TOM CONNELL: Welcome back to our returning Friday show, “Hume and McAllister”. Each week Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume and Assistant Climate Change and Energy Minister Jenny McAllister face off and fire up on the big news and political developments.
Jane, Jenny, welcome. I have not timed this well. You’re in Canberra and I’m not, for once, so that’s on me. But that will mean you two can duke it out a bit better and ignore me, and a lot of our viewers would say what a good thing to do. You’ve each got – we’re making it 30 seconds now. We’re on a new regime now here on Fridays, so 30 seconds for your opening – I know there’s a bit of disagreement, whether you call it a rant or a spray, but it’s an uninterrupted view on something that’s happened this week. Jane, your turn first.
JANE HUME: I’m going to have to reduce it to 30 seconds, Tom. Okay. Well, people used to go to charities and seek out their services after a crisis or in an emergency, but these days they’re now going just to cope with average everyday cost-of-living crises, whether it’s rising groceries, energy prices, or housing assistance. We’re now hearing from Lifeline that they’ve had 50,000 calls purely about cost‑of‑living stress in the last six months alone, and we know from Foodbank that more and more people seek their service every time there’s an interest rate rise. If the Labor Government really wants to address the cost of living, the most important thing they can do is reduce the pressure on the RBA to keep raising rates and the only way they can do that is to reduce inflation, because reducing inflation is the only way you can sustainably bring down the cost of living.
TOM CONNELL: Jenny, what about you?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Well, thanks, Tom. Look, Labor built Medicare and we will always defend it and since coming to government, we have set about dealing with the years of attacks inflicted upon Medicare by the previous government. In the last Budget, we made an important investment, tripling the bulk‑billing incentive. Now, that will have immediate benefits for more than 11 million people and flow‑on benefits for others. From January, the maximum co-payment for medicines at the pharmacy came down from $42.50 down to $30. Very significant. And, of course, from September this year, for those people with a Medicare card receiving a script for an eligible medicine, they will be eligible to get that double prescription, which will save them as much as $180 a year. These are significant reforms. They are designed to deliver cheaper medicines and more access to GPs. They’ve been welcomed by patient advocates and by doctors. We’re getting on with the job, making sure that it’s your Medicare card, not your credit card, that makes a difference when it comes to your health.
TOM CONNELL: Let’s segue on that sort of vibe, if you like, because the parliamentary sitting fortnight has featured a vote on the government’s Housing Australia Future Fund. It won’t now be enacted, if it is at all, until October. How big is the crisis Jenny, because you said, you know, let’s make health about always having a Medicare card? Does it feel like housing and for a lot of people to get somewhere they like that suits them and their family and it’s actually close enough to their work to have a good lifestyle, that depends on how much help you get from your mum or dad? Is that where we’ve got to in Australia?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Look, access to stable and secure housing is incredibly important in the life of any person and in every family and it’s why it is such an important priority for this government and it’s an issue that we went to the election promising to deal with in a very serious way. You’ll recall that the previous government went for more than five years without even appointing a Housing Minister, and so we came to government promising to bring energy and purpose to this incredibly important area of policy.
The Housing Australia Future Fund is just one of the things that we’re seeking to do to bring onboard new affordable housing that will actually start to deal with some of the issues that we’ve seen in the market. It is incredibly disappointing that this has been deferred once again by a coalition of the Greens and the Liberals. This is housing that was intended to support women leaving domestic and family violence, to support veterans, to support other low-income people. I don’t understand how it can possibly be in the national interests to vote against this or even to defer it. This is housing that is urgently needed. We went to the election promising to deliver it and we’re asking the Parliament to support us in getting on with that job.
JANE HUME: I can tell you how we can possibly not support it. It is a rubbish policy. The intention is fine. Of course, we want to build new housing. But this policy is not the way to go about it. It’s $10 billion borrowed immediately. Now, that’s going to cost around $400 million in interest repayment a year, plus another one per cent or so in a management fee. So, what’s that? Half a billion dollars in interest and costs alone every single year. Then it’s got to return money, it’s got make a return, and only that return will go into the housing market. What if it doesn’t make a return? Then nothing goes into new housing. So, there’s no guarantee there will be new housing, but there is a guarantee that there’s going to be half a billion dollars in interest repayments and costs in management fees every single year. That’s a really bad policy. And I think that if the Coalition and the Greens tell you to go back to the drawing board, surely, surely the government would listen.
JENNY MCALLISTER: Look, a couple of things in relation to that –
TOM CONNELL: The Greens want more, though, Jane. You go, Jenny. Sorry. You go.
JENNY MCALLISTER: Well, a couple of things in relation to that. I think Jane’s argument is predicated, firstly, on a misunderstanding. The certainty delivered by having a fund is very important for the community housing sector and it’s why community housing advocates have welcomed this policy and have expressed such disappointment that it’s being stymied by this coalition between the Greens and the Liberals in the Parliament. I think the second thing is that Jane’s argument is predicated on the idea that there’s nothing else happening; that’s simply not true. And in fact, just in the last fortnight, we’ve seen the Prime Minister and Julie Collins, the Housing Minister, indicate that they will provide an additional $2 billion to the states and territories supercharge their ability to procure and refurbish new buildings for community housing. These are really important investments. The HAFF is not the only investment we’re making but it is an important one to deliver certainty to the community housing sector.
JANE HUME: Let’s get on to that $2 billion because let’s face it: yes, that was announced just last Friday, not in the Budget, which was only a month ago. All of a sudden this is brand‑new money. It wasn’t even allocated in the Budget in decisions taken, but not yet announced. This is brand‑new money that no‑one had even considered just five or six weeks ago and it was there clearly to buy off the Greens in the hope that they would support the Housing Australia Future Fund, and it failed. And it failed. So, it’s going to cost Australians even more. This has been hastily rolled out, ill-considered and, essentially, it’s paying the states to do what is business as usual. I don’t know whether this is a really good way to build the housing stock in Australia.
