DANICA DE GIORGIO: The Qantas Chairman and CEO, they've owned up to the airline's mistakes as they fronted the company's AGM. Joining me now live is Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume, also the chair of a cost of living committee that's grilled Qantas. Thank you so much for joining us. We just heard from Vanessa Hudson and Richard Goyder, they apologised to shareholders at the AGM and said that they're making big investments out to fleet as well as making policy changes. Can they resell a damaged brand to shareholders?
JANE HUME: Well, certainly Danica I think there has been a breach of trust in Qantas and shareholders will have their say about that today. From a government's perspective, what we would like to see is a better monitoring of Qantas and indeed, of the entire domestic airline industry to make sure that prices, that costs, that profits are monitored, are scrutinised, and that was what the ACCC were doing. In fact, it was the previous Coalition Government that directed the ACCC to look at exactly that within the domestic airline industry back in June 2020. Now, that finished there was a three year study that finished in June this year and we're now urging the government to reinstate the ACCC's monitoring capabilities of the domestic airline industry, because quite frankly, you know, Qantas have a lot of ground to make up for. We heard that cost of living committee that Qantas had actively lobbied the government to not allow Qatar Airways, those additional 21 routes into Australia, which would have saved the economy around $3 billion over five years $780 million to the tourism industry alone. If the government is genuine, about improving competition, if it's genuine about lowering the cost of living for ordinary Australians, it would have allowed those additional air those additional routes available to Qatar and not favored Qantas, which they do feel like they're running a protection racket for Qantas right now. But I think you know, Qantas is really having its day and it's got a lot to answer to, to those shareholders, particularly for those ghost flights selling tickets, 8000 tickets for flights they had already cancelled. So the ACCC is pursuing that separately, and they've said that they'll be doing that vigorously and through the courts.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: So what is it going to take then, do you think to rebuild that trust? It's something that Vanessa Hudson mentioned to shareholders a short time ago that they want to rebuild it, but what's it going to take. Does Qantas need a complete clean out?
JANE HUME: Well, certainly the best way to rebuild trust is to make sure that your words are backed in by actions and Australians will be looking to see whether Qantas meets their expectations whether it be in customer service, whether it be through flight certainty, whether it be through lowering their prices, whatever it might be, Australians have told foreigners that they are in fact on notice, but it's entirely up to the shareholders as to what those consequences might be.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Alright, let's move on to cost of living. You, of course, chaired the Cost of Living Committee. What have you been hearing and have things been getting worse?
JANE HUME: Well, in fact, things are only getting worse rather than better. Now I was hiking back to the beginning of this year when Anthony Albanese was asked what his New Year's resolution was, and he said it was to tackle the cost of living. Well, here we are in November, the year is ticking away and in fact, the crisis has only got worse. The inflation figures that came out just last week, pointed to a much higher than expected quarterly inflation figure. So that's really put the Reserve Bank on notice the problem is, of course, the Reserve Bank had been left to do all the heavy lifting to bring inflation back down within that target band of two to three per cent. That's its objective, but it's only got one tool in the shed to do it and that's interest rates. And we know that interest rates really are fueling the cost of living crisis for so many Australians. We saw that data released by the ABS this week that showed that in fact, the cost of living for working households, many of those have a mortgage, has in fact increased far above and beyond just the CPI, and that's largely because of the cost of repaying for housing. And that's not just obviously for mortgage holders, but also it gets passed on to renters when landlords are subjected to higher interest rates as well. So what we want to see from the government is a plan to tackle inflation, not just the cost of living because you can do that through subsidies and you know, the taxpayer funded subsidies and of course, that can actually fuel the problem even further. We want to see the government have a plan to tackle inflation. We asked questions about this at Senate estimates last week, and they came up with nothing. They pointed to the budget and said it's all in there, but they couldn't point to a single measure, a single policy that will actually tackle inflation head on. This should be the priority of the government right now. Because unless you tackle inflation, the RBA is going to have to keep doing all the heavy lifting, pushing up rates and Australians are going to pay the price.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Well, all eyes will certainly be on the RBA. Next week, Jane Hume, we have to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us.