TOM CONNELL: Welcome back, time now for Hume and McAllister each week shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume and Assistant Climate Change and Energy Minister, Jenny McAlister face off and fire up on the big news, a bit truncated today, I'm gonna get straight into it. I haven't been told who's first on the one minute rant as we call it with the greatest respect. Jane, why don't you kick us off, what's firing you up?
JANE HUME: Tom, I'm out in Warwick Farm today in Western Sydney listening to the folk of Warwick Farm from Western Sydney, about how the cost of living is affecting them and their families and their businesses. We've heard from all sorts of witnesses already this morning. But for me the most compelling the one that I'll take home, were the business peak bodies, the chambers of commerce that we're talking about small and medium enterprises out here Western Sydney, they were telling us that not only is the cost of living crisis affecting households and individuals, but there is a cost of doing business crisis as well. They're number one issues workforce things like taxes and levies, freight and supply chains, but most importantly number one was the energy crisis. They're seeing bills increased by around a quarter around 25% or so just in the last 12 months alone. Now this afternoon, we're having an open mic session. We've got people coming from all around Western Sydney that have come to tell us how the cost of living crisis is affecting them and if you'd like to submit if anybody out there would like to submit to this committee, we've also set up a survey so we can hear from ordinary Australians as to how the cost of living is biting them. That's yourcostofliving.au. I'll say it again, yourcostofliving.au, it takes five minutes to tell the committee how the cost of living is affecting you.
TOM CONNELL: There you go. We've got plugs, no rules on this program. I like the open mics type of thing, it sounds like you might go acapella. We'll see, Jenny, what about you?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Thanks, Tom. Well, this week the Government released its first ever national electric vehicles strategy, a first for Australia. We want as many Australians as possible to have access to vehicles that are cheap and affordable, because of course they are cheaper to run. Unfortunately, like so many things this was not a priority for the last Government in fact, was actively obstructed. Another area where we wasted time and delayed but our Government is getting on with it. We've already made concessions in the tax system that take up to $11,000 off a $50,000 vehicle. As a consequence of our leadership, at this point in the year we are seeing twice the sales of electric vehicles as we were last year. We know this matters. And of course, the second thing we are doing is setting up plans for a national fuel efficiency standard. Australia joins Russia as one of the few countries in the world that has no standard of any kind on the vehicles that are sold here. Of course the Coalition obstructed this, preferring to run scare campaigns about the end of the weekend. We're getting on with it because we know that saving Australians on fuel by having more efficient vehicles is a really important thing for household budgets and for the budgets of businesses.
TOM CONNELL: Let's stay on this topic because there's a lot of that cost of living going on this week and we're getting up towards the budget. Jane, you spoke a few weeks ago on the show about alternative ideas to help out the cost of living remembering that nobody wants to contribute, as in the Government or the RBA to contribute to inflation right now. So through your committee, any other ideas because the Labor is going down the path of helping out on power bills with a direct subsidy. What else could they do without affecting inflation?
JANE HUME: Well, are they in fact doing that Tom? Because if you recall and then on the ninth of December last year, Parliament was recalled because there was urgent action required on energy bills and yet we heard from witnesses today, particularly from the elderly and low income sector that said that they have seen nothing in terms of power relief, even though it was the ninth of December when that was urgent.
TOM CONNELL: Well it’s been delayed and it's pretty clear it’s going to be in the Budget, isn't it?
JANE HUME: Well, how urgent was it that we needed to all return to Parliament to make sure that that was passed? Yes, the committee is hearing some terrific ideas, particularly around things like red tape reduction, and better alignment of State and Federal regulations to make sure that there isn't duplications particularly for businesses, that the overwhelming one as I said today was all about energy and making sure that it's not just households and individuals but businesses that are facing these things now that are threatening the viability of their businesses and particularly with small and medium businesses, you know, that they are not run by some massive great corporation, that there's a family behind those businesses. So their home cost of living crisis is now being doubled down on by their cost of doing business crisis.
TOM CONNELL: If energy is the main one Jane, i don't know, you might be pleased with the budget dare I say it. We will see, it sounds like a bold prediction, doesn't it? Jenny, is it just energy, is that all that's either affordable, but also is there nothing else major that you can really pick up because of that inflationary bogie that's hanging around?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Look, Tom, we are very conscious that this is a tough year for Australians and it is principally because the global economy is in a very difficult place with much higher than expected rates and inflation and of course, the war in Ukraine that has caused a global energy crisis. Energy prices of course are a very high priority for us. It was urgent that we went back to the Parliament in December and it was urgent because we put in place caps on the pricing of gas and on coal that the AER has confirmed has made a substantial difference in the cost increases that will show up in Australian spills this year. It would have been very, very bad and I will remind everyone listening that Jane and all her colleagues voted against these measures and so to come on the program now and say what's needed is cost of living relief on energy, when they sat in the Parliament in December, and voted against all of the measures that we proposed is kind of silly, isn't it? There will be cost of living relief in the budget and the Treasurer has made it clear that the centerpiece of that will be energy price relief, targeted, temporary, but an important contribution in a way that doesn't add to the inflation challenge.
