Interview with Steve Price, Australia Today
24 October 2022
STEVE PRICE: Shadow Minister for Finance, Jane Hume. She's on the line. Thanks for your time. Nice to speak again.
JANE HUME: Good to be with you Steve.
STEVE PRICE: The paid parental scheme was already generous, I believe it was 156,000 And then over and above that, you could not claim it. Is this too generous given the state of the federal budget?
JANE HUME: Well look, the Coalition understands that paid parental leave is a really important scheme. In fact, giving families greater choice and flexibility about how they manage their work and their caring responsibilities is good because it boasts women's workforce participation and it helps build women's economic security. And that's one of the reasons why we made changes to it when we were in government. However, this does seem to be not just a very generous scheme, but one that wasn't promised during the election campaign. In fact, it's brand new spending in this budget, and during a budget in which we know that, you know, we have to make sure that it's a sensible budget, that it's a measured budget, that it's a cautious budget that keeps the spending under control, you know, highly inflationary environment. Well, I think we have to question what the modeling is behind this new paid parental leave spending that would justify its inclusion identifying when we otherwise should be tightening our belts.
STEVE PRICE: So the way this’ll work is, the joint income can be at a level of over 350,000 I think it's 356 and a bit. And both parents are able to take their paid parental leave concurrently. So both can be at home together at the same time. So we don't confuse people and I hear your arguments about workforce participation. They're very valid arguments, but just so we don't confuse people. So if you claim if you're under that 356 threshold, you can claim what is equivalent to the minimum weekly wage as a payment from the government. Is that how it works?
JANE HUME: That is my understanding. But again, this is a new labor policy that we have only just begun to see the details of. It wasn't discussed at all during the election campaign. The policies that the coalition put out, maintained essentially the same number of weeks of paid parental leave at the minimum wage, but made it entirely flexible so that a father and a mother could choose between them, who took what and when. And also it made sure that single parents weren't disadvantaged by not being able to take the debt and partner pay. So that was our policy. This policy seems to be much more expensive and much more generous and at a time when the budget is, you know, should be cautious and should be measured. We want to make sure that everything that we that the government is doing is building on the strong position that the government inherited from the coalition, it's addressing inflation, and it doesn't deteriorate. The budget bottom line because quite frankly, a high spending traditional Labor budget will only make the RBA job much harder next Tuesday when it has to make a decision whether it's going to raise interest rates again.
STEVE PRICE: I note a comment from the treasurer Jim Chalmers yesterday, where he said real wages are expected to remain below inflation for another year, and that he hopes that we would be able to avoid a recession didn't Labor promise wage growth in the election campaign.
JANE HUME: They said that all Australians would be better off under Labor. They had all the answers to the cost of living crisis and they said that would increase.
STEVE PRICE: What happened?
JANE HUME: Well that is a very good question. I think that now they seem like they are shrugging their shoulders and saying it's all too hard. That expenditure is going up on everything from NDIS to defense to health and Medicare to aged care, and they don't seem to have a solution. What we want to see is a plan in this budget, a plan to return inflation to within the RBA has target of two to 3% because, you know inflation is what erodes your wages and erode and adds to the cost of living. And we also want to see an increase in productivity and participation for economic growth and if it's simply just a high taxing high spending, traditional labor budgets, the bread and butter budget that labor has said that though deliverable that will only make things worse, we want to see a cap on the amount of tax to GDP that we use when we were in government. We had a tax of 23.9%. Labor have decided to do away with that. So that would be great, a great disappointment. I think we're in an environment where we're now hearing that economic growth is slowing, that there's notable jumpered unemployment, and then there's this lingering pain in inflation. That simply doesn't seem to be a plan to deal with these issues to deal with the cost of living crisis and to get inflation under control.
STEVE PRICE: Do you suspect as I do that, within the budget speech tomorrow night, the new government will highlight that they are accessing a number of coalition spending schemes across regional Australia where we're on air and a lot of regional stations. Across the country.
JANE HUME: My concern in all of this is that while they seem to be accessing schemes, the schemes that they're accessing, or the ones that they don't like politically. It's a political lens, rather than an economic lens. It's being run over the books and you don't need to look too far. You know, the best example of that is the fact that they have decided to go ahead with a $2.2 billion spend on Dan Andrews Suburban Rail loop in Victoria. When there really isn't a business case that stacks up yet. It hasn't gone to Infrastructure Australia and Infrastructure Australia is an agency that was set up by Anthony Albanese, and he was the one that says that any infrastructure project worth more than 100 million should go to Infrastructure Australia for approval first. Well he seems to have bypassed Infrastructure Australia entirely. Victorian Auditor General said this project doesn't stack up but only returns around 51 cents in every dollar invested. And yet this is where Labor have redirected money that was going to go to infrastructure that was directed for regional Australia, infrastructure that was for the suburbs. And we don't know whether that- I would like to see the business cases that make that stack up.
STEVE PRICE: That 2000, 200 million by the way. I mean, that is a that is designed to get Daniel Andrews reelected in November.
JANE HUME: It was never discussed during the election campaign all of a sudden five weeks out before the Victorian election.
STEVE PRICE: This is where you have a situation where the Victorian opposition has said okay, well if we win the election, we'd like to redirect that money into hospital and health care. And they're told that no, the money is targeted for that project and that project alone.
JANE HUME: That's exactly right. And then it is a situation where after eight years of the Andrews government and more than 12 years since he was health minister as well. We have a crumbling health system in Victoria where people are crying out for help. We don't think that this is a good use of Victorian taxpayers money. We certainly don't think that the Suburban Rail loop is a good use of national taxpayers money.
STEVE PRICE: If I'm sitting in far north Queensland, why the hell am I paying for a train line in Melbourne?
JANE HUME: Well that's right. And that New South Wales is only getting around a billion dollars in assistance in its infrastructure investments. That's our biggest state. It's our most populous state. And yet it's Victoria that seems to be doing well. But just on this one project that Daniel Andrews has put on the top of his priority list.
STEVE PRICE: Thanks for your time. We'll leave that budget speech tomorrow night with great interest. Good on you, Jane.
JANE HUME: Thanks Steve.