Polliegraph, Drive with Raf Epstein on ABC Radio Melbourne
30 January 2023
RAF EPSTEIN: Shadow Finance Minister, one of the Liberal senators for Victoria and part of Peter Duttons team Jane Hume, thanks so much for joining us.
JANE HUME: Good to be with you.
RAF EPSTEIN: Happy New Year because it's not February.
JANE HUME: And to you too. It's exciting to nearly get back to Parliament. We're back next week.
RAF EPSTEIN: Exciting, question time. Okay, let's start with let's start with the Treasurer's essay. If I can just read one quote, because I'm very aware most of us have read it. I've made my way through the 6000 words, but here we go. It's clear now the problems are not so much markets as poorly designed markets. The Treasurer writes carefully constructed markets are a positive and powerful tool built in partnership through the efforts of business, labour, and governments. They're still the best mechanism we have to efficiently and effectively direct resources. What do you make of that? Is that anything other than an anodyne statement about the way the market works?
JANE HUME: Well, it's interesting to say that you know, markets are really important and yet then advocate for massive intervention into them. This whole 6000 word essay and you know, it is a very long and very detailed essay indeed, is fine, except for the fact that I don't actually think Australians are really I've been crying out to listen to Jim Chalmers manifesto. They're crying out for action on the cost of living. Jim said that he was kept up at night wanting to finish this essay on a public holiday. Well, I think Australians would be a little bit more interested, if Jim Chalmers was sitting up at night wondering how to help them on the cost of living.
RAF EPSTEIN: Can’t he do both, can’t he write an essay and a budget?
JANE HUME: I think that he's going to have to write both the essay and a budget because Australians are crying out for action on the cost of living, not necessarily the Treasurer's own theory of political economy. What they're looking for is a plan to deal with inflation and a plan to deal with energy bills, a plan to deal with the cost of living, a plan to fulfill those broken promises to Australians. Because, you know, we're now experiencing the highest inflation rate in 33 years.
RAF EPSTEIN: You said massive intervention, the Treasurer calls for massive economic intervention. I didn't see that in the essay. Can you point me to where in the essay that he's talking about massive economic intervention?
JANE HUME: Now that's not fair. You're going to have to make me go to the filing cabinet because I haven't got it in front of me. But I do think that you know, Bob Hawke, and I was gonna say Paul Keating, but that's not fair. But I was gonna say Bob Hawke is probably rolling in his grave right now because he does shun some of those, you know those economic imperatives on productivity and on growth reforms that were so fundamental to those progressive years under the Labor Party. My real concern is the fact that there are now two in three household mortgages that are set to off on fixed or variable interest rates this year.
RAF EPSTEIN: We’ll come to that, but I'm just gonna try once more Jane Hume, and we'll come to the economy in a moment. You've just made some sweeping statements about the Treasurer's essay, which is fine. I just want to talk about shunning productivity and massive economic interventions. Is there any examples you can cite?
JANE HUME: As I said, I haven't got the essay sitting in front of me Raf, so I think that's a little unfair. But the most important thing here is that this is a grand essay on political economy and fine, no problems. You can do that in your spare time. You can do it while you’re staying up late on the evening of a public holiday, but that's not what Australians are looking for from their Treasurer. Australians are looking for assistance with the issues that are facing them right now. And that's cost of living, the cost of the groceries. They're facing the cost at the bowser, the cost of their mortgages, not you know, some sort of, you know, grand manifesto or thought bubbles about how the political economy should be run. And I think that that's actually a little bit disappointing. Now, just in the past week, the Treasurer confirmed that Labor's promised cost of living relief won't be delivered now, until at least the next financial year. You know, the Treasury decided to bring back Parliament at the end of last year to pass legislation that we're now hearing won't impact bills until 2024. So the priority really has to be about-
RAF EPSTEIN: They didn’t say that. They said they'd take the edge off it. They wouldn't come down substantially. They didn't say there's no impact until 2024.
JANE HUME: I think you're hard pressed to find a Victorian that’s seen their energy bills come down since that legislation was passed. And in fact, we're now hearing from the AEC that the cost relief that comes from any changes won't be felt for at least a year.
RAF EPSTEIN: And now I want to get into the energy prices, which we will,I'll ask you a specific question about that. But let's just go to a call. Tom's got I think a more general economic question, then, of course, everyone's seeing their energy bills go up. But Tom, you’re in Elsternwick, what do you want to ask?
CALLER: Do you believe that wages should increase according to the CPI? And if you say yes, then what the previous government has done? Because the wages were going down staggering down, for the last time they were in government and why they haven't done anything. Now they’re in government and now they're crying like babies.
RAF EPSTEIN: There's a comment and a question there, Jane Hume up to you to respond to the comment. Do you support wages going up with inflation?
