Interview with Waleed Aly, Sarah Harris and Liz Ellis, The Project
1 February 2023
WALEED ALY: Jane Hume is the Shadow Finance Minister and co-chair of this committee, she joins us now. So many factors going into the cost of living that is beyond the Government’s control that we know about and are global in nature. How can a committee solve this crisis?
JANE HUME: So that's a really good question Waleed, because before the election, Labor said that they had all the answers to the cost of living crisis that’s facing Australians and in fact, it's only got worse. We're seeing inflation now at 7.8%, that's the highest in three decades. Just yesterday, we saw some retail trade figures come out that show that Australians are adjusting their consumption patterns because of the cost of living. The aim of this committee, is for the Greens and the Coalition to get together, there are Labor members on it too, to speak directly to industry, to peak bodies, to businesses, to consumers, to charity groups and not for profits and to find out from them what their solutions are to the cost of living crisis. Practical, reasonable, implementable policies that will actually genuinely make a difference to Australians on the ground that are really doing it tough right now.
WALEED ALY: Are you saying the government isn't talking to those groups?
JANE HUME: Well, they said that they had all the answers, but in fact they've really done very little to help those organisations, those groups, and everyday Australians that we’re all hearing from right now.There are ways you can deal with the cost of living crisis. If the government won't do it, well this committee will pick up the slack and do what it's not doing.
WALEED ALY: But they are speaking to those groups, I think and I don't know if they ever said they had all the answers. They said they were going to tackle it. They've done a submission for example, on minimum wage, which I think your side of politics opposed. They introduced the price cap when it came to energy. I think your side of politics opposed that as well. It's not as though they've just done nothing on this.
JANE HUME: I think if you speak to Australians, whether they're at the checkout, whether the petrol bowser, whether they're paying their mortgage, paying their energy bills, stations are really feeling the pinch, and they want action right now on the issues that matter to them. So that's why we're hearing from the public bodies, from businesses, from consumer groups, from people that have solutions that aren't necessarily inflation, fuel inflation for your more inflation, that might make a difference to those supply chain issues that are causing frictions, or directly in people's pockets.
SARAH HARRIS: But the inquiry will handle its findings at the end of November. So what are you going to do to help people now?
JANE HUME: Well, that's exactly right. That's why we're in Sydney today. We're going to Melbourne tomorrow, Brisbane on Friday. In fact, we're going to travel right around the country. There's no reason why we couldn't do updates of the committee's findings throughout the year and ideally before the budget. So that the government can have some new ideas a little a few more ideas in their pocket that they can implement straightaway that will make a difference to people's lives today, rather than use time may take months time or in two years time. We can't simply wait for global circumstances to change. We need action today.
WALEED ALY: Sorry, so you're asking the government to respond to suggestions today that are going to be going before a committee that will then think about them and come back and tell us what they think of those suggestions in November.
JANE HUME: Well, there are government members of this committee in fact, we have two government Senators that were there today listening to the evidence, asking questions, that could go back to their colleagues and make those suggestions on their behalf. So this is a great opportunity-
WALEED ALY: So what's the report in November? You're just holding town hall meetings it sounds like, that anyone can attend and the government can walk away with ideas you don't need to report at all.
JANE HUME: I think that diminishes the value of what it is that we're doing Waleed. In fact, this gives an opportunity for anybody to submit to this committee to tell us how the cost of living crisis is affecting them. But more importantly, it gives us an opportunity to hear about the do that proper industry consultation, which some of these industries let's face it, they're telling us has been sorely lacking.
LIZ ELLIS: Matt Canavan is saying this is all about holding the government to account for not bringing down energy prices. Doesn't that show that the motive behind this is political?
JANE HUME: In fact, this was a committee that was put together in conjunction between the Coalition and the Greens. Obviously, we've all got different ideas of how to deal with the cost of living practices, but it's important that we hear the same evidence we also heard today. In fact, my other colleague Dean Smith, did some interrogation of the pull of the charities and not for profit sector. We not only told us that the incidence of demand for their services has increased quite dramatically. In fact of Salvation Army said that one in three people that come through their doors now say that the cost of living has driven them there. But also that they're facing cost of living crisis on their own, you know, whether it be the cost of keeping the lights on in their facilities, refrigerators for food organizations, meal delivery services. So there's lots of things that we can do, lots of practical ways that we can actually make a difference and off the ground.
WALEED ALY: Senator, one thing I've learned in this job is never do an interview at an airport. Thank you very much for your courage tonight. We've got through to the end of this successfully. I appreciate it, thanks very much for your time.
JANE HUME: Good on you Waleed, thanks guys. See you again.