HAMISH MACDONALD: Tributes are continuing to pour in for soldier and Senator Jim Molan. Jim Molan built a successful career in Australia's military, spanning four decades in Iraq as the international coalition's Chief of Staff for operations. He effectively commanded 270,000 troops more than any Australian since World War Two. As a conservative Liberal Senator for New South Wales, he also had a lasting impact in the Federal Parliament on policy and national security and immigration particularly. His colleague in the Senate and Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume joins us now, good morning. Welcome back to breakfast.
JANE HUME: Good morning Hamish.
HAMISH MACDONALD: It's clear you come from different ideological ends of the party that you both sat in what was it like to work with someone like Jim Molan? Clearly someone with strong views, but enjoyed the process of the discussion it seems.
JANE HUME: Actually, Jim and I agreed on so much and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him as to all of my colleagues right across the Liberal Party. And let me first of all, just pay tribute to him and say, our heartfelt wishes and thoughts are with his family at this very difficult time. He would be the first to tell you that of all his great achievements, his proudest one was his family, his wife, his daughters, his grandchildren, and he spoke of them all the time in private moments in the Senate. We have really lost a great man and a great liberal. He was a, he's a decorated Major General he served in New Guinea and Indonesia and Timor, Malaysia, Iraq obviously, and of course, he also was the architect of sovereign borders. Truly instrumental, in helping break the people smugglers business model and prevent tragic deaths at sea. And this was all before he joined the Senate. So he really was a great man.
HAMISH MACDONALD: Obviously Parliament brings together people from all corners of Australian society with very different backgrounds. When you're sitting in a room formulating policy or discussing policy, debating it even, what does someone with his particular life experience, bring to those conversations?
JANE HUME: You know, you notice it in the party room, of course we don't speak about what happens in the party room. But you do notice it in the party room, that when somebody of the caliber of Jim Molan and stands to speak and give their opinion, there is rapt attention. There is a hush that falls over the room because we know that he speaks in a considered way with waves of experience and wisdom and and then that was always the way with Jim. On top of that, though, he was hugely respectful. He treated everybody with dignity and with grace. And I think that that is the mark of a truly good man, a great man and a great liberal.
HAMISH MACDONALD: How will you remember his, or can reflect on, his impact on actual politics and policy in Australia? You mentioned sovereign borders. He has played a pretty significant role in some fairly major policy areas.
JANE HUME: He has, as I said before politics as well as after certainly his voice around issues with national security where it was an extremely important one. But to tell you the truth, what I will most remember about Jim is his extraordinary courage and bravery. Not just militarily, not just politically but also personally. You know, he was struck down with cancer in 2021, which he fought with all the courage and bravery that he has taken to every other aspect of his life. But he also had hip replacements and knee replacements, all while he was in politics. Trying to manage those stairs, running for the bills, limping away. There was nothing that he wouldn't do to make his contribution. Nothing that would stop him serving his country. And that's what I will remember most about Jim Molan.
HAMISH MACDONALD: And there is of course the question of his replacement in the Senate that will be decided by the party in New South Wales, do you expect him to be replaced by a woman?
JANE HUME: I'll be honest with you Hamish, I think it is too early and a little inappropriate to be talking about this right now. Jim only passed away yesterday. The Liberal Party will do what it needs to do and when it needs to do it. But right now, our conversation should be all about Jim, and his extraordinary contribution and his memory.
HAMISH MACDONALD: I do need to ask you about some of the news issues of the day. We're about to speak to the ACCC chair. They've released the interim guidelines for the gas industry while the temporary price cap is in place. Does that clear up the confusion for gas suppliers and gas providers as far as you are concerned?
JANE HUME: Well, I actually think that the gas suppliers would be balking a little bit today. Particularly at the comments that Ed Husic made yesterday where he continues to demonise the gas producers and this is, let's face it, another broken promise of Anthony Albanese. He said he would work with business and rather than working collaboratively they're doing the exact opposite. Using language like ‘Putin profits’, I think that's extraordinarily immature and extremely offensive. So rather than call names I'd be working to find practical solutions to the problems that the government is facing because of this gas crisis. And let's face it, if supply and we know that supply is the key to lower prices, and if investment is about opening up supply, well why do you think that that language, what would that language do for investors? If you wanted to invest in Australia, why would you do it if the Minister is going to call you names? I think that that's really the question that Anthony Albanese needs to answer today.
HAMISH MACDONALD: But if the argument that the gas suppliers are making is that they can't, or they shouldn't be signing new contracts while they take the time to understand what the new rules and compliance measures might be, doesn't the ACCC releasing these guidelines clear that up? I mean, do you see any reason why suppliers can't now essentially move back to normal operating?
JANE HUME: I think that you should be asking the gas suppliers this question. It’s not an uncomplicated issue, a mandatory Code of Conduct will have implications for the gas suppliers. And what we want to see is those lower prices that are already happening internationally start filtering through to domestic prices. You know already we've seen Energy Australia raise domestic gas crisis by over 26% for around quarter of a million households. We've seen Origin and AGL already do the same. And this is after Labor's rushed legislation went through, after it went through. In response to it going through we've seen Senex withdraw a billion dollars of investment put that on ice immediately after the government's price cap announcement. Now there have been countless warnings from the ACCC and others about the growing likelihood of gas shortages due to undeveloped reserves and a lack of investment in new gas supply. The concern we have is that the gas price fixing will result in gas supply being conditionally stranded and will essentially increase the risks of blackouts is 2023.
HAMISH MACDONALD: So do you not deny any possibility that the suppliers themselves are playing hardball. You know, they're frustrated with what the government is doing because they want the additional profit and they're basically pushing back against that. I mean, that's the argument that's essentially being made.
JANE HUME: Well why would you be making that argument in the language that Ed Husic is using, which is nothing more than offensive if you want to work with gas suppliers to get this done. I would be working collaboratively rather than insulting them.
HAMISH MACDONALD: The Energy Users Association which represents some of the biggest consumers of energy, the people that do purchase very significant amounts of energy to do manufacturing, I mean they use not dissimilar language.
JANE HUME: Energy Users Association is representing not just businesses, but also consumers that are the ones that are suffering from Labor's rushed legislation that was never going to address the East Coast gas crisis. Now we warned about this, cited the experts at the center and this has been essentially a con job. History has shown time and time again that price caps will only result in supply shortages and market distortions. It happened in the United States, it happened in Argentina, and those market distortions will only increase prices in the long run. It's pretty basic economics. Labor's attempt to price fix our concern is it will lead to higher prices, and it will lead to energy rationing and blackouts. The only way to address the gas crisis that Australia’s east coast is facing is by increasing supply and Labor seem to be doing the exact opposite. In fact, we're seeing experts now calling on Labor to revisit the Coalition's Gas Infrastructure Plan to open up those new gas supplies and underdeveloped fields.
HAMISH MACDONALD: Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume, thanks for your time this morning.