Interview with Laura Jayes, AM Agenda
15 March 2023
LAURA JAYES: This is just hours after the historic $368 billion AUKUS deal to acquire nuclear powered submarines. Now, that won't happen till 2050. We'll get the first one in about a decade from now. Joining me live now from Melbourne is the Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume. Let's go to the cost of this. It's quite extraordinary, isn't it? We've heard both sides describe this as modest. But how is $368 billion dollars, that is, I think more than tripled the price of the French submarines. Is that something you'll be asking questions over? We kind of need this itemised a bit don't we?
JANE HUME: Laura, certainly $368 billion sounds like an enormous amount of money but it is something that is going to receive bipartisan support, and it's going to be implemented over many, many years. I think in the immediate term, we've heard that there's going to be about $9 billion in the forward estimates in the next four years or so. About $6 billion of that is offset against the attack class submarines that were cancelled and there is another $3 billion that is coming from defence, from other other items of the defence budget and that they will be detailed in the Defence Strategic Review. I think that is something that is worth looking at. We don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul here. We want to make sure that we're enhancing our defence capabilities, not detracting from them. So there will be some scrutiny certainly of that. Yes, it's an enormous amount of money. But we understand that this is the price you pay to maintain peace in our region, which is the priority of all governments.
LAURA JAYES: In this AUKUS deal. I mean, this is a partnership with the UK and the US. You’d think that they give us a little bit of a discount, right because it's in their interest for us to have their submarines?
JANE HUME: I don't know whether discounts is really the way that it works. Certainly this is possibly the most important strategic partnership that Australia has ever undertaken. It was obviously announced by the Coalition and is now being implemented by a Labor government. It has bipartisan support, which is so important. In fact, so fundamental to its implementation, because it is such a long term project that is going to take place over generations and indeed over many governments have very different hues. That's why that bipartisan support is so important. But let's be very clear, the AUKUS agreement would never have never had taken place in the first place if it wasn't for a Coalition government, who authored it and instigated it under Scott Morrison. But more importantly, we demonstrated our commitment to shipbuilding and with our shipbuilding program over the last 10 years and by demonstrating that we are very serious about our defence and strategic capabilities, by increasing our defence spending to over 2% of GDP back in 2013 after it went down under a previous Labor Government 21.56% of GDP.
LAURA JAYES: So how are we going to pay for and are we paying a premium for there to be a local jobs component?
JANE HUME: Well, certainly a local jobs component is important. That was part of the commitment in the previous government, certainly in WA and South Australia. We want to make sure that those 20,000 jobs are maintained. That those 20,000 jobs are also not just in the public sector, but also in the private sector. That's really important so that we may grow that capability and also our capacity as strategic capacity. But if this isn't a make work program, this is a defence program. This is about defending our country and maintaining peace in the region. That's a very, that's the most important part of this decision.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, let's talk about power prices. Now the energy regulator has confirmed what we're all fearing and told what to expect, and that is that power prices from July 1 are going up on the east coast on average about 20%. It's more in some parts.
JANE HUME: That's about 21% for households in Queensland, Southern Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia and potentially around 25% or so for businesses. That's around 600,000 Australian households and 100,000 Australian businesses will be affected by that new default market offer which is so much higher than anticipated, well about the same amount that we anticipated. But today we've just heard from Victoria too, the Victorian default offer is going to be around 31.5% for households and 33% for businesses. So this is affecting the entire east coast. And this is unacceptable from a government that promised a reduction in power prices of $275. Now Australians they're going to pay for this this winter. I fear for those older Australians or those on low incomes that will simply have to turn off the heater during winter because they can't afford the energy bills. That's the human cost to Labor's failure to manage the energy market.
LAURA JAYES: Well, Chris Bowen is speaking right now. We'll see if we can get some answers out of him. Let's go to him live.
(Chis Bowen press conference)
LAURA JAYES: …What a happy convenience Jane Hume. What do you make of the explanation from Chris Bowen and the justification?
JANE HUME: I think I'm still reeling from being referred to as ‘a bunch of irrelevancies’. Language, almost as colorful as Chris Bowen's tie. Look, let's face it, when the Coalition were in government, we had three objectives with our energy policy. It was not just to reduce emissions to make that net zero by 2050 target, but it was also to improve reliability and to maintain affordability of energy. Somehow reliability and affordability of energy have disappeared from this Labor government's agenda and Australians are paying a price we can see that in the default market offer that's come out today, both from Victoria and that from the East Coast and New South Wales. Now, quite frankly, if this Labor government would serious about a $275 reduction in energy prices, which is what they committed to prior to the election, well, then they would consider not just their emissions target, not just capping of coal and gas which are inevitably going to be part of our energy mix for many, many years to come. But they would also consider the reliability of the grid, and they would consider the affordability of energy for ordinary Australians, because quite frankly, I don't think that there's going to be too many Australians this winter that are going to appreciate Chris Bowens stance.
LAURA JAYES: Well, it still stands that yes, power prices are going up 20%. But do you believe without those caps that they imposed, it would have been 50% or do you not believe that?
JANE HUME: I love this idea that you know, Australians should feel lucky that Chris Bowen is there because, frankly, it would have been worse. I mean, I think that's an extraordinary excuse. How about he deals with the problem. Maintains an energy system and energy grid that will actually maintain not just lower emissions, but affordability and reliability. It's quite simple. But you do need to balance all three, not focus on just one. That's exactly what Chris Bowen has done and Australians are paying the price.
LAURA JAYES: You don't like his tie?
JANE HUME: I don't think anybody likes that tie.
LAURA JAYES: Let's just see if we can bring that back up studio. See, I missed that. I was too focused on what he was saying Jane Hume but there you go. Yes, it is a very colorful tie right. I gotta say I quite like it.
JANE HUME: As colorful as his language.
LAURA JAYES: Yeah, what did you take umbrage-
JANE HUME: and maybe as ill considered as well?
LAURA JAYES: Is that just politics?
JANE HUME: How about he deals with the question at hand. How about Chris Bowen deals with his portfolio rather than simply referring to the previous government. Because he made commitments to the Australian people. He's failed in delivering those commitments. So I think that he's got some work to do of his own.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, Jane Hume. Thanks so much for your time as always.
JANE HUME: Thanks, Laura.