Polliegraph with Mary Gearin, ABC Radio Melbourne
3 April 2023
MARY GEARIN: Senator Jane Hume. Thank you for joining us for that.
JANE HUME: Good to be with you, Mary.
MARY GEARIN: So let's talk about Aston. You were there. You were talking to people, you had an indication of what might happen potentially, or were you surprised?
JANE HUME: Actually, I was surprised on the on the night as well. I think a lot of my colleagues and indeed a lot a lot of members of the Liberal Party and the government as well. They too seem surprised at the result. Look, you could never put it down to a single factor. Like an election. There's always a number of issues that come into play at the same time. This was the retirement of a popular local member that had been there for a long time. He had very high name recognition. It was a Labor candidate that was also the candidate at the election. So her name recognition was higher. We only had five weeks to get Roshena Campbell onto the ground. And of course on top of that, after an election loss after nine years of government that government now is still in its honeymoon period. And we heard incessantly from everybody there that the cost of living is the number one issue out and Aston but the people out there didn't yet associate the cost of living pressures that they were facing with decisions of the Labor government.
MARY GEARIN: and we will talk about cost of living because you're actually chair of a select committee on that, and we will get to that a bit later. But isn't, there have been some pretty scathing reviews though of the Liberal Party and it's sort of march away from addressing voters and from your own. Two former Liberal MPs, Tim Wilson and Jason Falinski wrote in the Financial Review, I'm sure that you know that the world has moved on and vote as a younger and more worldly than a sort of a nostalgia that they're saying that the liberal party still has saying that, you know, for too long, liberals have turned up late at a party when it's someone else, essentially, I'm rejecting their words. And you just don't have the policies there that appeal. What do you say to that?
JANE HUME: Well, first of all, I'd say that not having Jason Falinski and Tim Wilson in the party room is a great shame. The two of them were not just friends of mine, but very significant policy minds and they know the party room is poor for it. That said we did do a review of the 2022 election loss-
MARY GEARIN: and you conducted it.
JANE HUME: I conducted it with Brian Loughnane, and we came up with 49 recommendations. So it's a very comprehensive review. We took over 600 submissions, we did 50 interviews, and we came up with those recommendations that wasn't just about that particular election, but more about some structural changes that we want to see in the Liberal Party. You know, the Liberal Party is now 80 years old, and when it came together back in the 1940s, it was there was 11 different groups that were brought under the one umbrella and each of those groups felt had different issues that they wanted to progress, but they all had a set of principles in common. And those principles do endure. There's no doubt about it, but we want to make sure that the Liberal Party is around for the next 80 years as well. And to do that we have to make sure that we better reflect contemporary Australia.
MARY GEARIN: Well indeed an odd people just looking for policies that actually do relate to them and is there just time for potentially not that normal response that we get from opposition's of all stripes, not Liberal but Labor as well where you just lay low take potshots for a couple of years and then reveal policies, you know, just before an election, given the sort of existential challenge that you're facing now, is it time to just shake that up and to get some policies and to put it out there?
JANE HUME: Well, first of all, let me deal with the issue of policies prior to the election. Number one, we've been in opposition for 10 months in that period of time. We've already announced a pension work bonus that's been adopted, although indeed a watered down version by the government that would allow pensioners to go back to work and not lose their pension entitlements. We announced an opportunity for people out younger people to access their superannuation to buy a home. Once they've sold that home put that money back into super so their retirement outcomes don't suffer but they still get an opportunity to get into the housing market. And we extended that opportunity to older and single women and that was an announcement in the last budget in reply. We've also said that we're going to do a deep dive into nuclear energy potentially as part of our energy mix rather than taking that entirely off the table. And we've said we're going to repeal the superannuation taxes that would fundamentally change our taxation system. So when people say you haven't gotten your policies, I would say that that's nonsense for a 10 month old opposition. That's quite exceptional. More importantly though, you’re right-
MARY GEARIN: that doesn't actually relate to the people who are in those sort of electorates that you've lost. That will be really going towards what they care about the climate policies, the education and the health policies. They are, those are the things that actually, those two former Liberal MPs were pointing at, had to happen with liberals. And at the same time, we know that the Liberal Party was talking about trans rights and potential, you know, other other sort of distractions within that social justice space that just don't appeal to those voters.
JANE HUME: The review said that we really need to go back and see those principles that have been enduring for the last 80 years and apply those to a consistent set of policies that reflect the priorities of contemporary Australia. Certainly we know that that's the way to make sure that voters can look to the gut to look to the opposition, and they can see a potentially effective and competent government that reflects their priorities. That's what we need to do now.
MARY GEARIN: Have there been conversations between Saturday night and today this afternoon where you can say to your to these people to everyone listening and and to Australia that you will change your minds on some of those, those social justice aspects?
