LAURA JAYES: Welcome back. In just a couple of hours time we're about to see the March quarterly inflation data the CPI, the consumer price index, is expected to show that annual headline inflation has slowed from 7.8% to 7%. The rate of inflation will influence of course whether the RBA rate raises interest rates at its next board meeting. The RBA left rates unchanged last month for the first time since May of 2022. Joining me now to Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume Jane, we could get some real good news this morning when it comes to inflation. Is that what you are expecting? And how should the government view this as it's preparing a budget?
JANE HUME: Laura, I don't want to speculate on what the inflation figures may well be today. Obviously. We saw inflation coming back down to 6.8% in February from those highs we're at 7.4 in January, and of course that means that the RBA needs to work that little bit harder to do to pull on its interest rate levers pull on its monetary policy levers in order to bring inflation rein in inflation back down to that two to three per cent. Of course, this inflation figure comes out just before the federal budget which comes out in just a couple of weeks time. And because the RBA has put a pause on those interest rate rises. And this is a real opportunity now for the government to step up and show that its fiscal policy is aligned with monetary policy so the RBA doesn't have to keep raising interest rates to rein in inflation. You know, it looks like to us that it's going to be a typical traditional labor big tax big spend budget, but there's an opportunity here for Jim Chalmers. To show real courage reining in spending and make sure that it can demonstrate to the RBA that the government is working with it alongside it to help rein in inflation rather than having one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, so that being said, there's a lot of competing interests in this upcoming budget JobSeeker. We have a number of Labor MPs saying it should be increased. Do you think it is affordable?
JANE HUME: JobSeeker has always been a contentious issue in every budget. I can't remember a budget where there hasn't been calls to raise JobSeeker indeed, back in 2021. Anthony Albanese himself called for a raise in a sustainable I think he said or a permanent raise in the JobSeeker rate. What we're looking for in this budget is actually very different. We want to see the guardrails restored around budget, things like offsets to new spending attack to GDP ratio caps on the numbers of public servants and we want to make sure that taxes are simpler and fairer, not higher taxes. We want to ensure that there are productivity measures and their real productivity measures, not just window dressing productivity measures. We also want to make sure that the cost of living is addressed in a way that doesn't push up inflation. And finally, we want to make sure that there are no more broken promises in this budget, no more commitments to lower electricity prices or not tax superannuation or not tax franking credits, whatever it might be. Those broken promises seem to be a hallmark of this Labor government
LAURA JAYES: Okay,what about these medicines announcement this morning? A good idea. You're getting two for the price of one essentially.
JANE HUME: I was actually the chemist just yesterday and my chemist was talking to me and I don't think he knew that I was a politician, but he did have a great concern. He was talking to every one of his customers about his concern for this policy. Look, my big issue and this is something that the chemists raised with, the pharmacists raised with me, is supply. If you allow 60 day dispensing, will there be enough supply for those to get the medicines that they need? Is it going to affect regional and rural communities who might not have access to new medicines or to supplies and medicines in the same way those of us in the cities do and potentially how's it gonna affect those community pharmacies as opposed to the big chain pharmacies getting access to medicines? We want to make sure that this is a policy that can be implementable as well as implemented before we make it before we make a call. So those are the sorts of things that we want to see the government answer questions on.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, well, perhaps we'll get some of those answers now. Jane Hume, we'll have to leave it there. Here's Mark Butler, the Health Minister with this announcement.