TOM CONNELL: The dramatic music must mean it's time for Hume and McAllister. Each week the Shadow Finance Minister and Assistant Climate Change Minister, face off and fire up on the big issues and start by talking and I'm not allowed to interrupt. Although, I've got the clock today. 30 seconds each. Jane why don't you go first, what's been on your mind?
JANE HUME: Okay in case you missed it Tom the RBA board minutes revealed that the RBA is still very concerned about persistently high inflation and in fact, they said that they have a low tolerance for inflation returning back to the band of two to three per cent, any later than expected. Now already that's expected to be two years away. That's two more years of financial pain for ordinary Australians are concerns that the government is making the situation worse. They're doing so by interventions in the gas market that are turning away supply pushing up prices. By taxes on truckies and on farmers, pushing up the price of groceries. And of course by that additional $188 billion of spending that's fueling aggregate demand. Jim Chalmers must come up with a plan to address inflation directly, not just the symptoms but the causes Australians will pay the price.
TOM CONNELL: Jenny, what about you?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Thanks, Tom. Well, the Albanese government is training Australians for the jobs of today and for the jobs of tomorrow. So this week, we've delivered a landmark National Skills Agreement to unlock billions for skills and also for national prosperity. It's the first agreement of this code in over a decade. And the former government of course, couldn't or didn't land any such agreement with the states or territories. So the other needs to government is making the investments that are necessary in the training sector so that we can fill the jobs that are there today. Australians are ready for the jobs of tomorrow, as well.
TOM CONNELL: All right, we're returning to our top story and what has dominated Parliament this week, of course, the Israel Gaza conflict comments this morning from a Cabinet Minister Ed Husic. He says that he believes the Palestinian people are being effectively collectively punished. And there's not enough sympathy for their plight, including the civilians in particular that have been killed and injured. Do you agree?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Well, this has been an incredibly difficult fortnight I think for the people of Israel and the people in the occupied territories. And it's also been a really distressing period. Of course, for Australians who've watched these tragic events unfold. Australia has quite rightly condemned Hamas for the grotesque terrorist attack on Israeli civilians. And in doing so, indicated that way stand by Israel and its right to defend itself. But at the same time, and I was pleased that the parliament joined in this as well in the resolution that was put through the both chambers this week. The parliament has been really clear that the protection of civilian life matters. And that's all civilian lives, Israeli sort of lives, Palestinian lives, and I think we are presently saying and a deterioration of conditions in Gaza and that's very, very distressing.
TOM CONNELL: So, Israel balancing that, there's obviously it's not easy to take out Hamas' military capability, but balancing what they're trying to do with the rights of those civilians not to be harmed. And even things like anesthetic being provided for hospitals for kids or getting operations. Is that balance being achieved at the moment?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Our role is really to facilitate the circumstances where civilian lives can best be protected. It's why you're seeing comments from the Foreign Minister about our support for the efforts that are being made to establish a humanitarian corridor into Gaza. It's also why Australia has decided to provide $10 million, $3 million to the Red Cross and $7 million to the UN to further support their work on supporting civilians in Gaza. But it is a very challenging and complex situation.
TOM CONNELL: Jane, what's your view on Israel and meaning that that balance its obligation to civilians against obviously what it wants to do avoid this happening again?
JANE HUME: I think they've made that obligation pretty clear to you know, we've seen that they have put out warnings if they are going to you know, make airstrikes within Gaza to allow civilians time to get away from the site that is being targeted. Now, that's certainly not something that Hamas has offered its Israel in return. Let's face it, I mean, this attack by Hamas militants was unprovoked, it was unjust, it's entirely unacceptable and totally unforgivable. It was specifically targeted at civilians, very different from the way Israel has gone about retaliating and defending itself and it has the right to defend itself. We will always stand in solidarity with Israel in its right to defend itself.
TOM CONNELL: The initial attacks, that the barbarity and the terror I mean, if it was ISIS like I think is the best recent comparison, but Israel is the might in this fight if you like, are they taking enough care and is it too blunt instrument for example, the turning off electricity into half of Gaza's population?
JANE HUME: I think that they've been very clear that they are not targeting civilians, but they must be able to defend themselves.
TOM CONNELL: You turn off water, electricity, that is targeting civilians, isn't it or it's not sparing them, at least?
JANE HUME: Well, it's not sparing, it can't because Hamas uses civilians as human shields which is entirely unacceptable in itself. We would want to make sure that, particularly that border at Rafah is opened. So that humanitarian aid can get through. We know the government is doing everything it can and we would support the government in doing that, to encourage that through diplomatic means, using our allies, using our contacts effectively. There is a limit to what we can do over here other than make sure that our support for Israel is unequivocal.
TOM CONNELL: Are Labor MPs and cabinet ministers free to just make statements on this? I mean it's a pretty important time globally. Should this be something where there's a coherent message from the Labor government?
