Interview with Peter Stefanovic, Sky News, First Edition
25 October 2022
PETER STEFANOVIC: Jane Hume here ahead of today's budget. Jane, good to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. So we've got some early numbers out today deficit for more than half this year before blowing out to pay for election commitments that all head into the next election. So what a story that'll be, but what's your assessment of the numbers out so far?
JANE HUME: Well, I think Pete that this is, this is a good sign that the coalition actually left the budget, and the economy, in an improving position. Tax receipts are up because more people are employed. Unemployment when we left office obviously had a three in front of it and a downward trajectory and lower welfare dependency means that the budget can be in a better space. That was why we were able to reduce the debt by $115 billion before we left office. The real test is going to be for Labor in this budget, whether they can improve on that good economic position, that improving budgetary position, and at the same time, have a plan to reduce inflation back to that two to three per cent range that the RBA works within. So that the RBA doesn't have to do all the heavy lifting and not have one foot on the brake. We also want to see at the same time, a genuine plan for the cost of living relief because that's really the number one issue that's facing Australians right now, whether it's at the grocery checkout, at the bowser or whether they're paying their mortgages. We also want to see a plan for productive capacity and participation in economic growth in the future. That's the only way that you're going to be able to have a constantly improving budget bottom line and a constantly improving economy rather than a slow and steady deterioration. What we're seeing is that tendency for that high taxing high spending budget that Labor is famous for. That's their bread and butter. We would like to see far more restraint. Cutting their cloth to suit the times.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay, just backing up things. So you're not giving the current government any credit for the deficit halving this financial year?
JANE HUME: Well, let's face it, they've been in office for less than six months now. Quite frankly, the economic settings that they were left with put them in a position where they could improve the budget's bottom line. What we want to make sure of now is that they don't fritter that away with a high-spending agenda. We know that that's their natural instinct. Now, much of that spending has been kicked on for a couple of years. So they say look, there's an improvement in the budget bottom line, that's terrific. But look at these declining deficits in previous years. It's so important to build on the good position that they found themselves in rather than fritter it away.
PETER STEFANOVIC: So from what you've seen so far, is that a high-spending agenda?
JANE HUME: Well, we know they went to the election with $18 billion worth of more spending than the coalition would have done. I think that that has increased over time. We've seen announcements of spending in areas that weren't part of their budget commitments, for instance, paid parental leave. Then of course the big ticket item, that $2.2 billion that's going to the suburban rail loop in Victoria on Daniel Andrews's election wishlist. This is an infrastructure commitment with no foundation and a cost-benefit analysis, that hasn't been through Infrastructure Australia. They promised before the election that their spending would be quality spending. But this belies that.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay. Defence spending had to rise though. More should be spent on aged care and health plus paying down the huge debt. How much of that can really be avoided?
JANE HUME: What we hear from Jim Chalmers is that spending keeps going up, but that seems to be raising the white flag on spending. Part of your responsibility as a government is to contain spending, to contain that giant wishlist that you've accumulated over nine years in opposition, and to manage spending going forward. That's what a budget is all about. We know that they want to get rid of those stage 3 tax cuts, but that would be so much worse because they don’t kick in for another two years when inflation is coming down. The cost of living crisis that people are feeling every single day right now at the bowser at the checkout and when they pay their mortgage, well, that's really going to start biting. The worst thing you could possibly do is deny them a tax cut in two years' time, but the most important thing is to keep that tax cut there because that is essentially a break on Labor's spending objectives. They want to get rid of that tax cut so they don't have to work as hard. You work hard, so Labor doesn't have to.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Stimulus may well be needed in two years' time, and it looks as though inflation is going to be about two and a half per cent which is in the RBAs target band by then too. So that would certainly back up your point there. Just a couple of quick points before we go, Jane. It's been announced today plan to build about a million homes in a state, federal, and private partnership. Do you support that plan?
JANE HUME: Well, I haven't seen any of the details of that. Of course, we would encourage more homes to be built. This has always been not just a state government but also a local government imperative, releasing supply for those new building stocks. We want to ensure that we don't have those supply chain issues that push up the prices. We want to understand why it is that superannuation funds need to be brought into this when there is plenty of private sector demand out there. So let's wait and see what this policy looks like before we decide whether it's a good idea or not such a good idea.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Okay, energy prices are forecast to climb between 30 and 50%. Next year, much of that it's claimed down to the ongoing war. Should the government be supporting households with extra funding on this?
JANE HUME: Well, they've already promised $275 off your energy bills within the next two years. That was a promise made before the election. We've heard nothing about it since the election. In fact, we won't even hear Labor say the words $275 out loud. So I think they've already given up on that election commitment, but we want to see genuine help for the cost of living relief for ordinary Australians. It doesn't matter where it is that they're feeling it, at the groceries, at the browsers, when they're paying their mortgage. People are really doing a tough out there, and if Labor is listening they will offer genuine cost of living relief, not in two years' time, not just for childcare. But right now.
PETER STEFANOVIC: Jane Hume the Shadow Finance Minister, appreciate your time this morning. Thank you. We'll talk to you soon.