JANE HUME: Well change your mind I think is a bit of a broad term, but definitely reflecting what's important to contemporary Australia. We do need to do and they need an Australian needs to see that reflected back in us. Whether it be making sure that we have more women in parliament, for instance, so that you know women can see themselves reflected back in Canberra. Whether we engage better with multicultural communities or new Australians, that's really important too. But let's be very clear, the Liberal party understands what it stands for, you know, we want to see choice and empowerment and reward for effort and, you know, small businesses thrive and families in whatever shape they come in. We want to see them flourish as part of the fabric of our society. We know what we want. We just now need to make sure that our policy positions reflect those principles, and people can see themselves reflected back in them.
MARY GEARIN: Alex is a 21 year old voter and he has I don't know actually what's he or she has sorry, Alex has called in Alex. What would you like to ask the Senator?
CALLER: Hey, I'm a he just to clear up. But I just wanted to ask a genuine I'm a young voter. I like I'm 21 like I'm turning 22. And currently single liberals actually asked me anything like we are increasing renter, renters. We are more likely to be LGBT and I mean, the only policy that we have is that superannuation policy, but I mean, people who are younger, often don't have large superannuation balances in the first place. So what can actually offer young people in Australia to, you know, get us to support you,
JANE HUME: Alex, that's a really important question. I have a 21 year old son myself, and we've had many a political discussion. I think that when young people become more engaged in the political landscape, it's, it's, it's so important to a thriving democracy. Yes, you're right, that superannuation policy is important. Young people are telling us that they now can't see a pathway to buying their own home. This is a pathway to allow them to do that without taking money away from their retirement outcomes. So that is important, but so too, is ensuring that we have a stronger economy, that there are plenty of jobs out there that you can be empowered to be the best person that you can be the you know, do whatever it is that you want to do and not be restricted by an economy that's going south whether your bills are too high, whether it be your energy bills or your grocery bills, we want to make sure that there is nothing standing in your way from achieving your dreams and goals.
MARY GEARIN: Alex, are you happy with that answer?
CALLER: I think that I definitely see where Hume is coming from. And I think there is something to be said about enduring economic growth and having stability. But I think we need to sort of go further and look at things from people's perspective. I mean, we just haven't been an aspect of the debate for forever as far as for as long as I'm alive. So I'd really like to see that sort of, actually, that frame of reference sort of looked at like we don't see, we don't see renting policy and housing policy from a renters perspective. We don't see. You know, we have increasingly sort of looked over discriminated discrimination both from an LGBT perspective we I think we really need to look at that sort of, and try and see able to see stuff through our eyes. Like I say, I appreciate that. We're just a part of the demographics, but I think we need to take you know, we need to finally have our voices heard.
MARY GEARIN: Yeah. Alex, thank you and that has been reflected in a lot of the discussion since then has Liberal Party he's just got policies that are a little bit nostalgic for an older demographic or and a world that doesn't exist anymore.
JANE HUME: No, I disagree entirely on that. As I said, I think the principles are certainly enduring. It's how they are reflected in the policies that we create to allow people to say the opportunities for them. In those policies,
MARY GEARIN: Jack from Jordan Ville has called in Hi, Jack, what would you like? I'd like to ask the Senator.
CALLER: Oh, well, my question for the senator actually is a really good one leading on from her last statement. Why Senator, has never had a woman as a leader, federally. Just intrigued. Why has that never happened?
JANE HUME: I think that's a fair question. I would love to see a woman leading the Liberal Party. I'd love to see a woman put her hand up and to have the support of the party. room to do it. That hasn't happened so far. In fact, you know, I think we've come close with Bronwyn Bishop at one stage was running for leadership.
MARY GEARIN: Would you do it?
JANE HUME: Well I'm in the Senate and senators, that's not an option for Senators. So thank you very much for the compliment Mary, but, you know, it's only the House of Reps that ever stand for leader.
MARY GEARIN: But do you think that the Liberal Party is doing enough in that space?
JANE HUME: I've actually been so impressed with the women that I work with in the shadow cabinet in particular, you know, there are so many not just qualified women, but they come from such unique perspective. Some of them are farmers, some of them been in the military. Some of them have been in small business, some of them are farmers. And that unique perspective, not just from my female cabinet, colleagues, I should say from male colleagues, I think really creates a very vibrant and enlivened party, a party room and Shadow Cabinet too.
MARY GEARIN: If you've taken leadership looking at the result of the last election, you have you have done that, would you like to put yourself as leader of the Liberal Party?
JANE HUME: Well, it's not even something that I would consider marry because I am a senator and senators don't run for leadership of the Liberal Party. So thank you again for the compliment. But one of the reasons why I entered the Senate was because that was what the type of work that I wanted to do.
MARY GEARIN: You're ruling it out.
JANE HUME: It's not even, it's not even on the horizon, but I am very, very grateful and quite flattered that you would even consider it.
