LAURA JAYES: Welcome back. Well the RBA boss Philip Lowe will speak in Brisbane in a couple of hours time he'll talk about the government's independent review into the bank and today's speech could be one of his last as RBA governor. Joining me now is the Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume. Jane, great to see you. Do you expect Philip Lowe's speech to be his last today?
JANE HUME: Well, I would hope not Laura. His term doesn't finish until September and there's obviously a lot of work for the RBA to do between now and then including another meeting of the board. So if the RBA Review is to be adopted, as we would assume that it will be, it mentioned the need for the RBA Governor and the board to do more communication around its decision making. So we would expect that this not to be the last time we hear from Philip Lowe.
LAURA JAYES: No, there might be another speech, more to my point was do you expect his term to be extended beyond September or do you expect a new RBA governor to be announced?
JANE HUME: Well, that's very much a decision of government, not of opposition. That said I think the government's made it pretty clear that it's considering a replacement for Philip Lowe sooner rather than later. It's already released a list, a shortlist, that's been mooted and debated in the public arena. So we would probably expect a decision to be made very soon.
LAURA JAYES: Let's not go over the whole history here. But do you think in order to give the public confidence in the RBA, that it is a good idea to have a new governor? Is that the opposition's position here?
JANE HUME: Well, I think the most important thing in an RBA governor is independence from the government. And certainly Philip Lowe has demonstrated his independence from the government, both when the Coalition were in government and when Labor were in government too. Equally it's important that the government responds to the direction of fiscal policy, with its fiscal policy to monetary policy direction. We do need to make sure that both the RBA and the government are moving in the same direction rather than one foot on the brake, one foot on the accelerator. Yeah, at the same time, we want to ensure that the Governor of the Reserve Bank whoever it is makes their decisions entirely independent of those being made by government or direction from government more importantly.
LAURA JAYES: That's right. You want them moving in the right direction. Inflation is still a problem. There's been a lot of talk about the government's budget surplus. So what's your position should the government be spending that surplus or would that be inflationary?
JANE HUME: You know I'm going to surprise you here, Laura. I am going to tip my hat and say from what I've seen from Jim Chalmers speech today, or last night, he's moving in the right direction. I think he's actually listening to the messages from the Coalition, that the most important thing he can do to bring down inflation is to rein in those spending ambitions. Now that's not going to make him a particularly popular treasurer, with his colleagues who have a wish list of things that they would like to spend taxpayers money on, that they've accumulated over nine years in opposition. It takes an awful lot of discipline from a treasurer and indeed from a finance minister, to say no to those spending ambitions, those innate natural spending ambitions, which are sort of a hallmark of Labor government's past and say no, because the only way that you can bring down the cost of living is to bring down inflation. The only way to bring down inflation is to rein in aggregate demand and that includes government expenditure. Already, this government has spent an additional $187 billion more than the Coalition would have, had it got into government just a year ago. And I don't think that there's an Australian out there that feels like they're better off for it.
LAURA JAYES: Are you still worried about wages growth, though, and the inflationary pressure that that may or might make may or may not have. Also note, Jeff Kennett this morning, suggesting that people who are still working from home should have their wages cut. Is that a good idea?
JANE HUME: Well, there's, you know, there's two issues there and one of them was raised by Philip Lowe himself. He said that wage rises are fine so long as there are productivity increases to match those wage rises without productivity increases, those wage rises will be inflationary. And you know, Jeff Kennett is pointing out that productive work happens largely in the workplace, not necessarily from home and it's certainly a right of employers to require that their employees turn up to work because that's where you get that collaborative, you know, that teamwork, and productive work.
LAURA JAYES: Enough is enough isn't it. How do you get, how do you change that culture that we got out of COVID, people still working from home? They need to get back to the CBDs don't they?
JANE HUME: Yeah, they do. And of course, you know, let's face it, when the Coalition were in government, we actually did issue a directive to the Federal Public Service to say time to get back in the office COVID is over. That hasn't happened. It's with State Public Service positions. And I think that's specifically what Jeff Kennett is talking about, particularly in reference to Melbourne where the CBD is still struggling to come back to life post COVID so we want to see people back.
LAURA JAYES: If they got a cut in their wages Jane, that might encourage them back into the CBD, do you think?
JANE HUME: Well, I think one of the things that Jeff was pointing out is that those people that work from home actually save money from not spending money on public transport or parking or petrol, or whatever it is to get into work. And in fact, there are plenty of jobs out there where you have to turn up and those people spend more to get to work. Perhaps there should be a compensation or some sort of trade off for those that actually attend the office or attend to their workplace rather than work from home. Now, is this a good idea? It's not something that's on the Coalition's agenda, certainly not right now. But that said, I think he's making the point that the most productive work happens in the office when you've got that collaboration when you've got that interaction with colleagues and employers have the right to expect that. Indeed, I think employers are going to find themselves with far more bargaining power at their disposal when unemployment rises, and we know that the Budget says unemployment is going to rise by about 140,000 people are going to find themselves out of work in this 12 months alone if the budget forecasts are correct.
LAURA JAYES: Just quickly, the Fadden by-election this weekend, usually when you lose an incumbent member, you can lose some of the votes but is that still true with a retiring candidate like Stuart Robert?
JANE HUME: Well, look I won't comment on what's going on in a Queensland by-election in the same way that I would hope that Queenslander's don't necessarily comment on what goes on in Victorian by-elections. Suffice to say that we know Stuart Robert was in fact a very popular local member there. We imagine we will shift the dial but Cameron Caldwell seems to be a very popular local councillor, he's well known. So you know, it will be what it will be. But we would expect to retain the seat of Fadden after the by-election.
LAURA JAYES: With the swing to you or against you though?.
JANE HUME: Well, that's a good question. And I said, I don't want to make electoral predictions on what goes on in a different state, and I know that a lot of people on the ground-
LAURA JAYES: Are you a bit nervous after the Aston by-election result?
JANE HUME: Look again, apples and oranges. What happens in Victoria is very different from what happens in Queensland. The incumbents were different. The candidates were different. There's always differences. And actually, the circumstances were different to you know, back in April, the cost of living crisis wasn't biting anything like as hard as it is now. But I was up in Queensland just last week, and wow, it really is beginning to bite up there. There was a food delivery service or food provision service, a free supermarket called Serving Our People, and it's seen that the demand for its services go through the roof. This is on the Gold Coast, normally affluent area, people living in their cars because they're homeless. I was with Angie Bell, we passed in a quite an affluent area, a little tent city in a park from homeless people. So yes, cost of living is beginning to bite that will certainly play into the Fadden by-election, there's no doubt.
LAURA JAYES: All right, we'll see those results as they roll in here on Sky News on Saturday night, Jane. Good to see you. Thanks so much.