JANE HUME: Jenny you might say that you think that that’s silly but let's be honest Tom. Let's be honest to Tom, you know, those price caps. We've heard from witnesses as part of this committee that those price caps are in fact causing problems with supply. Basic economics says supply and demand if you increase supply, you reduce prices and this Government is making decisions that are affecting the potential for new supply to come into the system. That's what's causing price hikes in energy.
TOM CONNELL: Quick reply Jenny then I’ll get to the next question, but you can have the right of reply on that one.
JENNY MCALLISTER: I was simply going to say that the only way Jane's position is sustainable is if you are willing to ignore the global energy crisis that is affecting all of the countries of the world. Our government acted quickly to protect households and businesses from very international pressures.
JANE HUME: Oh Jenny, gas supplies are drying up. We need to encourage more investment in Australia to tap into new supply. It's the only way to sustainably bring prices down and you know it.
JENNY MCALLISTER: Jane, under your government gas supply has increased enormously but prices went up. It's a much more complex market than that. That's a market problem that you ignored and we're getting on with the job of sorting that out like so many other problems left to the Australian people by the government you were part of.
TOM CONNELL: Alright, I’m gonna jump in. I'm going to jump in because I'm sure we will be talking about gas again in the future, especially around what Labor will do on electricity and gas bills because that will be known soon enough. We'll also know perhaps what Labor will do on the PRRT. Interested in getting your views on this Jane, because the Coalition actually started what Labor is going to release, the review on how the PRRT works for gas, in particular on onshore gas. Your Government did start this, so clearly at that time, the Coalition thought there's an issue here with how much revenue has been raised or not been raised. So is this fair enough that Labor has this on the table?
JANE HUME: There's been royalty or equivalence of royalties on resources since time immemorial. I think the real concern here though, is a combination of gas companies being hit once more with more impositions that are again, causing a sovereign risk that's preventing new investment in Australia into new suppliers. But that's number one. And number two is of course, just 11 months ago, Anthony Albanese and Jim Chalmers looked you in the eye and said there will be no new taxes beyond taxes on multinationals, multinational tax avoidance, and yet, since coming to Government well, they've already said that they're going to raise taxes on superannuation, they've already said that they're gonna bring in an entirely new tax that doing that on unrealised capital gains and now the PRRT, so is there a single idea that this Government has that won’t raise taxes?
TOM CONNELL: Let me get back to the question though Jane. The Coalition started this review, you wouldn't start it unless you thought there was a problem to address. Surely you don't do a review just for the sake of it.
JANE HUME: We don't support raising new taxes and we certainly support anything that will bring new supply, new supply into the market, and encourage investors. It was a review that began before there was an energy crisis. Now there's an energy crisis. We've seen gas prices and electricity prices increase by 25% by 30%. And it's particularly on the East Coast of Australia. You would think that if you got the results of a review that told you to increase taxes to discourage new investment, and at a time like this, you would set that aside and say for the good of the nation, we cannot abide by new taxes and discourage those investors.
TOM CONNELL: Jenny, what is on the table? Do you think there's a case? Do you think Australians would approve of a new tax despite that pledge from Labor beforehand that this is an area that you should be raising more money out of?
JENNY MCALLISTER: I'm not going to preempt any decision that the Treasurer might make, but he's been really clear that he's open to advice. So this was work that was commenced under the previous Government. It speaks to an issue that Australians care about, the extent to which we do obtain value from the natural resources that are extracted from our territories and I'm sure that the Treasurer will work through the recommendations that he receives when he receives them.
TOM CONNELL: All right, but do you think the case is there? I understand you're not preempting it but would Australians understand, would they be okay with this do you think?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Look I think it's an issue that is periodically raised by Australians, but as I say the Treasurer has sought advice. Incidentally, as you already observed, it's a process of review that was initiated under the previous Government. I imagine that that will seek to balance all of the questions that you'd expect a Treasurer to consider in something like this. We'll wait and see what the advice recommends.
TOM CONNELL: Jenny, Jane gonna leave it there. I know. We had some tricky schedules to align. So we'll aim to have our full hit out next week. Thank you.