MARY GEARIN: Well, unfortunately, the leadership questions even though as as it's been tamped down since Aston result it's going to keep coming up, isn't it? We are going to come back to you but we do need to go to the weather. So stick around with more of your questions and texts for the Senator. Let's go though to Dan Velling and see what's happening on those roads. Hi, Dan.
MARY GEARIN: You're with Mary Gearin and it's 20 past five and we are in Polliegraph and in the studio. Joining me is Jane Hume Liberal Senator for Victoria and Chair of the Select Committee on the Cost of Living which we will get to but just also want to go to some news that we've had today that we hear now that the opposition is going to meet on Wednesday to determine a stance on the voice referendum. Where do you stand on it Senator?
JANE HUME: Well, the Party Room will meet on Wednesday and the Liberal Party will come up with a position on that day that will be made public and I don't want to preempt what's gonna go on the party room.
MARY GEARIN: Do you think things have changed on that since the last election?
JANE HUME: Well, it's only been 48 hours so he asked in biology so I would imagine that the position is shifting in 48 hours would be a highly unusual I think, you know the the the legislation was released last week. Obviously we had a by election on the weekend. It is time that we confirm a position so that you know Australia knows where we stand and what it is we need to do to go forward.
MARY GEARIN: Surely there's political implications to what happened in Aston that might go into that issue?
JANE HUME: Look, I think that might be drawing along though. To be honest, I think that Assam is one electorate out of hundreds of electorates and all of them are going to be affected by an indigenous voice to Parliament.
MARY GEARIN: So I wouldn't like to losing but you can't afford to lose.
JANE HUME: Look, I wouldn't draw that bow of that thread. I think that you know, there is probably the voices that is a national issue and should be considered in that context.
MARY GEARIN: We've been asking you to call and text with your questions for the Senator and Mark from Altona is asking about the voice. Hi, Mark, what is your question?
CALLER: My question to the Senator is both state and nationally. Shifting or do you think that the Liberal Party will further alienate itself from the Australian electorate, state or nationally, if I had not sought employees in a bipartisan way?
JANE HUME: Well, once again, I think that decision will be made in the party room and I don't want to preempt what that decision might be. I should say though, and my colleague Julian Leeser did a National Press Club address today and covered a lot of these issues and also the context of where the Liberal Party has come from. In the voice debate. Indeed, it really was a conservative and coalition movement that began the conversation about the voice around 20 years ago. And it was a game progressed by Tony Abbott. And and also Malcolm Turnbull, Ken Wyatt has obviously been a major part of that, that debate as well. And it's something that we feel very strongly about, not just the importance of indigenous recognition in the Constitution, that is a very consistent message, but also ensuring that there are those local and regional voices that devolution of power to those that can then make the best decisions on behalf of themselves. It is about as I said earlier, empowerment of the individual and sometimes that is that it's far better done at a local and regional level.
MARY GEARIN: Will party official MPs being empowered as you say to have a conscience vote in this would you like to see a conscience vote when it comes to your party's support or otherwise of the voice?
JANE HUME: Again, that's a decision that will occur in the party room on Wednesday, and I don't want to preempt what that might be.
MARY GEARIN: Do you, I guess the premise of Mark's question was that you risk alienating yourself, you don't accept the premise of that question when it comes to the voice?
JANE HUME: I think the most important thing here is that Australians deserve a successful referendum no matter what the outcome of the referendum is. They deserve a successful referendum, one with respectful debate, one that has as good at outcome as we can get to for the nation, for the nation. And we were working towards that I think in the last parliament, obviously we had started establishing those regional and local voices that were so fundamental took up so much of that Calma-Langton Report, and that has been dismantled and disbanded. And instead now, as my colleague, Julian Leeser said today, the voice seems to have become something that is far more top down, then grassroots and bottom up, which is where it began. And that would that's a real shame. Shame.
MARY GEARIN: It sounds like it's going to be really hard to get to a yes position from what you're saying.
JANE HUME: Well, I think that there are certain elements that again, Julian made those clear today that the Coalition feel uncomfortable with now we still have a committee process to go, but it doesn't sound like that the government is keen to make any changes to its amendment. It's already seems to draw a line in the sand perhaps for them. That idea of consulting to a committee is simply just theater. I would be very disappointed if that were the case because there are some important questions that still have not been answered. And I think all Australians not just the opposition have the right to have those questions answered. Respectfully, because they'd been asked respectfully. We'll wait to Wednesday to see that position.
MARY GEARIN: Let's get to the cost of living now. Donna from Warrandyte has called in about this as well. Hi, Donna. What What's your question for Jane Hume?
