TOM CONNELL: Australia will rejoin the UN's Green Climate Fund that's headed the country has been to host the world's largest climate summit. The Pledge comes out of the Pacific Island forum next month for the region's leaders will call the Prime Minister to ban new fossil fuel projects. A group of former civic leaders say the region should not support Australia's bid to host the COP 31 summit if new coal and gas projects continue to be funded. Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced the commitment to the Climate Fund saying we have taken onboard feedback from our Pacific partners in the Pacific. Joining me now is Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume for more on this and a few other issues of the day, thanks for your time. What do you make of this move? Is this a wise use of money in the region?
JANE HUME: While the government said that it's only a modest demand, but it's still taxpayer money, isn't it? I mean, there's some problems with the Green Climate Fund, the UN Green Climate Fund that are well canvassed not just by the UN itself and its internal reviewers, but also by those countries that are seeking assistance from it. It's covered in red tape. It's quite hard to get to. Sometimes the money isn't necessarily focused on adaptation to climate change, and it's not entirely guaranteed that it will get to the countries that needed the most. Under the Coalition government, we determined that the best way to approach climate change assistance in the Pacific region, which is our region of responsibility, was through direct assistance rather than via the UN, where we didn't really have any control over the outcomes of that fund. The government's made a decision to go the other way. I would hope that it would then focus, if it was going to put money back into that fund, that it would use that contribution to focus the fund on those outcomes to make sure that the money is getting to where it's needed the most and doing what it needs to do.
TOM CONNELL: So does that mean you're not specifically opposing this, but the government should in some way have strings attached? So that when you say the money gets to where it needs to, are you saying in our region, that we should insist that goes to Pacific nations?
JANE HUME: Well certainly Pacific nations expect Australia to step up on their behalf whether it be with the UN or whether it be through direct assistance. That's why we provided around $700 million in climate finance during the Coalition government to the Pacific region to deal exactly with this issue. Now, if the Labor government believes that can be done a different way, that's fine. But I think that the taxpayer is owed some sort of guarantee that there are eyes in on this fund to make sure that we're not just sort of throwing money away for the sake of goodwill, not knowing what the outcomes are going to be.
TOM CONNELL: Would it be a feather in the cap of the government if we were to host COP 31?
JANE HUME: That's look, I'm in two minds about this. My understanding is that when it was held in Glasgow, it cost hundreds of millions of dollars. It's probably, during the cost of living crisis, it's not necessarily the best use of taxpayer money. I don't think that we need to, to use it to buy votes or any such thing we know quite frankly, Australia should be able to stand on its emissions reductions record. Under the Coalition government, we saw around a 24% reduction in emissions from 2005 levels. We nearly hit the Paris targets about eight years early so we should be proud of our record on emissions reductions. We don't need to do anything symbolic or to try and prove our credentials to the rest of the world.
TOM CONNELL: COP 31's a bit more than symbolic, but look we've got some other topics to get through. The Greens have a push for superannuation to be paid on paid parental leave. Is this an idea you agree with? Is it affordable right now?
JANE HUME; Look, I can see why this is one of those sort of totemic issues. That is a symbolic issue. It does have some hairs on it though. I mean, let's face it, first of all, it is very expensive. At the moment paid parental leave paid by the government with taxpayer money is about $3.2 billion a year. It's expected to go up to about $4.6 in four years time. So multiply that by 12%. You know, you're looking at, in four years time, it's probably about half a billion dollars a year so it doesn't come cheap. That's first and foremost. The other issue is it's actually quite complicated because paid parental leave paid for by the government when it was first set up was done to not be, it's a welfare payment payment. And we've never paid paid parental leave on welfare payments before. Do you then think about paying for it on carers leave, or a carer payments or disability pensions or JobSeeker? I mean, would you pay paid parental leave on JobSeeker, or superannuation guarantee I should say on that. It's actually, it makes things far more complicated than they would seem at first and it was never really set up that way. And finally, it's an administrative issue also for the private sector. Superannuation funds would have to accept that money from the government not knowing whether it's tax free, is it taxable, is it part of your SG contributions or is it contributions-
TOM CONNELL: Well that's just the detail you can sort all that out.
JANE HUME: But that's really important because it does affect all women.
TOM CONNELL: Sure, but I'm, I guess I'm getting back to the principle here so young woman comes up to you in Melbourne and says, 'Jane, is it just too hard to give me superannuation on my paid parental leave? Don't all the stats say I fall behind, I'm gonna have less money than my husband because of that, is that really fair? What's your response?
JANE HUME: And that's, you've got the guts of it there too. I mean what we're talking about is 12 percent on 26 weeks at minimum wage, which is probably about $2500 into your superannuation. Even if you had three kids and six years in your early twenties, extrapolate that out. Is that really going to be the difference between closing the a gender pay gap, closing the gender super gap, I should say, and having a much better retirement outcome. That's true, but then you put the time value of money of that. What's 20 or 30 grand gonna buy you in 40 years time that's, you know, that compared to now? So it's a complicated issue. It's much more complicated than simply just saying, 'oh, isn't that a good idea, won't that do a lot to close the gender super gap'. Because even the Retirement Income Review said that while this is an important symbolic issue to a lot of women, it is in fact not going to be a massive contributor to closing the gender super gap and it comes at a really high price tag.
TOM CONNELL: Well you add a bit of compound interest on that though you might be talking about 20 or 30 grand eventually. You're already sort of just waiting to be the Finance Minister, you've got your hard hat here on Jane and you're saying sounds nice, but-
JANE HUME: You know, I always say I'm financially you know, I'm economically dry as a chip. You know that, you know that Tom. So that's always the way a finance minister is going to approach these things, you would hope because let's face it, it's taxpayer dollars. You want to make sure you're getting bang for your buck.
TOM CONNELL: Feel for your kids growing up trying to get some proper pocket money out of you. But look, I'm sure you taught them the value of a buck. Jane Hume, thank you, talk next week.