JANE HUME: Well, Tom makes a good point. Now, real wages were sluggish for the last decade or so but they were going up, there is no doubt about it. And in fact, one of the greats promises of the Labor government was that you would feel the change of government in your hip pocket, you would feel it in your bank account, that you would feel your wages rising. But of course, in fact, now we're hearing that because inflation is going up at a far greater rate. In fact, people's real wages are going backwards.
RAF EPSTEIN: Are you saying the high rate of inflation is the Government’s fault?
JANE HUME: I'm saying that the government could do more to address the issue of inflation certainly and it should be a priority. It should be a priority in their budget. A priority in their budget should be bringing the budget back to balance because that means that the RBA doesn't have to do the heavy lifting. In fact, there is nothing in the budget that says that there was an objective of bringing it back to balance for the first time in as long as anyone can remember.
RAF EPSTEIN: You mean their previous budget?
JANE HUME: Yes, their first budget. There was not a single page that said ‘Our objective is to bring the budget back into balance so that the RBA doesn't have to do all the heavy lifting.
RAF EPSTEIN: Well mind you, you said it but you didn’t do it. So what's the point of saying it?
JANE HUME: Well, it's always been an objective of a budget. You always aim throughout a budget to bring the budget back into balance. The government isn't even doing that. They’ve given up. They’re waving the white flag.
RAF EPSTEIN: Something like two thirds of it came before COVID. Two thirds of the billion, was before COVID came along. You might have said it but you didn't do it.
JANE HUME: In fact, we actually brought the budget back into balance at the end of 2019, from 10.
RAF EPSTEIN: Talking about the debt. Not the annual cost.
JANE HUME: Hang on, you're confusing about a balanced budget with debt Raf.
RAF EPSTEIN: No I didn't mention a balanced budget. I just mentioned the ever increasing debt under the Coalition for almost a decade that went up most of it before COVID. And then you sort of somehow want them to act on it. Don’t you need to be pushed on your record?
JANE HUME: In fact, we were chipping away at the debt as much as we possibly could. And the first step of that is balancing the budget. We did that for 2019. And in fact, one of the reasons why we could respond to COVID in the way that we could, in as generously as we could, was because that budget was back into balance. Now we're seeing the Labor Government waving the white flag. They don't even want to do that. And yet that should be the first job of a government is to make sure that there is enough in the coffers to deal with the next crisis and we know that there will be another crisis. There always is.
RAF EPSTEIN: 1300222774 is the phone number Jane Hume is a significant part of the opposition leader Peter Dutton is finance team. She of course, wore a number of similar finance related hats when the Coalition was in government if you have a question for her 1300 222774 is the phone number. Jane Hume, I'm going to ask you a really broad question. Maybe I shouldn't, but you did write the election review so I don't want to re-prosecute the election. But what would you say you're doing differently? Presumably when a party loses you go right? We'll do some stuff differently. What would you say you are doing differently as an opposition in terms of the lessons you learned from the loss?
JANE HUME: I think that when you're in government, there are so many immediate things that have to be dealt with. But an election loss and certainly a review into an election loss allows you to take a step back, give yourself a bit of a helicopter view. Assess information from all parts of the party, whether it be the membership, whether it be you know, the campaign team, whether it be the parliamentary team and right around the country too, because different states have different issues. And it's an opportunity to reassess, recalibrate, and rebuild. And that's exactly what the Liberal Party needs to do. You know, we are one of the two parties of government in this country. It's very important that we are in a position where we can govern effectively. And if we're not in government, that we can be an effective opposition, because that's how the Westminster system works at it's most effective. We want to make sure that we're not just effective opposition, though, but that we are ready to govern next time at the next election. To do that. We want to make sure that we're more reflective of the people we wish to govern. And that our policies are well calibrated to their priorities as well as aligned with our values.
RAF EPSTEIN: A follow up to that that I think runs with your answers, a question from Karen in Lilydale. Peter Dutton and Susan Lee come across as negative and opposing everything. How will this help the LNP win back seats?
JANE HUME: I think that's a really tough question. Because, you know, the problem with opposition of course is it is your job to scrutinise the work of governments. And, and by necessity, you must occasionally oppose those policies that you don't agree with all those decisions made, that you can abide by, and so that's the role of opposition no matter who is in opposition. However, I don't think that that is fair. In fact, we've had a number of positive policies already developed by the opposition. You know, for instance, the pension work bonus, you know, that was something that we came up with just five weeks into opposition. The idea that we could allow older Australians to come back to work to assist with their cost of living issues, but also to fill those labour gaps. So it's, I think it's really important to calibrate it, you know, we need to hold the government to account that's our job, but at the same time, we want to present a credible and positive alternative that people can look to I say, ‘yes, I can see my values and my priorities reflected in what it is that the opposition is saying’.
