Shadow Minister for Finance - Transcript - Interview with Laura Tchilinguirian, ABC NewsRadio
1 February 2023
LAURA TCHILINGUIRIAN: The cost of living pressures facing Australians are the focus of a Senate Select Committee which held its first hearing today. Senator Jane Hume is the chair of the Select Committee and joins me now. Good afternoon, Senator Hume. This select committee obviously comes at an important time. What are your key focuses in this inquiry?
JANE HUME: Well, good afternoon, Laura. And yes, you're right. It's not just the price of beer that's going up. In fact, the cost of living is the number one issue that's facing Australians. Right now. Australians have been telling us that they are crying out for their government to help them with the impact of inflation, of rising interest rates, of rising energy prices. And this select committee, which was initiated by both the Coalition and the Greens together, will be working together with industry, with community groups and with consumers and peak bodies to find practical solutions that will make a difference to the lives of ordinary Australians.
LAURA TCHILINGUIRIAN: And who have you heard from on day one? What are businesses telling you for starters I guess?
JANE HUME: Today we heard from witnesses that Australians are facing much higher mortgages and higher prices right across a range of sectors. We heard first of all from the Reserve Bank of Australia, and they gave evidence that over 800,000 mortgages in Australia will come off fixed rates and go to variable rates this year. We heard from Finder that the interest rate increases in this cycle alone have increased a typical Australian variable mortgage holders’ repayments by around $10,000 per year. So you can understand why Australians are feeling the pinch. The other big price pressure for Australians at the moment are power prices. Today we heard from energy companies that are either pausing or withdrawing millions of dollars of investments in new supply, which would of course, when you increase supply, helps keep power prices low. Ampol gave evidence that they have delayed investment decisions worth hundreds of millions of dollars, simply due to the government creating uncertainty in the market in which they work. And Woolworths gave evidence that Australians in their stores are dramatically changing their behavior to keep up with those tighter budgets. And in fact, Woolies themselves, who are affected by the cost of living, whether it be energy prices, whether it be transport and logistics. They've actually increased their food donations to their charity partners, by as much as 20%, because more and more Australians are struggling to put food on the table. So we did hear from a large range of players in the economy just today, and this is just day one on this committee. It's going to go on doesn't report until November. And we intend to travel right across the country speaking to consumers, speaking to businesses, speaking to industries and getting their solutions as practical, sensible solutions as to how we can go about reducing the cost of living for ordinary Australians.
LAURA TCHILINGUIRIAN: After the first day have you already got an idea of what challenges lie ahead and in easing cost of living pressure?
JANE HUME: Well, there were a lot of solutions that were offered up even today and of course, these things are going to take that much further analysis and a bit more of a deep dive but one of the organisations in the charity sector Food Bank, came up with an idea to make food donations tax deductible. And of course that works well with that evidence that we heard from Woolies who have increased their food donations by 20% to charity organisations. Now how that might play out and what the effect might be, is yet to be analysed. But certainly that's one of those little ideas that you go yes, I can see where that might make a difference and potentially might be worth pursuing later on.
LAURA TCHILINGUIRIAN: And are you still taking submissions?
JANE HUME: Yes, I think submissions up until the 10th of March. And in fact, we would encourage anybody that's listening that has an interest in this and it doesn't matter whether they're a small business or a large business, or consumer working in logistics, working in energy, working in groceries, whatever it might be agriculture, we'd really appreciate it if you would submit it to the committee because we want to hear everybody's perspectives on this. And obviously, you're a national radio station, so your broadcast right around the country. This committee will be moving around the country speaking to urban communities, suburban communities, regional and remote communities as well, to get a proper picture of exactly how the cost of living crisis is facing Australians today.
LAURA TCHILINGUIRIAN: And you're on your way to the airport. Now Senator Hume on the way to Melbourne, then Brisbane over the next two days, who will the Committee be hearing from over the coming days?
JANE HUME: Well, again, a range of people and also a range of government departments as well, because of course, it's those government departments that helped make the policy to help the government make policy decisions and we we get a better understanding of how those policy decisions come about and the analysis that goes into them. So there will be businesses from right across both those two cuts both those two states, also government departments, and again, energy sector retail sector and also the not for profit and charity sector, which is really important because they really are the frontline. They're the ones that are seeing the effect of the cost of living crisis. You know, we heard today for instance, that from the Brotherhood of St. Lawrence, and Wesley Mission, and to Vincent DePaul and the Salvation Army, that they're now seeing more and more people that have incomes, but they're not their regular customers. We're seeing single income and dual income families coming to them for help. So it's really important to hear from that not for profit and charity sector as well.
LAURA TCHILINGUIRIAN: Timely committee, thank you very much for your time.
JANE HUME: Great to be with you, Laura.