RAF EPSTEIN: We are joined by Jane Hume, part of Peter Dutton’s front bench and one of the Liberal Senators for the great state of Victoria. Jane Hume, good afternoon.
JANE HUME: Good to be with you.
RAF EPSTEIN: And the Coalition's spoken a lot about the weaponisation of rape claims over the last few days. Has anyone in the Coalition raised the invasion of Brittany Higgins' privacy?
JANE HUME: Well, I'm not gonna give a running commentary on all of these matters, ref. And you can understand why what we're trying to seek, though, is some clarity, specifically on differing accounts of misleading the Senate, you know, Katy Gallagher has seems to her account still seems to be at odds at that leaked text message exchange between David Sharaz and Brittany Higgins that was that was published in The Australian last week. In which David Sharaz has reportedly claimed that he gave Senator Gallagher the project interview so that she could and his phrase was get all the contexts because it's so complicated. Now, that leaked text message wherever it came from, and how inappropriate it may be, is now in the public domain. What it contains is different to is that Senator Gallagher said in the Senate to the Senate, as part of a Senate Estimates. Now misleading the Senate is a really big deal. It's a really big deal. We want to make sure that there is consistency in what it is that Senator Gallagher said, and what it is that actually happened.
RAF EPSTIEN: So you've made the point. You think she's misled the Senate and I am not actually asking you about that. If you want to ask questions or say Katy Gallagher has misled the Senate, that's separate to my initial question. Does anybody in the Coalition care about where those texts were leaked from?
JANE HUME: Well, of course, Raf. It's entirely inappropriate that they were leaked. But the fact is, they have been there in the newspaper, they're in the public domain. And now they are sending a message that is inconsistent to what it is that we've been told. Now, that is really the only thing that we are capable of pursuing in the Senate. Whether the Senate has been misled or not.
RAF EPSTIEN: This is about people's performance, I guess in public life. I'm curious to know why, if the Coalition wants to pursue this and look, political parties pursue issues all the time. Nothing wrong with that. But I am very curious why no one in the Coalition ever says this must be having a terrible impact on Brittany Higgins, or it's really terrible that someone's private phone messages have been leaked, but important questions were raised. Do you think that is something that anybody in the Coalition should ever raise when you're attacking Labor over this?
JANE HUME: Raf, there are so many bad things about this entire event. It's hard to know where to begin. It's like watching a Greek tragedy unfold. There are no winners here. And of course, of course, this must be traumatic for Ms Higgins, but it's traumatic for a lot of other people as well. And now we want to make sure that we understand exactly what has gone on because it is some years after the fact and we have conflicting stories.
RAF EPSTEIN: There's conflicting stories from inside your government. After Brittany Higgins raised her concerns, people inside the government that you're a part of, there were questions asked. Phil Gaetjens ask those questions. We have never seen that report. Do you think it should be released?
JANE HUME: Of course, the inquiry was disbanded. And it was disbanded intentionally because the police made it very clear that any findings of that inquiry would potentially prejudice the case.
RAF EPSTEIN: But just if it wasn't finished, that doesn't change, whether or not you're willing to ask the question.
JANE HUME: You're asking to release the findings of a report that doesn't exist. It was a findings of an inquiry that was seized.
RAF EPSTEIN: So you don't think you should be released?
JANE HUME: Well, there's nothing to release Raf.
RAF EPSTEIN: We might make queries about when people heard things you might have asked queries about who emailed who, if you’re so keen for transparency
JANE HUME: The inquiry was disbanded. There is still so many things going on at the moment and you know that. I mean, there are processes currently looking at these issues. There’s an inquiry into the criminal trial and that's partly because of the public commentary around it.
RAF EPSTEIN: But there's nothing that Phil Gaetjens gathered, that's going to have any impact on an inquiry in the ACT about a criminal trial. If you're keen for transparency, isn't it hypocritical to demand answers from labor, but not be okay with us finding out what happened inside your government?
JANE HUME: Hang on. Can we be very clear that what we're asking for from Senator Gallagher is to clarify what that what she told the Senate. That's all. Whether she has misled the Senate. What you're asking for what you're asking for, though, is to see the results of an inquiry that didn't proceed, and it didn't proceed, because there were criminal investigations
RAF EPSTEIN: Well you're either interested in transparency or not, no?
JANE HUME: Well, I think that it's false equivalence. Of course, we're interested in transparency. But if there is a criminal proceeding underway, well, then surely you don't want whatever the parliament is doing to prejudice that.
RAF EPSTEIN: Jane Hume is with us. She is a part of Peter Duttons frontbench, I will get to calls and texts in a moment. Jane Hume, let's turn to the economy, which clearly is going to have a much bigger impact on more people. In your mind, what's the biggest impact? What's having the biggest impact on inflation right now? Is it prices or wages?
JANE HUME: Well the RBA governor was pretty explicit about the areas of the economy that he was concerned about. He said, It was service price inflation that was driven by both global factors but also domestic factors as well. He said household spending and the growth in labour costs. That was what was driving inflation. He said that, you know, at the aggregate level, that wages growth is consistent with inflation returning to target but he said provided that trend, productivity growth picks up so he was really talking about productivity as the secret source that allows for wage rises without inflation occurring. And I think that that was the real message that came out of the interest rate rises last week. Now, of course, that's going to fall on deaf ears to thousands and thousands of Australians that are really doing it tough, that last interest rate rise has pushed a lot of people over the edge, it's now costing an additional $22,000 on a mortgage of around 750 50,000. That's not the sort of money you find on the back of a couch. So we can make grand statements about what the drivers are. But the real issue is what is it that you're going to do to bring inflation back down?