TOM CONNELL: What about the alternative though? The Coalition is saying not a good way, but you are not actually saying alternative spending or announcing that you would spend money in this area? What are you actually saying, that you’d guarantee –
JANE HUME: I can assure you, Tom – yeah. I can assure you, Tom, that we will come out with a very comprehensive housing policy prior to the election. But can I tell you what it will have; it will not just have recommendations around social and affordable housing. It’s actually going to have recommendations around people that want to buy their own home, people that don’t qualify for social housing but want to rent as well. This is just one small section of housing and yet there’s been very big promises made before the election by this Labor Government about building a million new homes. We’re one third into their term and they haven’t built a house yet.
TOM CONNELL: I want to move on to another topic, but Jenny, to wrap this up and sort of re‑pivot that question, if you like, the cohort you’ve been talking about is really important, social and affordable housing; most Australians are not in that cohort. So, what about that area of housing?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Tom, you’re quite right. We need concerted action right across the suite of housing options. Whether it’s people who own their own home at the moment, who are seeking to purchase one, who are renting or who require access to social and affordable housing, all of this requires attention and it is why it is such a focus for the government. You’ve seen the Treasurer indicate in his meetings with State and Territory Treasurers today the housing accord will be on the agenda. It is a genuine area of focus for us and it’s in stark contrast to the last government who, as I say, went for more than five and a half years without even appointing a Housing Minister.
JANE HUME: Just people built homes and had their own homes under our government instead.
TOM CONNELL: All right. Okay. We’re going to move on from that and talk about, well, it might seem like a trivial issue. It does to me, but it’s seemingly got a lot of Australians interested. There are a lot of Taylor Swift fans out there, “Swifties” is the term that I’ve learnt this week. I’m sounding very old, aren’t I? They were abuzz earlier in the week when it was confirmed the pop superstar will be headed Down Under but only to Sydney and Melbourne so a couple of MPs weren’t too happy about that.
TOM CONNELL: So Perth, Brisbane, saying they’re missing out. I should add for Andrew Wallace, he wants it for the Sunshine Coast, even. So, we’re getting very specific. What do we think? I was a bit interested, actually, Jenny, you can tell me how much of a Swiftie you are or otherwise. But Patrick Gorman called this a ‘gross injustice.’ How outraged should the rest of Australia be?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Look, there is a lot of love for Taylor Swift around the country and I can also confirm in my office. I’m pretty enthusiastic about Taylor Swift and I think she’s actually conducted herself with enormous dignity during her period in public life. I am delighted that she is coming to New South Wales, but I would be even more delighted if she was able to extend her tour to meet the demands of her fans in other parts of the country. But I do note that those MPs calling for this sort of do essentially recognise this is not a question for the Parliament. It’s probably between Taylor and her fans.
TOM CONNELL: Well, I don’t know. Andrew Wallace says he’s spoken to a stadium manager. He’s confirmed it’s available in that week. It sounds to me he’s mainly moonlighting as a tour operator. Jane, maybe you two can join up on this one and just say, “Look, Sydney and Melbourne, we’re where Australia is really at if you want to see them, people from Queensland and WA, head on over.”
JANE HUME: Yeah, look, I am a big T‑Swizzle fan, I have to admit and it will indeed be –
TOM CONNELL: T‑Swizzle.
JANE HUME: Wait for this. It will be a ‘cruel summer’ for those in Queensland and WA and I do hope that because they won’t be able to make it to Sydney or Melbourne and I do hope that it won’t create ‘bad blood.’ I think that they just have to ‘shake it off!’ Do you see what I did there! Come on! Where have you been? What sort of Tay‑Tay fan, are you?
TOM CONNELL: A minimal one. Well, we don’t have a lot of time left. Why don’t we mention concerts, memorable ones? My first one was actually Green Day in 1996 as a 12 or 13‑year‑old, I sneaked onto the mosh pit. So, that’s where I’d sort of put my – I developed my taste a little bit more after that. Jane, you’re scoffing. What about you?
JANE HUME: Green Day, 1996! Goodness me! I think back then, before then, I went to my first, and I’ve been to a few, Rolling Stones concert, and even though my staff have told me I’m not allowed to repeat this story, I was at the MCG and I was on the grass, you know, looking up, which was fantastic and I was in my early 20s and the row in front of me were all people in their 40s, that had decided to relive their youth and they pulled out a joint and got stoned, and the good news was by the time the main act came on, they couldn’t stand, so I got a great view of the stage. It was really good.
TOM CONNELL: I was waiting to see where that would end up when you had the staff wouldn’t tell you and the joint was pulled out – not the ending I thought we were going to get.
JANE HUME: It wasn’t me, but the old folk in front of me.
TOM CONNELL: Jenny. You didn’t inhale. Jenny.
JENNY MCALLISTER: Well, I was going to tell you about when I was probably in my final year of high school, I went to a gig where the Violent Femmes were playing and they were being supported by this band that people said was actually going to probably be pretty good, and it turned out it was Nirvana, which is a story that when I tell my teenage children that I went to see Nirvana as a support act, they barely believe me, but it is true.
JANE HUME: Respect for the Violent Femmes too. They were a band back in the ‘80s, Tom.
JENNY MCALLISTER: Yeah, the ‘80s.
TOM CONNELL: I know the Violent Femmes, excuse me. Good unit, and Nirvana as a support act, that is a good effort. All right, Jenny, Jane, we’ll talk next week, when you can both team up by the end and sledge me. That’s how a good show goes.