Interview with Kieran Gilbert, Sky News
8 May 2023
KIERAN GILBERT: Let's turn our attention back to the budget ahead of tomorrow night. Let's bring in the Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume. Thanks so much for your time the government confirming an increase in the age where the single parent in payment cuts off. Do you welcome that challenge?
JANE HUME: Well, we know that there are a lot of Australian families not just single parents but also dual income families that are really doing it tough right now and making some really difficult decisions about their own family budgets. We would expect that the Labour government will do the same with their budget on Tuesday night. And the way that they can do that is to bring down inflation by reining in there spending because quite frankly, even if you say you have a cost of living budget, unless you're tackling inflation, unless you're bringing inflation down unless you're making tackling inflation, your number one priority in your budget. Well, simply that's making all Australians pay the price because the longer inflation it stays high. That's a reduction in living standards. So if they really wanted to tackle the cost of living that tackle inflation for all and for most-
KIERAN GILBERT: On that specific payment, though, that increase cuts off at the age of eight, when the youngest is eight for a single parent now it's got to go to the age of 14. Is that something you'd support?
JANE HUME: Well, we'll look at the details tomorrow night. Obviously there's a number of payments that are being announced. We're hearing increases in JobSeeker as well as those single parent payments. And that's an increased expenditure. You know, increased pressure on the budget, and we don't know whether it will, in fact, increase inflation. We heard Katy Gallagher just in your interview a little bit earlier saying that they're doing they can to make sure that they aren't making the RBA's job harder. But what they've really done there is wave the white flag. They've said that inflation isn't our responsibility. It's the RBA's responsibility. Now we don't want to make Phillip Lowe’s job harder, but they can make Phillip Lowe’s job easier. And it's really up to the government. It's their responsibility, this is part of governing, to make sure that your fiscal policy is working in the same direction as your monetary policy. Otherwise, it's like having one foot on the brake and one foot on the accelerator unless they're tackling inflation as a standalone policy priority. They're not doing their job.
KIERAN GILBERT: The government's and the Finance Minister announced, also today a $17.8 billion package of savings and reprioritisation of spending. Is that not enough savings?
JANE HUME: That's an interesting word that they've used there because are they in fact savings or are they simply offsets for expenditure? You know, this government is rolling around in revenue. We've seen increased commodity prices, commodity prices skyrocketing. We've seen tax bracket creep, allowing for dramatically increased income tax revenues, and only around 60% of that is going to go back to the budget bottom line. The rest of it is being spent that 17.8 billion, they already said that 7.8 of that is simply reprioritisation, one type of submarine for another type of submarine, the other 10 billion what is that? Is that simply reprioritisation of one something, no amount of money that was already going to be spent into something else. That's a labor priority. That's not a saving. That's an offset. So we're going to be forensically through exactly what it is that labor calling is saving and finding out whether it's simply a rebadge of something that already existed.
KIERAN GILBERT: Do you think with the JobSeeker payment, we've touched on the single parent payment, but with JobSeeker to be increased by up to $40 a fortnight, it's not a huge amount. But for people, many of them living in poverty, it's hard to begrudge them isn’t it?
JANE HUME: Families are really doing it tough. We understand that there are vulnerable that we want to see looked after. But at the same time, if you don't tackle inflation, the increase in JobSeeker is simply going to be eroded away. And that's why this must be the policy priority of this government. It must be to not just tackle inflation to reduce it to bring it down. And the only way you can do that is to rein in those natural labor tendencies for high spending, high taxing budget.
KIERAN GILBERT: A surplus is going to be delivered. That's something that the government hasn't been able to do for quite a long period of time. Do you concede that that for the Labor government will be a symbolic moment for them to say, ‘Well, you've said we can't manage the budget is a surplus’.
JANE HUME: I think Angus Taylor said it correctly that a drover’s dog could deliver a surplus in these environments. they're built on the strong economic conditions that were left to them by the Coalition government just a year ago, low unemployment, a growing economy, a budget that was coming back into balance, an additional $115 billion off the debt. They've built on that, that's terrific. But the real test is going to be, can you maintain a surplus, can you deliver a surplus, not just in this financial year, but in future financial years because you've got to do that, you've got to rein in your spending and to rein in your spending that goes against every instinct that sits with Labor. And that's why we're gonna see inflation higher for longer, if they can't rein in that spending.
KIERAN GILBERT: The Petroleum Resource Rent Tax increase is something that's been welcomed. In fact by the industry, I spoke to Samantha McCulloch from APPEA who represents the gas and oil industry. She said this gets the balance right. It’s hard for the Coalition to disagree with it when the industry supporting.
JANE HUME: Well, obviously, the PRRT was something that was considered by the Callahan review standard under the Coalition. But of course that was before a time where there was a price cap put on gas. It was before time where there was a safeguard mechanism put in place as well. This comes on top of that. Now, I'm not entirely sure how many hits this industry can sustain before investment just dries up. And we know the only way to sustainably get energy prices down is if you bring new investment into the system, adding another tax is simply another deterrent to new investors.
KIERAN GILBERT: So you're opposed to that increase?
JANE HUME: Well, we'll look at the PRRT in its full, as part of the budget, the whole budget package, but I do think it's worthwhile considering what the implications are going to be for new investors into the gas supply.
KIERAN GILBERT: Jane Hume, Shadow Finance Minister, thanks. We'll talk to you soon. A big week.
JANE HUME: Thanks, Kieran.