NATALIE BARR: Well, the Reserve Bank has declared Australia is on track to bring inflation under control with higher interest rates allowing the central bank to hold rates at 4.1% for a second straight month. While the Treasurer has welcomed the pause. He's warned the fight is not over. Australians are still under the pump, especially with the threat of future hikes still looming. Let's bring in Home Affairs Minister Clare O'Neil and Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume, good morning. Clare, the Treasurer has ruled out introducing any new cost of living measures. Is this the best approach when we see that the average New South Wales mortgage has gone up $1,600 since rates have been increasing? That is enormous.
CLARE O’NEIL: Yeah, absolutely. Nat And you know, we saw the Reserve Bank put interest rates on hold for the second month running yesterday and that is really welcome relief. I know for households right across Australia it's a really good thing for the country that doesn't make the pain go away and I can tell you that the Albanese Government's first, second and third priority is helping our households manage the cost of living. That's why you saw that unprecedented $13.6 billion investment in the budget, cheaper medicines, assistance with energy prices, cheaper childcare, which will make a really significant difference to people. But look, we are always trying to find ways to ease the pressure on households and we'll continue to do that as we go forward. We've done a lot about this problem and we're listening to the Australian people who are telling us this is the main problem in their lives right now and that's why we're so focused on it.
NATALIE BARR: Yeah, Jane, the Australian people are also seeing some of that being eaten away in childcare in the electricity sector. Do you think now that the Treasurer has a much bigger surplus than he anticipated, that he should be doing more to take the pressure off the people who are suffering here?
JANE HUME: Well, let's face it, Nat, when Anthony Albanese promised the Australian people prior to the election that their mortgages were going to be cheaper, that their childcare was going to be cheaper, that their energy bills were going to be cheaper. That is patently false. We've actually seen 11, 11 interest rate rises under this Labor government and more pain is on the way because inflation is still twice what it should be. What that target band for the RBA is. The Government keeps saying that getting inflation under control is its number one priority and yet everything it does seems to move in the opposite direction. It's still spending more than it ever has before about $187 billion more than just 18 months ago. So, you know, let's face it-
NATALIE BARR: So they shouldn't spend it Jane?
JANE HUME: Just this week, Finder said that 40% of Australian mortgage holders struggled to pay their bills last month, struggled to pay their mortgage. So of course they must do more to get inflation under control. The way to do that is to rein in your spending ambitions, not spend more. And yet that's exactly what they're doing.
NATALIE BARR: So they shouldn't help people. Jane, is that what you're saying? They shouldn't spend more and put more money into the economy?
JANE HUME: Well, putting more money into the economy could potentially make the inflation genie worse. And we know-
NATALIE BARR: Exactly, so what are you suggesting the government does, Jane?
JANE HUME: Well, the government should be reining in its spending ambitions, and yet it seems to be spending more and more. Every single thing that comes through the Senate seems to have an enormous price tag attached to it. This is a government that's having an expansionary budget, not a contractionary budget, which means that the RBA continues to put its foot on the accelerator.
CLARE O’NEIL: Sorry I’m so confused, Jane. I'm hearing Jane say spend more and spend less and it doesn't make any sense. I'm hearing Jane say two completely contradictory things, and that's in one sentence.
JANE HUME: No I’m not saying that Clare and that’s the problem. I actually think you're not listening to the Australian people. You need to bring inflation under control. You can't just talk about it. You have to actually do it. Your budget hasn't done that, it's done the opposite.
CLARE O’NEIL: No we are. We are Jane. That’s why we have invested so much cost of living relief in the Budget. Now Nat, you asked a really good question before about the budget surplus, and let me just quickly explain that to people, because it is really important. This is the first budget surplus that we have had in this country in 15 years. We are responsible managers of the budget. It is very important that we don't actually spend too much in the budget because that will drive inflation and inflation is the main problem that is driving all of the cost of living agony that people are living through right now. So what you're seeing from the government is a really clear, consistent balance, lots of cost of living relief as much as we can afford, but at the same time responsible budget management. So we don't make this inflation problem a lot worse. I think we're getting the balance right.
JANE HUME: Clare, that’s nonsense.
NATALIE BARR: The big problem in this country, that everyone is talking about as well, is housing. Anthony Albanese will reintroduce Labor's flagship housing bill to Parliament for a second time today that aims to build 30,000 homes over five years. But the legislation has already been knocked back by the Greens and the Coalition. If it fails to pass again, that could trigger an early election, probably a year early. Clare Is that what Albo is trying to do?
CLARE O’NEIL: Not at all. Nat, what we're trying to do is build more housing for Australians and I really want the Liberals and the Greens to get the message here. Australians are living through a really problematic housing crisis. The Labor Government is trying to build more houses and they are blocking us and stopping us from doing this. Now this is a $10 billion package that is in the Parliament at the moment, 30,000 homes over five years that will house people who are at risk of long term homelessness, women and children who are fleeing domestic violence, veterans, war veterans who have served their country but are struggling to find housing when they get home to Australia. We want to build homes for these people and the Liberals and the Greens are conspiring to stop us. And if you're listening to this and you are as outraged as I am, contact your Liberal senators, tell them to get with the program. We have got a housing problem in this country. The government is trying to do something about it and the Liberals and the Greens need to get out of the way so we can get on with the job of fixing this.
JANE HUME: Oh Clare, you’re borrowing $10 billion-
NATALIE BARR: Jane, that sounds like a good plan doesn’t it?
JANE HUME: No. The Labor Government are trying to borrow $10 billion in Australians' name, which is going to come with an interest rate price tag of about $400 million a year, plus a management fee of around $100 billion, $100 million a year. So it's going to cost about half $1 billion a year just to repay and then they're going to invest that with the Future Fund. And it's only the returns on that money that will be invested in housing. So there is no guarantee that there will be even one single house built, not one.
CLARE O’NEIL: That's ridiculous.
JANE HUME: Not a guarantee for even one.
CLARE O’NEIL: That's completely ridiculous.
JANE HUME: And yet it's going to cost you about half $1 billion a year just to maintain their borrowing in your name with no guarantee of a single house being built.
NATALIE BARR: Clare, are you doing this on borrowed money?
CLARE O’NEIL: Nat, that is absolutely ridiculous. What we are talking about absolutely is investing $10 billion to build 30,000 homes over five years now-
JANE HUME: Borrowing $10 billion, borrowing it.
CLARE O’NEIL: Jane and her colleagues can put themselves through all sorts of verbal gymnastics about what this is and what this isn't. Let me just play it out.
JANE HUME: Clare, you’re lying to the Australian people. You’re borrowing that money.
CLARE O’NEIL: Clearly, the Labor government wants to build more homes. The Liberals are stopping us. We need them to work with us to try to address this problem in the interest of our constituents. Get with the program Jane. This is a real problem for the country.
NATALIE BARR: It doesn't sound like you're going to come to an agreement anytime soon and that is what the problem is with the double dissolution election. The vote won't be till October. So you guys can smoke a peace pipe maybe before then. We'll talk soon. Thank you very much.