Interview with Narelda Jacobs, 10 News First: Midday
1 March 2023
NARELDA JACOBS: While Australia's posted soft economic growth today it's clear many are still struggling with the cost of living. Shadow Minister for Finance, Senator Jane Hume is leading a committee looking into the crisis and joins us now from Melbourne. Senator, if I can I just get your reaction to the GDP figures, softer than expected but still resilient considering the Reserve Bank's interest rate hikes?
JANE HUME: Narelda obviously these figures are for the end of December 2022. We know that those interest rate hikes really kicked in in 2023. And a lot of Australians are feeling the pain right now. That's the evidence certainly that we're hearing at the cost of living committee today. And in previous hearings, we've heard that people are changing their behavior at the supermarket checkout. We've heard that the volunteers are now hard to come by for some services like we heard today from CareNet that said they can't get volunteers because people have had to go back out to work to deal with their own cost of living crisis. We've heard of more people turning up to ask for the services of organizations like Foodbank, even those on double incomes. So the cost of living is really beginning to bite. And yes, while the Australian economy continues to grow, that slowing is an indicator that things are getting really tough for ordinary Australians right now.
NARELDA JACOBS: Is Super the answer here?
JANE HUME: Well, tapping into people's retirement savings to deal with a budget crisis is never going to be the answer. Let's face it, this has been a breach of promise. A breach of trust by the Labor government prior to the election, Anthony Albanese said that there were going to be no changes to superannuation. Jim Chalmers said there were going to be no new taxes and yet just nine months in, they've changed their minds and gone back on that promise And I think that there's around 80,000 Australians that would feel that they've been very hardly done by right now. They've put their money into superannuation, often on a voluntary basis, because they've understood that the situation wasn't going to change. They made that promise. Now they're going to find that they have had their tax doubled on their superannuation returns. That's going to hit home for some people's retirement plans.
NARELDA JACOBS: If they put the safeguards and it won't go any further, do you think that this could be the thin end of the wedge for Super?
JANE HUME: Well, they promise that it wouldn't go any further prior to the election and they've gone back on that promise. Now we need to see what's going to be next on that agenda . We've already seen Stephen Jones coming out today talking about investment properties and how much tax concessions they attract. Jim Chalmers and Anthony Albanese couldn't get their story straight on whether there was going to be any changes to capital gains tax, particularly that on the family home. I think that this government has been very tricky in the way it's gone about this and let's understand that they're not trying to reform superannuation, they're not trying to make superannuation more sustainable. This is simply a way of addressing a budget crisis, then the best way to do that would be to slow down their spending. That would also reduce the pressure on inflation and it would reduce the pressure on the RBA, who, at the moment, have to do all the heavy lifting on inflation by putting up interest rates. The government could do its bit, rather than tapping into the savings of retirees, perhaps it could rein in its own spending wish list.
NARELDA JACOBS: Well Senator you're heading up a committee looking into this cost of living crisis and you're in what's known as Melbourne's Eastern mortgage belt today. What are you hearing about how hard the cost of living is biting?
JANE HUME: Well already we've been hearing from businesses and business associations, talking about the pressures that they're facing, whether it be rising rents, rising energy prices, people changing the way that they are purchasing their consumer goods, only buying exactly what they need, rather than going to luxury goods and it's also changing the cohesion of society in this area as well. They're seeing crime rates increase as more people become unemployed or more people can't find a way to make ends meet. Foodbank, or not Foodbank sorry, I should say CareNet, who we also heard today, have seen almost a doubling of demand for their services and that's from new cohorts of people, people that are on dual income, single parent families that otherwise are employed, but still can't manage to put food on the table, these things are all of great concern. We want to make sure that we find some practical implementable solutions to the cost of living crisis because quite frankly, this is not something that the government wants to talk about. It's not something that they're addressing. They want to talk about just about anything else other than the cost of living but the cost of living is the most important thing to ordinary Australians.
NARELDA JACOBS: Shadow Minister for Finance, Senator Jane Hume, thanks for joining us at Midday.