Interview with Laura Jayes, AM Agenda
29 March 2023
LAURA JAYES: We are waiting for the latest inflation figures to drop today and economists expect that will be about 7.2%. So it's coming down but ever so slowly. Joining me live now is shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume, there's a monetary and fiscal side to this, of course, is the fiscal side doing enough?
JANE HUME: Well, that's really the Coalition's concern, Laura. It doesn't matter whether you're at the petrol bowser or whether you're at the grocery checkout, or whether you're paying your mortgage or you're paying your energy bills, all Australians are feeling the pinch right now and they're looking to their government for action. Our concern, of course, is that this Labor government has no economic plan to deal with the cost of living and has no economic plan to deal with rising inflation. Even if inflation has reached its peak, as you might have said, that's not for certain. We would like to see it come down, come down to within that 2 to 3% range that the RBA has as its objective. The problem is, if the government doesn't do its part of the job, then the RBA has to do all the heavy lifting and keep raising interest rates to try and bring inflation down, by spending more in their budget, an additional 23 billion in their October budget alone. This government is in fact fueling inflation, by pushing up the cost of energy prices through things like the deal that they've done with the Greens on the safeguard mechanism that's going to make it harder to bring new supply of energy into the grid, that's pushing prices up. We don't feel that the government has a plan to deal with inflation, it certainly doesn't have a plan to do with the cost of living and Australians are paying the price.
LAURA JAYES: What about these predictions about what our population would look like in the next two years? I mean, we saw the Jobs Summit last year, we're talking about skilled migrants, of 195,000. That is a cap. But when you take in all the other aspects of migration including, you know, visitor visas, and people who end up staying here, the projections from Treasury are that it'll be about, well, almost 900,000 more people over the next two years. Is that a good thing?
JANE HUME: Well, I think that the announcement today of an additional 650,000 people coming to Australia over the next two years has taken a number of people by surprise. Now, don't get me wrong, immigration has been a fundamental part of economic growth in Australia for decades. But it shouldn't be a panacea for economic growth. It can't be the only driver of economic growth, it does feel like the government's raised the white flag on productivity, which is the other really important driver of economic growth and in fact, there was a productivity commission report that was dropped, I think it was only last Friday, that seems to have already been buried by Jim Chalmers as to how to properly drive productivity within our country without necessarily increasing the population through immigration to unsustainable levels. There is concern as to where we're going to house all these new immigrants. Are there going to be skilled migrants or students? What is going to be that immigration mix? Are people going to come here on one visa and transfer to another kind of visa once they're here? So a properly managed immigration policy is really important for economic growth. But this doesn't seem to be managed. This seems to be haphazard and it seems to be instead of a proper plan on productivity and economic growth.
LAURA JAYES: Well there is a budget coming up, what should Jim Chalmers do in that budget?
JANE HUME: Well, the first thing that we would like to see is a reduction in spending. A reduction on that structural spending (Interrupted)
LAURA JAYES: But when it comes to population more specifically, do you have any ideas?
JANE HUME: Well, I think that that's really up to the Government as to the levers that they pull on population, we're not going to provide them with an objective and a number. But certainly, we want to make sure that there is more productive capacity in the economy, not less productive capacity. So what do you do to improve productivity? Well, you do things like you lower taxes, you reduce red tape, you make sure that life is easier for business, you lower energy prices and in fact, every decision that this government is making seems to be making it harder for business to do what it needs to do to expand productive capacity.
LAURA JAYES: Two final ones about your state of Victoria. Daniel Andrews is in China at the moment, he's on a four day trip, he refused to take media with him or any kind of business delegation. The union actually said, without free and fair media reporting on this, it's almost akin to propaganda. What do you think about this trip and the excuses for not taking media along?
JANE HUME: This is unprecedented behaviour. It really is extraordinary secrecy that we're seeing out of the Andrews government. No one really knows exactly what the purpose of this trip is. Who it is that Daniel Andrews will be visiting and seeing while he is over there, what it is that he will be negotiating. Obviously, the former Government, the Coalition government, there were limits put on the deals that had been done with the Victorian Government as part of the Belt and Road Initiative. Now that that has fallen by the wayside, I would imagine that Daniel Andrews would be looking to seek and secure some other arrangement and I'm sure it's just beyond simply increasing the number of foreign students into Victoria and the fact that we can't see what it is about, the fact that that the press has been banned from attending, discouraged from reporting even I think, speaks volumes of the secrecy of this Government and this isn't the first time that we've seen this. There is behaviour from the Daniel Andrews government over the last number of years that has increasingly demonstrated a disdain for transparency, a disdain for integrity and this just doubles down on that.
LAURA JAYES: And I would add probably a disdain for some of us here in the media too, but perhaps a bit of self reflection on my part, I don't know. Let me ask you quickly about the Aston by-election, the fringe fusion party Owen Miller, he's made some pretty unsavory comments that don't bear repeating here. What should happen to a candidate like this? How should major parties like the Liberal and Labor Party deal with a candidate like this? Given we just spoke about democracy and how important it is?
JANE HUME: Some of the things that Owen Miller has been involved in and the things that he's tweeted out have been totally vile things like, that abortion should be freely available even after birth. I mean, what does that mean? The implications are extraordinary. The fact that he questioned and thinks that we should question the Unabomber’s motives and be a little bit more sympathetic to what his motives might have been. This is really vile stuff. Once the Labor Party hears what this candidate is and what his positions are, surely, you would preference him last. Instead, both Labor and the Greens have preferenced Owen Miller third on the ticket. They've preferenced him above Roshena Campbell, who is a barrister, a respected mother of three who has done community work, who has worked on the Royal Commissions into the Black Saturday bushfires, the idea that you would preference this man above somebody like Roshena Campbell, who is so eminently qualified, I think speaks volumes of the contempt that the Labor Party and the Greens have for the voters of Aston. That they are saying essentially, they would rather see someone like Owen Miller in our Federal Parliament than Roshena Campbell. I think that's pretty despicable.
LAURA JAYES: Jane Hume, good to talk to you. Thanks so much.
JANE HUME: Great to be with you.