DELANEY: Really well, thanks for joining us today. Is Andrew Barr. Right? Has the territory been short changed?

SMITH: It certainly looks that way, Leon, but to be honest, I think it's not to say just Canberra is short changed. It's right across the country. But look, there were some smaller infrastructure projects that we were effectively notified a bit earlier. (bells ringing) I can't believe I've got a division… but overall, we're not seeing any sort of significant investment. If you look at the proportion of population that Canberra makes up, and yet what we see in terms of infrastructure, we don't seem to get our fair share. And it looks like we've got a cut in health funding as well. Now Leon, I'm just going to do a quick check to see whether I'm required in a division or not.

DELANEY: Yes, I'm accustomed to this happening from time to time. I chat to a politician and the division bells ring.

SMITH: Hold on.

DELANEY: All right. I'll just hold on for a moment to find out whether or not you're able to keep speaking or whether you have to dash off.

SMITH: Now in that quick check, I found out it's a 'Mickey'. For your listeners that's a Mickey Mouse division, so I don't have to go it's okay.

DELANEY: Okay. What's a Mickey Mouse division?

SMITH: It's one that perhaps you don't need to take as seriously as other divisions. So it's not a call for a vote that's coming from the Labor side of the Chamber.

DELANEY: All right. So it doesn't matter if you miss this vote because you're not going to win it anyway.

SMITH: Correct

DELANEY: All right. I haven't heard that one before. A Mickey Mouse division, obviously. I've heard of Dorothy Dixon questions, but I can add that one to the political lexicon. So you say that we've missed out on health funding. It's gone backwards. What's the story there?

SMITH: In our initial look at the funding, it just looks like there is a cut for at least one year in terms of health funding. Trying to make sense of why that's occurred is really challenging Leon. As you would be aware, right across the country, the pressure on our health system has been immense. We're going to see more pressure over the coming years, not less. So it's like many things in the budget. I think we're still going to go through it with a bit of a finer tooth comb to try and make sense why it occurred. Because as you also know, Canberra hospital is effectively the major hospital for our whole region. So it's a critical area where we don't need to see a cut in funding.

DELANEY: Yes. And not just Canberra Hospital, but Act Health in general is obviously providing services for the greater region when it comes to access to specialists, for example, isn't it?

SMITH: That's quite right. And we know that there's a lot of pressure already in terms of- across the region - in terms of access, not just to GPs, but to specialists as well, too. So that's not something where we want to see more pressure on Canberra families.

DELANEY: All right, so you're disappointed with the infrastructure spending, notwithstanding the $46.7 million to help complete the Athlon Drive duplication and upgrade, which clearly is important for ACT commuters, especially on the south side. But that's really the biggest ticket item on the whole list as far as the ACT is concerned, isn't it?

SMITH: I think that's right. There certainly upgrades that we welcome, and particularly someone coming from the south side. But that was on the ACT government list for the last few years. So it's nice to see it ticked off, but only ticked off about six weeks before an election.

DELANEY: Well, that's always the best time to be investing in infrastructure projects. Let me tell you about the time in South Tweed Heads when there was the motorway bypass that was being constructed between Queensland and New South Wales, and there was a New South Wales election and they declared, oh, we'll build this and it'll cost this many millions of dollars. And they started construction. And six weeks later, after the election was held, construction stopped. And it just sat there for the next four years. That's politics.

SMITH: It is, but it's something that undermines, obviously, constituents’ confidence in politics when we see announcements like that.

DELANEY: All right, so the federal budget overall Labor's position is, yes, you're welcome the cost of living measures, including the cut to petrol excise, the extra money for the LMITO or the Lamington, as some people are calling it, and of course, the additional cash payments of $250 for vulnerable people who are on welfare and who are health care card holders and so forth. So that's all short term stuff, though. What happens when it all goes away?

SMITH: I think you're quite right. It's a good temporary measure. It's a bandaid, if you like, and the LMITO is a great example, because that's going to disappear altogether. So if we want to talk about having our cake and eating it, well, that's something that's probably going to disappear.

DELANEY: This is what I suspect has been deliberately laid as a ticking time bomb for a potential future Labor government, because if the polls are right, you're going to be in government in about six weeks time. So when all of this largest comes to an end, you're going to be left holding the bag.

SMITH: And you can imagine, Leon, whoever might be holding the bag, deciding to put that petrol excise back up is going to make them deeply unpopular. And at the same time, we're not really dealing with serious issues around falling real wages. We've almost seen it now for close to a decade in terms of the way wages growth has fallen and how it's projected. We know unfortunately treasury's projections haven't overall been that good, but even on their projections families are going to be worse off by about $1,300 this year alone.

DELANEY: Yes, well, wages growth is something that the budget does predict will improve, but it's only a small improvement. And as you say, projections haven't always been terribly reliable in the past. I'm not sure there's much evidence to suggest it will actually come to pass. David, thanks very much for chatting today.

SMITH: Thanks, Leon.

DELANEY: All the best. that's David Smith, the Federal Member for Bean.