CALLER: Hi, thank you, Senator. I'm, I'm a 50 year old woman who's just gone back to uni, at this late stage in life and I'm quite shocked by all the young ones and how they survived. So I guess my question to you, Senator is, how do you explain getting a go as you mentioned earlier, when Hecs debt is so high, and ABSTUDY is so incredibly, incredibly low, $100 less than job seeker.
MARY GEARIN: and that goes to the question about what you're doing for the youth do as well, doesn't it?
JANE HUME: Yeah. Donna, that's an extremely important question. Obviously, young people are feeling the cost of living pinch right now as a mortgage holders as our ordinary Australians or Australians that are on fixed incomes. You know, we heard last week from Cedar that low income households, and that obviously would include students as well as seeing the combination of housing and energy costs swallow up half of their disposable income this year. And of course, that could only be made worse if the inflation rate continues to rise, and interest rates continue to rise with them. Obviously, the Reserve Bank is meeting tomorrow. So what we're looking for in this cost of living committee is to hear what those real drivers are of the cost of living crisis that Australians are facing right now. Whether it be at the grocery checkout or at the petrol bowser when they're paying electricity bills, or when they're paying their rent or their or their mortgage, then it may well be paying things like you know, ABSTUDY or having ABSTUDY or their study, or their Hecs debts or whatever it might be if those are the drivers, we want to hear about them. And we also hear about progress towards making it easier for people to make submission. Absolutely. We now have a cost of living committee website. So it's called yourcostofliving.au, you can click on that you can click on ‘share your story’, and it will take you to the survey and the committee is then set up so it makes it very quick and easy. You can make a submission and then that submission will be formally submitted to the committee. You can do it anonymously. You can do it with your name, and we want to find out what the cost of living, how the cost of living is biting for you. And then we want to try and find some practical and implementable solutions to make it better that won't be inflationary in themselves.
MARY GEARIN: The cynical might say that a Senate committee set up in this way. I think it's between the Coalition, the Greens is there to get ammunition to then shoot at the government. What would you have to say what can this committee do?
JANE HUME: There are two government senators that are on the committee I should point out and that is supposed to be as select committees are they they cover all parts of the Senate, they travel right around the country, and they after implementable and practical solutions. It's not just the primary effects of the cost of living too. It's those secondary effects. So we're hearing stories about things like food delivery services that rely on volunteers can't get volunteers because those volunteers have gone back to work to deal with their own cost of living crises. We're hearing stories of crime rates, increasing mental health issues, increasing all of those secondary effects of cost of living crisis, which is why it's so important for the government to have a plan and to get it under control. And that's our concern is of course, is that we haven't seen a plan from this government to tackle inflation and to tackle the cost of living.
MARY GEARIN: Abdul from Croydon has called in Abdullah, what do you want to ask the Senator?
CALLER: The main thing is how do you go supporting average Aussie workers because everyone's struggling? And also you're only defending you know, the top end of time like that $3 million supers and you block the building 10,000 house for low and middle income have you got justified?
JANE HUME: So I don't every time we look at a policy we make decisions we do so within a framework, is this going to improve the economy? Is it going to give people more opportunity is it going to put more money in your pockets? So for instance, when we oppose a policy like the safeguard mechanism, the reason why we would oppose it is because we can see the flow on effects for the consumer. And somebody's got to step up and speak out for the little guy in all of this. Obviously business said this is a great idea. But the problem is businesses simply going to pass on the costs of that safeguard mechanism to the consumer at the end of the day. So that's who we're speaking up on behalf of
MARY GEARIN: Les though also has a question about the safeguard mechanism. I think you would have heard that answer there from the Senator. What do you think Les?
CALLER: Well, the point is, is that Albanese went to the origin with a policy of reducing emissions by 43% by 2030. To achieve that he needed to pass a safeguard mechanism with the Liberal Party's opposed now besides the Teals taking Heartland seats off the Liberal Party, simply because you had no policies to to address climate change over knees. You had a mandate from the public to implement that. Legislation, your post your secondary opposing every piece of legislation that Albanese took to the electorate at the last election. Now, it seems to me that you're sort of turning into the Trump Republicans. You just don't accept the will of the people.
MARY GEARIN: Les. I'll take that as a comment. What do you say?
JANE HUME: Look, when there is good policy, we will always work with the government. And we have done that we've found negotiations we have a pathway through a mandate but when there is a policy that we believe will be detrimental to the economy when we believe that there's a policy that people will end up paying more for Well of course we all oppose it because we're here to see the progress and prosperity of the nation.
MARY GEARIN: Senator, thank you for joining us. The level of texts and calls coming in and I'm so sorry, we couldn't get to everyone there shows that there'll be a lot of discussion and a lot of also a lot of spotlight on what happens on Wednesday as well. Thank you for joining us for Polliegraph.
JANE HUME: Thanks, Mary.
MARY GEARIN: That is Jane Hume, Liberal Senator for Victoria and as you heard Chair of that Select Committee on the Cost of Living.