Panel with Natalie Barr and Amanda Rishworth, Sunrise
28 June 2023
NATALIE BARR: Joining me now, Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth and Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume Good morning to both of you. Amanda, consumer spending is slowing. We know that's the whole aim of this, but how do we know when the RBA has gone too hard on interest rates?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Well, look, the RBA is independent and they need to obviously work carefully through the economic data. What the Government can do is make sure that our budget works for people and that's exactly what we've done through our cost of living measures, through our cheaper childcare, our improvements to paid parental leave, whether it's our cheaper medicines or Medicare, our job is to support people with cost of living as well as investing in productivity into the future. So our budget is working alongside, are focusing on people to make sure that the worst of the cost of living is support is helped with people, but of course not adding to that inflation problem. Also
NATALIE BARR: So, Jane, last month, almost 900 businesses reported insolvency or restructuring. That's the largest in seven years. Are they kind of collateral damage?
JANE HUME: Well, there's not just a cost of living crisis, Nat, but there's a cost of doing business crisis as well. I know that when I speak to businesses, they talk to me about their energy prices. You know, energy bills, their rents are going up. And also, of course, the cost of supplies is going up, too. That's being passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices. If the government was really doing its job, it wouldn't just be focused on delivering little bits of cost of living relief to certain cohorts here and there, but it would be controlling its spending, bringing down the aggregate demand in the economy. That sends a signal to the RBA that it doesn't need to keep pushing up interest rates to bring inflation down because bringing inflation down is the only way that you can give consistent cost of living relief to all Australians in a sustainable way. That's what we're looking for from the Government right now. But it doesn't seem like they have a plan to do that. My concern and I know the concern of many economists is that potentially we're seeing the economy shuddering to a halt right now and moving towards a potentially a recession that we don't have to have. If the government did a little bit more of the heavy lifting, we could avoid that recession and we could avoid that recession and reduce interest rates at the same time by making sure that we haven't got one foot on the brake and one foot on the accelerator.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Jane, that's just not true. Jane, that's just not true. We are absolutely being responsible in our budgeting a number of our measures and including our energy relief, puts downward pressure on inflation.
JANE HUME: Amanda, that’s nonsense. Energy prices are going up in every single state.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: No we are delivering a surplus and banking much more of the revenue than you did.
JANE HUME: There is not one Australian out there that feels better off today than they did a year ago.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: Please don’t suggest that we’re not being responsible.
NATALIE BARR: Jane, let's just let Amanda make her point there.
AMANDA RISHWORTH: So what I was saying was that it is about banking more revenue to make sure that we're not adding to inflation. That's exactly what our government has done over two budgets. Including the surplus that you mentioned Nat. So, Jane, we are taking the responsible action, helping with cost of living at the same point as not adding to inflation.
NATALIE BARR: But Amanda, I guess people are going to see this plus, they know that the economy is in trouble. 900 businesses going on that this is people's lives here, and they're going to think, Why can't the government help me?
AMANDA RISHWORTH: We'll look obviously we're doing what we can to help and we've announced a range of measures in the budget including measures for small business and so we've got we're doing what we can, including, as recently announced a $2 billion into housing because we know that that is incredibly important, but we are taking that responsible pathway not to add to inflation and so we are doing the two things at the same time to make sure that we're not adding to inflation pressures in the economy. But we've outlined a range of measures including for small business, that we are there helping them when we can well you know,
NATALIE BARR: Well you know, people at home are just shaking their heads and thinking I'm hearing inflation, I'm hearing cost of living crisis and I can't pay my bills. So it's a big mess. Thank you very much for giving your point of view. We'll see you next week.