ANDY PARK: Jane Hume is the Shadow Finance Minister. Welcome to you.
JANE HUME: Thanks very much for having me Andy.
ANDY PARK: First up, Nationals MP Michelle Landry, she reportedly left Parliament upset today and is asking for an apology from the Prime Minister for the manner in which he replied to her question in Parliament today. She was supported by other Coalition women in a press conference this afternoon. Were you one of those coalition women?
JANE HUME: Well, unfortunately, I wasn't. I was I obviously it's budget week and I've been doing an awful lot of media, so I was committed elsewhere.
ANDY PARK: So this was a spontaneous coalition gathering.
JANE HUME: That's my understanding, yes. In fact, there was a group that went to Sussan Ley's office to discuss the issue Michelle was rightly upset, I think, that Anthony Albanese had bellowed at her in an entirely inappropriate way throughout Question Time when it was quite a sincere and quietly spoken and polite question that she had asked about the Rockhampton Ring Road whether it would be continued under this budget or, or whether it was going to be delayed, or or, or abandoned altogether. So it was a very sensible question and one that meant an awful lot to her community. And this is what question time is for me. Instead, she got a head bitten off by
ANDY PARK: Hang on. She was laughing when I saw the moment. The Prime Minister was actually addressing Peter Dutton, when he made those comments. I mean, isn't this all just a bit of a distraction and if the tone and language was so offensive show, the speaker would have passed the Prime Minister out.
JANE HUME: But this is from a man that said that he was going to bring civility back into politics. And now I haven't quite frankly, I think you've got to walk the talk only less than six months in to government and that's not particularly civil behavior. I don't think that question time serves us well as politicians, the vast majority of the work that we do behind the scenes, we do collaboratively and yet question time it is highly combative, but it doesn't have to be vicious like that, particularly not for a question that was genuinely asked and looking for a genuine answer.
ANDY PARK: Let's move on to tonight's budget reply. Of course, it will again focus on energy prices. Do you accept that there have been significant changes since the election that have made delivering those savings impossible?
JANE HUME: Well, I accept that the government's made a promise. In fact, it made a promise more than 97 times during the election campaign to reduce energy prices by $275. But the moment that the election was over, that promise was abandoned. They've crab walked away from it, and in fact, it's nowhere to be seen this budget. This budget says the exact opposite that energy prices will increase by more than 50% Over the next two years, electricity prices and gas prices are set to soar over 40% as well. Now, the Labour government said that circumstances have changed but the thing that they're pointing to the most is the war in in Ukraine. And in fact, I was in the chamber prior to the election when Vladimir Zelensky was spoke to all parliamentarians. It's not as if the war in Ukraine was a surprise. We all knew about it. They simply use modeling done in 2021. That wasn't applicable during the election campaign, but they still didn't abandon it. They still didn't abandon that promise. They went out there. They looked Australians in the eye. They said we will reduce your energy bills by $275. And now they have abandoned that promise they've walked away. So either they misled you during the election campaign, or they've misled you now, there's no way they can deliver that promise.
ANDY PARK: Isn't it true that energy prices were already on an upward trajectory under your watch, and then the energy minister deliberately changed regulation to hide it.
JANE HUME: In fact, under the Coalition Government, the last two years of the coalition government, energy prices decreased by 8%. And you don't have to take my word for it because it was the ACCC that said it. They had a report that said that could lead up to December 2021, that energy prices and electricity bills had decreased by 8%. What we're seeing under this government is an abandoning of all of those affordability measures that were so important that was so central to the coalition's energy policies. Now we want to see a transition to net zero. We're committed to that. But it's really important that we get the transition right so that we don't get these price shocks. And that's why it's so important to bring more guests into the system. We tried to bring more guests into the system when we were in government and we're blocked almost every step of the way. Now we did succeed to some extent but places like Narrabri, the Beetaloo Basin and Scarborough you know, these are all opportunities to bring more gas into the system, which is the only way that you will sustainably bring gas prices down and gas prices feed into manufacturing they feed into domestic bills. You know, unless we can bring gas prices down, the cost of everything will go up and that's our real concern that the cost of living is going up so dramatically sky high and that's embedded into this budget. They haven't made any, you know, they haven't tried to hide it is going up and you know the inflation figures that we saw yesterday. You know, give true to that.