JENNY MCALLISTER: I think you've seen a very strong sense of collective support for the position actually across the parliament. So parliamentarians work together to bring together a resolution which steps through the principled way that Australia will respond to this conflict. And it does include of course, support for Israel. It also includes an emphasis on the protection of innocent civilian lives and I think that what you're saying, of course, parliamentarians, depending on the electorate that they come from the communities they have most contact with, bring different perspectives to that, but I was really pleased to see a resolution brought through both chambers.
JANE HUME: But you can't have a different perspective if you're a cabinet minister. Ed's a cabinet minister. That was loose language this morning, and I think that he should have rethought that. I would imagine that he would be admonished by leadership for it, because it's not consistent with your government's position.
JENNY MCALLISTER: Look, everyone is bringing a different community perspective to this. But I think there is a very clear understanding that the terrorist attacks are unacceptable, but there is a need for us to work together in the protection of civilian lives.
TOM CONNELL: But does Jane have a point around, perspectives fine but whatever you can say, got a bit of a different level and standard when you're in cabinet?
JENNY MCALLISTER: I think the point I would go to actually is the obligation on the parliament to conduct themselves in this debate in a responsible way. You've seen comments from the director general of security about the importance of language and the importance of avoiding inflammatory language. I think that's been the focus of Labor contributions to the debates.
TOM CONNELL: Alright, let's go into our second topic Victoria's electric vehicle charge or tax, has been unplugged in the High Court. Two Melbourne EV owners successfully argued the state government because I've had the power to oppose the charge. The court ruling it invalid. This was state treasurer Tim Pallas following the ruling.
(excerpt) TIM PALLAS: I don't think we need to catastrophize about it at the moment. We just need to have a sober assessment of exactly what this means putting in place appropriate mechanisms. It is, I think, a nervous time for the Federation. And it's one where I think we need to work together to try and come up with practical solutions.
TOM CONNELL: Well, there you go. Not having a power. That may be the need for a referendum or perhaps you have a gun shy on that Jenny. What do you think, does the federal government need to take charge?
JANE HUME: Too soon Tom.
TOM CONNELL: Perhaps it was. Because a bit of a mishmash electric vehicles in the states will go down their own path. Is it time for federal authorities are a more cohesive one?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Well a couple of things. I mean, I'm not a constitutional lawyer and these matters were before the High Court and involves questions of constitutional interpretation. I think our view is that will take some time to consider the implications of the decision for the approach overall. In relation to EVs, our main challenge at the moment is supporting the introduction of this new technology into Australia so that we have more choices.
TOM CONNELL: Is it unequitable too though? Because you support it and there's been sort of subsidy for. but they're generally the most expensive cars on the road. So it becomes this sort of, you know, everyone's tax helps pay for sort of wealthier Australians. It's a bit of a tricky one to juggle, right and then you've got the road user element as well which they don't pay because they don't buy petrol.
JENNY MCALLISTER: At the moment, to keep this in perspective, because of the posture adopted by the last government, EVs are quite a small proportion of the overall fleet. So we've got some time to consider the way that road charging and revenue, the revenue allocations of the change. I think the big thing is getting the infrastructure ready for this transition. You know, there are some estimates that suggest that less than 1% of the vehicle sales will be vehicles other than EVs by 2045. So we've got time to prepare for that, but we're gonna need a different infrastructure approach.
TOM CONNELL: It's a big country isn't it.
JENNY MCALLISTER: It is.
TOM CONNELL: So our challenges might be bigger than others. Jane, well, what do you think about this? What's your sort of view on this transition? Is that something government should be encouraged?
JANE HUME: I think this has been a wake up call hasn't it. Because the inequities as you say, particularly the road user vehicle user charge now and fuel excise is now meaning that because the take up of EVs, yes it is a small proportion, but it is the fastest growing proportion of the vehicle market. Because that's happening, it's happening in a way that is essentially disadvantaging people that are poor, that are geographically remote, that are often vulnerable. They're subsidising the road building and maintenance for people that are driving EVs which is subsidised and not paying those charges, and that is an unsustainable future. What we want to see is-
TOM CONNELL: Do we want to encourage them to?
JANE HUME: I think we do want to encourage it, but we want to encourage not just EVs but all new technologies in vehicles, it doesn't matter whether it's hybrid or might be biofuels, whatever it might be. So having a technologically agnostic approach to that, but also making sure that whatever plan we go through with is equitable is fair. It means that you know, your car is still affordable, that it's not retrospective. So your decision that you made on one car doesn't disproportionately affect you later on after you've made the decision. This is a really important policy direction that we're waiting for the government to come up with, and we'll consider it.
TOM CONNELL: We're right out of time. We'll talk about that down the track I'm sure again, Jenny, Jane, Thank you. We'll talk to you next week.