TOM CONNELL: Joining me live is Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume, thanks for your time, it's holding up pretty well you'd have to say overall, this is the first little uptick but, a lot of rate rises and maybe we've had the last one as well.
JANE HUME: Well, let's face it, the Government inherited a pretty strong economic position from the previous Government. This is the first time that we've seen unemployment tick back up. That is only a small amount, but it equates to around nearly 25,000 full time jobs. We did see an increasing number of part time jobs too that compensates for that. I think more concerning, though, is the combination of a rising unemployment rate, very sticky inflation that's remaining stubbornly high, double that 2 to 3% band that the RBA wants to see, as well as the economy, growth shuttering to a halt. I think that the concern here is because we haven't seen an economic plan that will bring down inflation that's coming from the Government, that it's all been turned over to the RBA to do that heavy lifting, that potentially, we're now seeing pundits talk about a recession or the prospects of a recession that we don't have to have.
TOM CONNELL: We'll see if that happens. I mean, on the flip side, because you sort of said that, you know, it’s the Government's fault for not doing more. Australia started increasing rates later, when we haven't done it by as much and yet, our economy seemed in better health overall. I mean, if we do avoid a recession and unemployment doesn't go above 4.5%, you can't say that's not a good result overall compared to some of our other partners as well.
JANE HUME: Except for the fact that we've still got these very high sticky inflation, that's above that, particularly core inflation is above that 6% band.
TOM CONNELL: But that last quarterly figure was 0.8%
JANE HUME: That's, that's a real concern, though. That high inflation because that erodes your purchasing power, it reduces your standard of living and eats away at your savings. That's what reduces your standard of living and if a Government has one responsibility it is to improve the standard of living for all Australians, and that's where the Government seems to have failed in its mission, because it doesn't have an economic plan that specifically tackles inflation.
TOM CONNELL: We're looking at the Labor Party Conference, a bit of talk around tax reform. We'll see what comes of it, I feel like both parties mentioned it occasionally and your leader Peter Dutton has spoken about it and then nothing seems to come of it. Do you think the Australian Taxation system needs a major overhaul?
JANE HUME: Well, certainly it can become more efficient because a taxation system that isn't efficient is essentially a disincentive to growth, is a disincentive to aspiration, to starting businesses. So it's important to get those settings right. We want a fair taxation system certainly, but we also want one that doesn't discourage economic opportunity, grasping opportunities, because that's the only way you can grow.
TOM CONNELL: Is it though, do you think it needs a major overhaul? Or is it tinkering, in your view?
JANE HUME: Well, there's been a number of tinkering measures that have been done in the past. You look at say the Henry Tax Review and just pulling the eyes out of the Henry Tax Review and saying, the only thing we're going to do is put in a mining tax and put in a carbon tax. That's not that's not economic reform. Indeed, simply just you know, tackling and, you know, bashing the top end of town and inverted commas with something like a super profits tax, which is of course, is what the CFMEU want.
TOM CONNELL: Not that they’re going to get their way from what I can see.
JANE HUME: Well, I would hope not because let's face it, this is just a sectional interest. Having a crack at a part of its own union that has drifted away from the construction side versus the mining side and fighting a sort of a class warfare at the same time, ostensibly to put money into housing but let's face it that's a furphy.
TOM CONNELL: Well they build houses.
JANE HUME: Well that is a self perpetuating prophecy there, but are they building houses? I mean, already the Government's promised, well first it was a million new houses and then the industry said that they failed in that mission, and now they've pulled 1.2 million new houses out of the air.
TOM CONNELL: Is that a better figure? Would that be a good amount?
JANE HUME: Well, let's see them deliver on the first million. I mean, they failed to do that, I think I've spoken to you before.
TOM CONNELL: Well they can’t have failed to do before they've started.
JANE HUME: Well they said, they promised over a year ago since that time, we've actually seen construction going backwards. We know new house home approvals have reduced by 6.6%.
TOM CONNELL: But that’s like saying five games in the AFL season, a team hasn't won the flag because they are one wins and four losses, they haven't failed yet. They might be off to a slow start.
JANE HUME: It's a very slow start indeed and quite frankly, the National Cabinet that occurred this week has failed in its mission because unless.
TOM CONNELL: (Interrupts) Failed already?
JANE HUME: Well, unless Anthony Albanese can actually hold the feet to the flame of those Premiers to change the zoning laws and to open up new supply well, how on earth.
TOM CONNELL: (Interrupts) Well they are all agreeing, New South Wales Minister this week was like yeah, if councils don't play ball, and there's nimbyism we will overrule them. Isn't that the right sort of noises we need to hear?
JANE HUME: Well actually, the noises we're hearing from Victoria are quite the opposite. Dan Andrews is rubbing his hands together saying he's gonna get a new slice of that $3.5 billion that has been promised but there are no benchmarks. There's no KPIs set.
TOM CONNELL: (Interrupts) There are, they have got to build their fair share of the houses, they don't build their share of the million and then if they do that above and beyond that's when they get the bonuses, they're the KPIs.
JANE HUME: Let's take that $2 billion that was pulled out of thin air only a couple of weeks after the Budget to invest in social housing. Last week at the Cost of Living Committee, we did some inquiries from Treasury as to what all that $2 billion will be invested in and how we're going to see the results. There is no responsibility for the Commonwealth to report on exactly how many social houses are built and by when and yet there is a responsibility on the Commonwealth to expend that money within two years. Why is it that we are giving the states money to do business as usual. There should be tighter KPIs, there should be guard rails.
TOM CONNELL: (Interrupts) Worth noting this as a separate element. I did want to ask you about this, though. You spoke about efficiencies of the economy. The Coalition brought in a two tiered tax rate for small business and big business. Is that working Well Do you think?
JANE HUME: Well in an ideal world we would have brought down corporate tax for all and that was what we pushed for.
TOM CONNELL: So is that still a policy that you'd bring down, that you'd actually level it out and have all company tax at 25%?
JANE HUME: Well, that's not a policy that the Coalition has discussed in this term of Parliament yet, I would say as a matter of principle, you want a simpler, fairer tax system. So lower taxes are part of that.
TOM CONNELL: (Interrupts) Two tier company tax isn't simple, is it?
JANE HUME: Well, certainly a lower, simpler and fairer tax system would have as consistent a tax rate as possible.
TOM CONNELL: Well that's not a set policy, but it remains a principle and you may or may not take that to the next election?
JANE HUME: Well, I think we will always take to the next election, lower, simpler, fairer taxes. That's certainly not what we are seeing from Labor. Its guardrails, its principles and that's the most important thing when you are developing policies. I'm not going to, you know, freelance on what policies we might be discussing on television. I'd like to make some announcements, but I'm not going to Tom.
TOM CONNELL: Well you’re welcome to. They’re giving me the 30 seconds but if you make a policy announcement now I reckon they’ll make it a minute.
JANE HUME: I will not be making a tax policy announcement on Sky News, but thank you for the offer. What I will say is I will commit that the Coalition will always implement lower, simpler and fairer taxes, unlike the Labor Party.
TOM CONNELL: It’s a cool, windy bleak day out there in Melbourne. It might be even bleaker, I guess if you do that announcement, so I’ll let you off this time. Senator, thank you for your time.