TOM CONNELL: My next guest is the Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume, who was watching on in interest there as the Aston battle, I suppose, takes shape. Backing anyone at the moment?
JANE HUME: I'm just pleased to see that there are so many good candidates that are putting their hand up for this really important seat. It is an important byelection. Obviously Alan Tudge has been there for a very long time. He had an enormous personal following in the seat. That's a really important seat for us to retain. I'm very pleased to see the number of candidates that are already putting up their hand and particularly the caliber of those candidates and the professional women in particular that are putting up their hand for that seat, so it's very encouraging.
TOM CONNELL: Just has to be a woman, is that the reality for your party?
JANE HUME: No well know if this is the beaut thing about being a Liberal, is it's always a grassroots members decision, and the grassroot members will decide who best represents-
TOM CONNELL: No one’s ever tapped on the shoulder and told?
JANE HUME: The grassroots will definitely- they will make the decision as to who best represents them in Parliament. But I think the members of Aston should be absolutely thrilled that so many good candidates have put their hands up.
TOM CONNELL: Alright, I love this version of politics where it’s always best candidate meritocracy.
JANE HUME: And so it should be Tom.
TOM CONNELL: Unemployment ticking up. Inevitable. What did you make of the figures you saw?
JANE HUME: I think it'll be no great surprise. Times have been tough. Inflation's beginning to kick in. Some of those indicators of consumer confidence, business confidence, they’ve been trending down.
TOM CONNELL: They have to with rate rises right.
JANE HUME: I don't think that should be, that should be a surprise but you know it is a shame. When the Coalition was in Government, our number one objective was to create more and better paying jobs for Australians. When we left government as you know, we had record low unemployment, AAA credit rating, with a credible path back to surplus.
TOM CONNELL: It’s still at 3.7. What was it 3.9, what was it when you left office?
JANE HUME: 3.8.
TOM CONNELL: It was 3.8, there you go. Ok so it’s still very low.
JANE HUME: which was very good and it was on its way back down. But of course now, there are now different approaches. And if you're a business owner, and you're looking at employing new people, often at higher wages, you're looking at some of the costs as new borrowing. These are things that are quite small businesses right now. And that's going to affect their decisions on how many people that they can employ and how much.
TOM CONNELL: No end in sight for the rate rises was the line from Phil Lowe, it's not going to be very comforting is it.
JANE HUME: No and actually it's actually astounding that you would find an Assistant Treasurer that would say the exact opposite thing and intentionally contradicting the RBA Governor undermining the independence of the RBA I find that is quite extraordinarily irresponsible.
TOM CONNELL: You’re not worried about the trajectory the RBA is on? That they might be too hawkish given a missed inflation the first time so they're really determined not to do that again.
JANE HUME: Essentially the RBA has been railroaded into this position because there are two tools that you can use to tackle inflation which is the number one issue in Australia right now. You can use monetary policy or you can use fiscal policy. But at the moment, monetary policy has been left to do all the heavy lifting because there is no sign of fiscal rectitude. There is no sign that Jim Chalmers is going to rein in spending, bring that budget back to a path to credible surplus, at least balance which was taken out of the budget entirely in October. There was no line in the budget that said ‘Our objective is to bring the budget back into balance’ for the first time in 30 years. So of course with an indication like that, with a signal like that, of course the RBA is going to have to do all the heavy lifting doesn't help if the Assistant Treasurer and other Ministers I'm not talking backbenchers, I'm talking Ministers, directly contradicting the RBA, undermining them.
TOM CONNELL: Who are the other Ministers?
JANE HUME: You know that there are other Ministers. Ed Husic has made comments which I think was very unhelpful. In fact, these comments are not just unhelpful but they are downright dangerous.
TOM CONNELL: Is there anyone else I'm missing?
JANE HUME: Well, these are two senior ministers in economic portfolios now I think that that is an outrageous slur.
TOM CONNELL: So inflation's this thing, right, the earlier you get it the better. The Coalition's last budget was held, when we knew inflation was already at 3.5% and that had increased significantly. We knew it was heading higher. Your last budget had a net $17 billion of additional spending. Was that a mistake?
JANE HUME:I think the big mistake was the Labor government, the new Labor government's promise and commitment and fulfilled commitment to spend an additional $23 billion and not only that, but have an additional $45 billion of off balance sheet spending.
TOM CONNELL: Fair enough and you've made that criticism. But what about your last budget? Again, 3.5% was inflation.
JANE HUME: And now it’s 7.8.
TOM CONNELL: It was about to hit the 5.1. Soon after your budget there was a rate rise after you put $17 billion extra into the economy. Was that a mistake?
JANE HUME: Can I tell you the inflation was not the problem of the Coalition Government. We had so many things to deal with and governments have to deal with the problems that they face at the time.
TOM CONNELL: But that was a problem. 3.1 to say that we saw-
JANE HUME: The target band is 2-3% so 3.5% was slightly outside of that band. We have other issues that we are dealing with. This government has actually intentionally gone further and put the fiscal position of the country in such a position that now the RBA has to do all the hard work. But not only that but they-
TOM CONNELL: It’s true that Labor made promises above your budget spending. We've covered that you've criticised that. Fair enough. But can't you say in hindsight, where inflation was already, it wasn't yes out of control, but it did spike massively was going to 5.1% in the next quarter. In hindsight that $17 billion wouldn't have been would have been a better idea not to spend that in the economy.
JANE HUME: That was a budget that unfortunately we didn't get to deliver in government. I wish we had have had a chance to deliver that in government and maybe the inflation outcome would be very different right now. Certainly fiscal rectitude-
TOM CONNELL: But there was some spending measures that were passed from it that set the bar for here's what we're doing before the election, we're not saving we're spending.
JANE HUME: Certainly fiscal responsibility and rectitude has been a hallmark of Coalition governments from time immemorial, you know, time and time again, you've seen Coalition governments coming in and cleaning up the mess of that Labor governments left behind because of this addiction to spending and you can see it happening already again, Jim Chalmers is already foreshadowing a big structural spending budget which flies in the face of the message that we're hearing from the Governor of the Reserve Bank just yesterday.
TOM CONNELL: He’s also said any measures will offset the savings.
JANE HUME: He's made a lot of big slogans, lots of R’s I’ve noticed. Rinse and repeat.
TOM CONNELL: Hang on, you’re saying, here's what he said ahead of it. I’m just pointing out that while there’s spending outlines, there'll be savings to offset with what we're hearing so far.
JANE HUME: That's what we're hearing so far. Are they structural savings or are they just banking some commodity price increases? I would actually genuinely like to see a long term objective of returning the budget back into balance. Which has been the tradition of budgets for the last 30 years and somehow it was flung aside and disbanded in the October budget, which is no surprise.
TOM CONNELL: Jane Hume, we’ve got to leave it there. We’ll talk to you, we usually talk to you each week with your offsider Jenny McAllister. We’ll do that next week.