Interview with Laura Jayes, Sky News, AM Agenda
26 October 2022
LAURA JAYES: Joining me now is Jane Hume, she’s here at the desk with us. Of course, she is the Shadow Finance Minister. So first of all, we know yesterday, many of your colleagues come out, and they didn't like the budget even before they saw any surprises here, anything you’re pleasantly surprised with, or is it all doom and gloom?
JANE HUME: Well, there's a reason why my colleagues were speaking with one voice. That's because this budget was a test for Labor. It was a test for Jim Chalmers as to whether he could genuinely deliver a budget that was going to address the issue that is number one to Australians right now, which is the cost of living crisis, and make and build upon the good economic and fiscal position that they inherited from the Coalition Government previously. They failed on both accounts. All you have to do is look at those numbers. Inflation is going up. Unemployment is going up. Power prices are going up. Real wages are going down. These promises that were critical promises that the Albanese Government made during the election campaign, they said that you would feel the effect of a new Labor Government in your bank account. Well, that's probably the one thing that they were right about, because I think Australians are feeling poorer. In fact, we've calculated that a typical Australian family will be $2,000 worse off this Christmas than they were at the May election.
LAURA JAYES: Do you accept that a lot of these issues are outside their control? Do you, did you expect them in this budget to make direct payments, and direct intervention?
JANE HUME: Well, we didn't expect them to raise the white flag on these issues so early. You know, budgets are all about your policy priorities. And what they've done is say that your priorities, the Australian public, which is the cost of living crisis, is not Labor's priority. Labor's priorities are different. When you look at decisions that have been made, like spending $2.2 billion on the Suburban Rail loop in Victoria, no less than five weeks out from a state election, is that really what Australians who are suffering the cost of living crisis right now. Is that their priority?
LAURA JAYES: Would you support the extraordinary intervention on the gas market?
JANE HUME: Well, extraordinary intervention, I'm not entirely sure exactly what that means. I think the most important thing you can do in the gas market is open up supply. Yet when we were in government, we saw the opening of new gas fields and producers blocked time and time again by the Labor Government. It's so important if you're going to maintain energy prices that you secure your baseload power. It does seem to be that this transition to renewables which we accept is going to be inevitable, is happening too quickly, and is causing price shocks.
LAURA JAYES: So is that the problem here? Is the transition too quick to renewables?
JANE HUME: Well, what is the problem, I'd actually think that that's worth digging a little bit deeper into. What is the problem that's causing energy prices to go up by 50%?
LAURA JAYES: The Ukraine war for a start. Do you accept that?
JANE HUME: Electricity prices going up by 50% isn't necessarily caused by the Ukraine war, and let's face it, the Ukraine War was going on before the election. So it's not as if this is a surprise to the current Labor Government.
LAURA JAYES: Ok, what about the price cap?
JANE HUME: If they had an energy policy that brought new electricity, new power into the system,well, then there wouldn't be such a price shock, but you know, quite frankly...
LAURA JAYES: Price cap?
JANE HUME: Quite frankly, the private sector is making decisions based on a policy they don't necessarily think is workable. We want to see a transition to net zero. We want to transition to renewables, but it's got to be done in an efficient way that's accused baseload power, are you going to see price rises?
LAURA JAYES: A price cap?
JANE HUME: Well, let's see what the solution is that we're offering because quite frankly, I don't think anybody wants to see energy prices rise by 50%, or gas prices rise by 40%. Australians are going to feel that in the hip pocket immediately.
LAURA JAYES: Is that a good idea? Because I noticed this from your colleagues are really reluctant to say that a price comes, you know, Liz Truss style freezing of energy prices, that kind of direct intervention does that make you nervous?
JANE HUME: Well, what we wanted to say when we were in government was new energy sources online.
LAURA JAYES: So your - so that was just supply side?
JANE HUME: That was ours, supply securing baseload power. That's certainly going to be your first part of what we've been bringing those power sources...
LAURA JAYES: But that doesn’t help right now.
JANE HUME: I think that it would, in fact, I think it would send a signal to the market we are open for business for those new sources of baseload power.
LAURA JAYES: Okay. We haven't seen the IR legislation that will be introduced tomorrow. We've heard from Jeff Westcott. She's really concerned about it. What is your course of action here? Do you have any flex at all?
JANE HUME: Flex is an interesting question. Look, I can understand why Jennifer would be concerned. However, to tell you the truth I’m more concerned for small businesses. There was nothing for small businesses in this budget. All they've got ahead of them is an industrial relations nightmare. If we were in charge, then we'd be reducing the red tape for small businesses reducing the burdens that are placed upon them by unwieldy industrial relations reforms that essentially are going to slow down the economy, and put a handbrake on growth.
LAURA JAYES: Is there anything you like in this budget?
JANE HUME: Well, there were things that we will be supporting in this government's budget certainly.
LAURA JAYES: Childcare? Housing? Anything?
JANE HUME: We will be supporting the childcare policy of $4.7 billion, as you will.
LAURA JAYES: Oh, you will now, for higher income families? Do you like it?
JANE HUME: I didn't say we liked it. I didn't say that we liked it. Look, it’s certainly not the policy that we would have introduced, and we actually think it's got some, it's got some barnacles attached. It's got some problems. I mean, let's face it, one of the problems with childcare is not necessarily affordability, its accessibility. You go to places like, now I was talking to my colleague Anne Webster who’s the Member for Mallee, she was saying that there are seven towns in here electorate that don't have any childcare and there are 7000 places for childcare workers that can't be filled. So you can make it more affordable. That's terrific. But all you're doing is pushing up demand. If that's the case, where are these chosen chairs and are going to be built and who's going to work in them to make sure that those Australian families are well taken care of not just in the cities, within the regions as well. We saw scrapped from the budget some of the programs that we're investing in regional childcare centres and regional towns.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, Jane Hume. Thanks so much.
JANE HUME: Great to be with you, Laura.