RAF EPSTEIN: Hang on a tick. Jane Hume is with us. Liberal Senator for Victoria. Get on to issues like the voice and other issues besides and if you've got to call 1300222774. For some traffic first with Dan Bailey.
RAF EPSTEIN: Jane Hume is with us. Liberal senator for the State of Victoria. If I can Jane Hume just a comment or two and I, forgive me we might skip past the comments, but white flag which is something you mentioned the Liberal Party ran up the white flag on wages energy sustainability housing, and the list goes on. But there is a question and this goes a bit to the essay. So I do want to get to the Voice Jane Hume, so if I can keep this one brief, but would Jane - this is a text question. Would Jane Hume embrace a wellbeing budget? It is something that's, the words are there in the budget. Would you keep that if you were to win the next election, the wellbeing element of the budget?
JANE HUME: I haven't seen a wellbeing budget well executed in any other country. It does seem to me to be a little bit of a poor excuse for not doing what a government is tasked to do, which is to manage in the background of an economy and let society flourish. A wellbeing budget does tend to emphasise things that potentially governments shouldn't necessarily have a hand in.
RAF EPSTEIN: A question about the voice which I realise is a long way away. But while you were in government, we had what is clearly the most extensive consultation with First Nations Australians. Took a large number of years. The biggest groups and the most meetings came up with the idea of a voice enshrined in the Constitution. That's a powerful argument to embrace that idea isn't it? If one of the biggest consultations we've ever had, if not the biggest consultation we've ever had, they've said please give us a voice. Would you say no to that?
JANE HUME: Well, nobody - well, I'm sorry I should say the Liberal Party, isn't saying no to that. We've been dealing with this issue for some time because my side of politics has said that there should be some sort of constitutional recognition of indigenous trends. We've been saying that for over a decade now. And those consultations occurred because we wanted to find the most appropriate way of doing that. now,
RAF EPSTEIN: But they do want more than recognition. They want an active voice. It's more than just a line in the Constitution.
JANE HUME: I will agree with Anthony Albanese on one thing, and that is that the Uluru Statement of the Heard is a very big hearted and generous document. It's an opportunity for extraordinary reconciliation and one that we should take very seriously. But it is also not one that when implemented comes without implications. So while it's very important, that is considered, we also want to consider the implications and that's why we're having this referendum and why it's so important that we make sure that there is enough information out there for people to make a decision because there are implications.
RAF EPSTEIN: There's thousands, well not thousands but there's hundreds of pages on government websites about the Voice. Do you really think there isn't enough detail? Because there's, I mean, I got lost in the detail looking through it online.
JANE HUME: You're right, there is so much detail out there, but there isn't a model and that's really the problem and the questions that are being asked are perfectly reasonable, perfectly reasonable people are asking perfectly reasonable questions. And if this debate is to occur in an adult way, we would want to make sure that it can be discussed, you know, without vitriol, without accusations without accusing people of either ignorance or deliberate or willful misinformation or bigotry or any of those things. This is a big conversation and it's important one to have properly, which is why we want the government to take the lead and provide that clear information to Australians. Some of them are basic questions. Some of them are complicated questions.
RAF EPSTEIN: Just to clarify, and I realise that, I don't know where this is at in Shadow Cabinet. But are you saying for Jane Hume Liberal Senator, you won't decide until you see legislation that spells out explicitly what the Voice will be and how it will work because the government don't want to put the legislation I just want to clarify what you would like to see in terms of detail. Do you want to see the laws that would govern the way their body would work or something less than that?
JANE HUME: I've walked into this in a very open minded way. But let me tell you, the first thing that has given me some disquiet, and that is that there isn't even a pamphlet. There isn't even a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ campaign official campaign that's been given equal funding a pamphlet. I mean, a pamphlets are pretty basic ask I would have thought. I mean we've had a pamphlet in every place we haven't had we have we haven't had a referendum without a pamphlet since Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup. This is a very basic way, where households get a sense of what a ‘yes’ model looks like, what ‘no’ looks like and and how they can be better informed with official information, not misinformation not disinformation, with official information about what a referendum means. The fact that this government is denying Australians, just as a basic pamphlet to their households, suggests to me that they don't want to share information now. I don't think that I think that's rather disingenuous.
RAF EPSTEIN: Sorry, I don't understand why pamphlets different to the hundreds of pages of official government information that's already there to me will tell me why the pamphlet is somehow, tell me how those hundreds of pages are denying people information.
JANE HUME: Well, I think it's a bit of a big ask to expect ordinary Australians average Australians that are trying to get on with their lives are busy with everything to go and sift through the hundreds as you said of documents that are available online, to have to sort out which are official which aren't official, what is the model, what isn't the model, what they might want a model to be what they don't want a model to be? That’s an awfully big ask, I think of ordinary Australians, that an official pamphlet will give them an indication of what it is that they're voting for or what it is that they're voting against. And it will come with the government seal that says this is what it's all about. And that stops that misinformation, that disinformation online. I think that there's real opportunity for the government to step up on this.