ANDY PARK: Do you accept that immediate handouts would further drive inflation?
JANE HUME: Well, we're not suggesting that immediate handouts are the right solution. In fact, we think that if you're going to tackle inflation, you tackle the source not the symptoms of cost of living pressures, the most important thing that any government can do to reduce pressure on inflation and interest rates is careful budget management that controls government spending. Now the Labour government went to the election, with $18 billion more in government spending they said that their deficits were going to be $18 billion higher than the coalition. In fact, we now find that it's $23 billion higher so they've already sort of let loose let rip released the reins on government spending. And that's the worst thing you can do. Because if you have your fiscal policy moving in one direction, and your monetary policy, the RBA moving in the other direction, one foot on the brake, and one on the pedal. Well, it just means that the RBA has to work that bit harder. It has to raise interest rates higher it has to do it more often. And I'm concerned the RBA is meeting next Tuesday that we'll see this budget and its intentions and it's mismatch between monetary and fiscal policy played out in another interest rate rise.
ANDY PARK: The government has hinted at possibly further intervening in the market in terms of energy. What could the intervention in the market look like and would you support it?
JANE HUME: Well, that's a good question. I've seen no detail of what that might look like. So we'll wait to see what the government's plans are. But the most important thing to ensure affordable electricity and reliable baseload power is to put more more upside up affordable energy prices and reliable energy is to make sure that there is more gas put into the market. So that's why we need to open up these new suppliers.
ANDY PARK: You've previously said policy developments, not the role of the opposition. So what's going to be in the speech tonight, any announcements?
JANE HUME: Well, I can assure you that there are already policies that have been developed by the coalition. In fact, just one month after, after moving into them, we announced the pension work bonus. We thought that this was the right the right policy for its time. Not only would it allow older Australians to work a couple of extra days, a few extra hours here and there to supplement their income because they're on fixed incomes. And that would help with their own cost of living issues. But it would also feel those those labour shortages that particularly small businesses we're seeing and are still seeing, unfortunately, even though we announced that in June, and we introduced legislation immediately into the parliament, the Labor Party ignored it. They ignored it right up until last week, when or this week when they have now passed a smaller version of that policy, which is less generous and essentially less effective. We would have thought that that would be the right policy for its time and would have relieved pressures not just for older Australians, but also for small businesses. So there's also there's a lot we could do in opposition. But you know, when it comes down to it, the details of policy, the the government is the one that has the access to all the resources of the public service, all of that information. So we need to respond to what that best information is and how that manifests in policy this week.
ANDY PARK: You said respond, what about have you got any interventions that you're willing to support in the energy market?
JANE HUME: Well, it's hard to say. It really is. I mean, I'm not trying to be evasive here. I know what we did when we were in government. You know, we had the gas infrastructure plan that would have opened up those new gas fields, those new gas supplies. That's how we were keeping energy prices affordable as well as reliable, making sure that we didn't have those brownouts, that you know, when it came into a hot summer, that you could still turn on your air conditioner, that you could, you know, still turn on your washing machine in your dishwasher, but that's not what we've seen from this government. They have prioritised a different part of their energy policy. It's on the transition to net zero. We support net zero. Let me be very clear on that. But we would make that transition far more sensible, far more responsible, and we would prioritise affordable energy along the way through because if you haven't got affordable energy, it's the most vulnerable in our society who will suffer the most?
ANDY PARK: Okay. We'll have to leave it there. Jane Hume is the Shadow Treasurer. Appreciate your time tonight.