Interview with Narelda Jacobs, 10 News First: Midday
1 February 2023
NARELDA JACOBS: The government's handling of the cost of living crisis is being scrutinized in any inquiry that kicks off in Sydney today. Inflation is seeing a growing number of families have struggled to put food on the table and buy essentials for their kids who are heading back to school or are at school. We've just learned that millions of us will be paying hundreds of dollars more per year for gas. Opposition finance spokesperson and inquiry chair Jane Hume joins us from Sydney. Thanks for joining us. Let's start with gas prices. We've learned that millions of Australians are going to be paying hundreds of dollars more each year, the government imposes a one year price cap. Is that going to soften the blow?
JANE HUME: Well the RBA is independent for a very good reason and they have an awful lot of data that we don’t necessarily have access to. They appear before the Senate committee today and they told us that they’re now seeing changes to inflation and potentially inflationary pressures coming down, but that doesn’t mean that ordinary Australians aren’t going to keep feeling the pain of those cost of living prices, cost of living rises in their hip pockets as that flows through to whether it’s their mortgage repayments, whether it’s their rental increases, whether it’s food at the checkout or whether it’s putting fuel at the car in the bowser, there are plenty of pressure that Australians are feeling all over the nation and we want to find those practical, implementable solutions that can be put into place right now so that we can do, through this committee, what the Labor Government has failed to do.
NARELDA JACOBS: Senator, what is this inquiry going to be looking at exactly?
JANE HUME: Well, we know that Australians are feeling the cost of living crisis every single day whether they be at the grocery checkout, whether they are paying their mortgages, paying their electricity bills, or trying to get the kids clothed and fed to get back to school. The government had all the answers to the cost of living prior to the election, but since the election, they haven't really come up with anything that's made a difference and now we're seeing inflation at around 7.8% That's the highest in 30 years. The cost of living inquiry will speak to sector heads, to peak bodies, they'll speak to industries, it will speak to individuals and it will speak to community groups about what they're seeing on the ground but more importantly about how we can find practical and implementable solutions to the cost of living crisis. That won't have an inflationary effect, and in fact, make it worse. So this inquiry aims to do what the Labor government has failed to do.
NARELDA JACOBS: Senator, the inflation did start to rise before the election though. So what did the coalition do?
JANE HUME: Well, in fact, we just heard from the RBA, that there's been eight interest rate increases just in the last 12 months alone. And most importantly, there's around 800,000 households that are going to move from a fixed rate mortgage to a variable rate mortgage just this year. So they're going to feel that pressure in their pockets even more so in 2023. What we want to do is make sure that there are practical and implementable solutions to the cost of living crisis that can be implemented right now, because that's when Australians are feeling the pressure. They can't simply wait for global circumstances to change before they feel those prices come down.
NARELDA JACOBS: Senator before the election, when the Reserve bank started rising interest rates, we all recall the coalition saying it's an unpolitical thing, you can’t interfere in the Reserve Banks’ decision, so now are you saying Governments can interfere with the Reserve Bank and interest rates?
JANE HUME: No, not at all Narelda. In fact, governments can do lots of things to relieve the cost of living pressures on ordinary Australians and if they were acting appropriately, if there were policy solutions that they could do that, and particularly around their fiscal policy well, then the RBA wouldn't have to do all the heavy lifting on inflation by raising interest rates to slow down consumption. There are certainly plenty of things that a government can do. We're just not seeing them do it right now.
NARELDA JACOBS: Do you think the RBA left it a little bit too late to start raising interest rates?
JANE HUME: Well the RBA is independent for a very good reason, and they have an awful lot of data that we don't necessarily have access to. They appeared before the Senate committee today and they told us that that they're now seeing changes to inflation, potentially inflationary pressures coming down, but that doesn't mean that ordinary Australians aren't going to keep feeling the pain of those cost of living prices, cost of living rises in their hip pocket, as that flows through to whether it's their mortgage repayments, whether it's their rental increases, whether it's food at the checkout or whether it's putting fuel in the car at the bowser, there are plenty of pressures that Australians are feeling all over the nation. We want to find those practical, implementable solutions that can be put into place right now so that we can do, through this committee, what the Labor Government has failed to do.
NARELDA JACOBS: Well Senator, is this inquiry just an opportunity to point the finger at the Government for not putting in motion things that you should have also put in motion when you were in Government?
JANE HUME: You know, this is a Senate committee that has both Greens, has Coalition members, and it has Labor members on it that get a chance to ask questions of those that are on the ground that are facing the crisis right now. This morning, we heard from the RBA. We've also heard from the energy sector. We heard from Woolworths. They had some fascinating information about consumer behavior, and also about the you know, the fact their donations of food have increased around 20% because of their community and charity partners, and the increased demand that they're seeing. This afternoon we're going to hear from other community groups and those in the non for profit sector about what they're seeing, including the Salvation Army and the Wesley Mission. We want to find what it is that they can tell us. That they can tell government, they can tell senators what they would like to see in order to help those that are most in need. But this isn't just affecting small cohorts of Australians. It's right across the country.
NARELDA JACOBS: Senator Jane Hume thanks for joining us at Midday. We look forward to the findings of the inquiry.