RAF EPSTEIN: Sure. But then the answer to what you do comes from what you think the problem is, and there's nothing wrong with quoting the Reserve Bank Governor, but I don't quite understand just what does the Coalition believes is the biggest driver of inflation is the problem wages, or is the problem prices?
JANE HUME: Well, the problem is aggregate demand Raf. That's what drives inflation. And that can be driven by a number of things that can be driven by government spending, for instance. So if governments continue to spend, and they spend in a way that is expansionary rather than contractionary, that can add to inflation and that was our concern with the budget.
RAF EPSTEIN: Well you just quoted the Reserve Bank Governor, he doesn't think that's a problem.
JANE HUME: Well no, that's not what he said. In fact, he said that the budget didn't do anything to bring down inflation. But you know, let's face it, if the government doesn't do what it can to bring down inflation, well then the RBA has to do all the heavy lifting. If the government raises the white flag and says that's not my problem, well, then the RBA is forced to ratchet up interest rates further. And that's really what we've seen and the audacious, audacious hypocrisy, dare I say, of the Treasurer, saying, well, Philip Lowe needs to explain himself well know, quite frankly, Philip Lowe, actually paused interest rates prior to the budget, then realised that the budget did nothing to bring down inflation and so it was forced.
RAF EPSTEIN: I actually think he used the words deflationary but I don’t want to quibble about the Reserve Bank Governor, do you think it's a problem? The wage rise that was given to the bottom fifth of workers?
JANE HUME: Well again, the RBA governor said that wage rises aren't a problem, so long as they are accompanied by productivity growth, and that is the critical, that is the secret source that's critical to the Australian economy. And if you haven't got a plan for productivity, and Labor has quite clearly said that they haven't because they've projected productivity going backwards in the budget. If you haven't got it planned to improve productivity well then those wage rises will potentially be inflationary. And of course, inflation is, you know, that is, as the Treasurer said himself, the dragon you've got to slay. It’s public enemy number one. It's the thief in the night that, you know, that erodes your savings, that reduces your purchasing power, that reduces real wages. It is the number one issue and is the ultimate driver of the cost of living. If you can't get inflation down. Well, then you haven't got a plan to tackle the cost of living for all Australians.
RAF EPSTEIN: The Voice. Polling for the Yes case for the Voice has dropped underneath 50% In the first significant poll the results poll in The Age, but on the I wanted to ask you a specific question on the indigenous communities support for the Yes case. Most Significant indigenous organisations calling for a Yes. Any poll of the indigenous population shows that they are for the Yes case, it was the biggest consultation really of indigenous people that produced the Uluru statement from the heart. Do you think they are significant? Is that significant to you that there's a significant call for Yes from the First Nations community?
JANE HUME: Absolutely. And, you know, it won't come as a surprise if I tell you that I very much support constitutional recognition-
RAF EPSTEIN: Different to the Voice, though.
JANE HUME: For Indigenous Australians. Our problem is not with constitutional recognition. And, in fact, quite frankly, if that was the direction that the Albanese government was moving, it would have the Coalition’s support.
RAF EPSTEIN: Jane Hume, I’m going to interrupt. My question wasn't about constitutional recognition at all. I'm just asking, as someone who's prosecuting the No case, because that’s Shadow Cabinet’s position, how do you feel prosecuting the No case when most official organisations from First Nations community, most polls from the First Nations community show overwhelming support for the voice? How do you grapple with that?
JANE HUME: Well again, our problem with the Voice is not the goodwill. In fact, my concern is that the government is exploiting Australians' goodwill, because all of those Aboriginal organisations, not one of them is actually able to explain to the Australian people how the voice is going to work. We don't know whether it can make representations to to, to the RBA was one example that was used. Would it be able to make representations to the on the appointment of judges made by the executive?
RAF EPSTEIN: That’s just mischief making isn’t it?
JANE HUME: These are questions that we have asked and they haven't been answered. Now, if the government were genuine-
RAF EPSTEIN: On questions asked and not answered Jane Hume. All of your points there are about problems with the Voice that you perceive. And again, that wasn't my question. I'm interested in how you as someone, and that, and again, nothing wrong with pushing the No case. I'm just interested in how the Shadow Cabinet grapples with the fact that most indigenous organisations and most indigenous people don't want just recognition. They want the voice. How do you engage with that point?
JANE HUME: Well that’s most certainly not all and you know that too. My position is probably the same as many, many Australians. My heart has always said yes to this. Let's grasp the opportunity for that constitutional recognition. But the problem is my head and my gut say no to what is being proposed here. And no matter what the potential benefits, I can't support a poor proposition and I can't vote for what is quite clearly a bad law. You can't tell me how it's going to work. I can't change it later, no one can change it later. If you can't tell me how it's gonna work and if you can't change it later, and risks of a very well functioning constitution now that served Australians well for over 100 years. Well, that's not a good enough reason to- goodwill aside -, it's not a good enough reason to change the Constitution to add an entire new chapter into the Constitution and I think Australians are beginning to wake up to that, that adding an entirely new chapter to the Constitution is a big deal. And it can't be done unless you can explain how it's going to change things.
RAF EPSTEIN: We’ll get you back in Jane Hume and talk more I'm sure about the referendum looks like it's still gonna go ahead and October thank you for your time.
JANE HUME: Great to be with you.
RAF EPSTEIN: Jane Hume Liberal Senator for Victoria.