RAF EPSTEIN: Just a few questions on the text from carrot out to Carolina in the Yallambie, Jane Hume says there was always another crisis. Does the Senator recognise climate change as a crisis, especially after drought fires, floods floods and more floods? Jane Hume, is climate change a crisis?
JANE HUME: I think that climate change is real, whether climate change is a crisis that we face on a daily basis is another question. I think that, you know, certainly it's something that we need to address. Do we need to address it as a crisis in the same way we address a pandemic as a crisis, or the same way we address an economic crisis? Well, I wouldn't think so.
RAF EPSTEIN: Sean in Moorabbin has this question for Jane Hume, does the Liberal Party recognise that to win back government they need to align to contemporary Australian values?
JANE HUME: I do feel that the Liberal Party does need to be better reflective of contemporary Australia and needs to acknowledge the priorities of all Australians in all demographics. And so that's probably a yes and a no answer, isn't it?
RAF EPSTEIN: That’s ok, it’s a general question.
JANE HUME: Yeah, I think that the Liberal Party has so much to offer Australians I think our values are very something that is innate to so many people. You know, choice and personal responsibility and reward for effort and the importance of family and small businesses, so backbones of the fabric of our social fabric and society and economy. All of that is fundamentally important. We probably need to learn how to better apply those values to everyday Australians everyday lives.
RAF EPSTEIN: Very briefly. I know most of you kind of went choosing Katherine Dave's talking about trans people and women's sport. Was that a mistake? Is that the stuff that liberal party needs to not focus on? Does that to that subset of contemporary values?
JANE HUME: In the review-
RAF EPSTEIN: I’m just asking what you think about it.
JANE HUME: Yes, in the review, where a lot of the party members and parliamentarians views were reflected, it was decided that pre-selection should be held by the party members and rather than having those captain's picks, or rather than having those appointments, because party members have a better sense of how their community is best reflected in the person that is it that represents them. So that's the best way to choose candidates. That's the way we've always gone about doing it and it has been the most effective in the past.
RAF EPSTEIN: Peter’s in Albury with a quick one I think on the Voice. Peter, what do want to mention?
CALLER: Just a quick question, if the Australian public vote yes for the voice, and the voice is implemented, how much exactly will it cost? And given we can't afford to pay Medicare NDIS aged care how much is it going to cost to pay these voice members and the huge bureaucracy and advisors that need to accompany them to carry out their duties?
RAF EPSTEIN: Jane Hume.
JANE HUME: Peter, I can't answer those questions because I don't even know what the model of the voice is going to look like at the moment. The Calma Langton review, although had an awful lot of detail; A, we don't know whether that is the exact model; B, there were some options in the model that were proposed there, so we don't know which options are going to be chosen by the government if they do adopt the Calma Langton model; and C, that I don't think there's any costings there. That's really up to the government to tell us what it is going to cost. We do know that referendum themselves are very expensive to undergo. When I was talking before about the pamphlet, one of the reasons why the government said that they didn't want to issue a pamphlet was because they wanted to save money. Yet the AEC issue issues a pamphlet on how to vote. You know how to use the electoral system to every household at every election already, so it's really not an additional cost. They're already doing this. So cost is one issue that no one's really brought up Peter. So there's a good point.
RAF EPSTEIN: Two quick final questions, one on school, but before I get to that someone does want to know if you've read Nikki severs book ‘Bulldozed’. Have you read it?
JANE HUME: I haven't read Nikki's book. I feel really bad about that. I've read a couple of them sort of post election analysis but obviously for the Review, but ‘Bulldozed’ unfortunately came out after I'd finished the Review.
RAF EPSTEIN: You might read it for your own enjoyment and I had been asking people this all day, although I haven't while, we've had this conversation. So if I can ask you to kick off on talkback. Do you remember a first day at school, primary school or secondary school? Because so many people are doing that today? Do you remember the first day of school so something that stuck in your mind?
JANE HUME: I do. You know, my first day in prep, I cried, and I cried and I cried when my father left me behind. And I was assigned a buddy, a little girl who I do remember her name, but I won't mention it. Who took me aside and we sat on a little step and she offered me a strepsil of all things, a strepsil. Look she left the school but I later found out she was a drug dealer. Isn’t that terrible. So early signs.
RAF EPSTEIN: I don't really no what to say. I'm not going to say anything.
JANE HUME: I’m sorry I shouldn’t have thrown that in the mix.
RAF EPSTEIN: That's okay. Look, it's real life. Jane Hume. Thanks so much for your time.
JANE HUME: That's a pleasure, Raf. Good to be with you.