Interview with Danica De Giorgio, Hume and McAllister
7 October 2022
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Each week the Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume and Assistant Climate Change and Energy Minister Jenny McAllister, face off and fire up in the big news and political developments. Jane, Jenny, welcome to the program. Thank you so much for joining us. Once again. Let's get straight into it because it's been a big week in politics. Before we dive into our topics today, we'll throw it over to both of you for some opening remarks. Jenny, we'll start with you this week. You have one minute on the clock.
JENNY MCALLISTER: Thanks, Danica. Well, yesterday I announced that labor will commence a national discussion about establishing an energy performance strategy for our country. Now, Australians actually through no fault of their own waste a lot of energy, and it's mostly because we live and work in buildings that are not constructed well enough. Or were using appliances which really just aren't as efficient as they might be. The thing is, we're leaving a lot of money on the table as a consequence of this. And what we are looking for is national leadership to start sorting through this issue. Now, unfortunately, this was not a focus for the previous government, like so many aspects of energy policy. It was left unattended, very, very low on the priority list. Yesterday, I was in a room with industry experts, with community leaders, and I cannot tell you how excited they were at the prospect of finally having some national leadership on this issue. We want every watch to count. We don't want people spending money on energy that is in an unnecessary way and we're determined to get onto it. Thanks, Danica.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: All right. You got there in the end, you got there. Thanks for that. Jane, now it's over to you.
JANE HUME: Thanks, Danica. We are in a cost of living crisis. And rather than coming up with a plan to deal with that, to lower the cost of living, Labor are talking about scrapping the Stage Three tax cuts. Let's be very clear what that means. They're telling you that the country can't afford for you to keep more of your own money. Now that is nonsense. That's ridiculous. And it is your own money. These tax cuts have been legislated. They were legislated back in 2018. They've been embedded in every single budget since, and they don't kick in for two years. So any suggestion that scrapping the tax cuts will improve the economic situation now is nonsense. The only reason you would scrap the tax cuts, is because Labor cannot control their spending. Now they are, this is a promise that they made at the last election if they scrap this promise, if they walk away from the Stage Three is tax cuts, this will be the second broken promise in just 140 days since the election. On top of that $275 off your energy bills that has simply disappeared. Labor have no plan to control inflation. They have no plan to reduce the cost of living. They only have a plan to make you poorer.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Alright, while you've set up our first topic of the day, there is that emerging division in the government over Stage Three tax cuts do to come into effect in 2024 after our initial opposition Labor pledged its support to the Morison government policy before the May election, but the Treasurer has signaled a potential scaling back as we've just heard of parts of the plan citing significant recent economic challenges, while the government won't wholly scrap Stage Three, it's still spurring accusations of a policy backflip from the Coalition.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Jenny McAllister, we'll start with you. Is the government walking away from Stage Three tax cuts?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Our position on the tax cuts hasn't changed and our focus for tax reform is making sure that multinationals pay their share. But the truth is the budget is in a very difficult situation. We've hit the ground running. We are implementing our reforms and this budget will be an important part of the repair process. We inherited a budget that is heaving with debt, an economy where wages have been on the go slow for far too long, and now rising inflation. And there's a lot of hard work to do. And you see that reflected in the comments of many of those colleagues in senior financial roles in the government.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: You say though, that the economy is now forcing a rethink, but the RBA was warning of economic headwinds back in March, the Ukraine conflict. Another example had already been going since then. So surely the government knew these predictions when the policy was taken to the election.
JENNY MCALLISTER: You are right that there are very significant headwinds facing the economy and they are intensifying rather than improving at this point in time. We are working through the budget in a serious way and we have three priorities, dealing with the public finances the enormous debt that we've inherited from the previous Liberal government, giving Australians some relief from rising cost of living pressures, which we know are hurting, but also setting the economy up for success over the longer term. These are all areas that were neglected or made worse by the previous government and our budget presents a real opportunity to intervene and he start getting us back on course,
DANICA DE GIORGIO: But what I'm saying is you're about these headwinds prior to the election. I've got some audio actually of what Anthony Albanese said just before the election and a week after let's just play that now.
KIERAN GILBERT: You've told voters throughout the campaign that you are a man of your word, you've made a public commitment that you're going to deliver those states three tax cuts I asked you this afternoon then, alongside those tax cuts, can you give an assurance to recipients of those that you won't increase the Medicare levy or an NDIS levy increase? Were you giving with one hand and taking the other?
ANTHONY ALBANESE: Yes, I can Kieran.
ANTHONY ALBANESE: We're committed to delivering what we said we would. And I've said on the Stage Three tax cuts that they've been legislated. People are entitled to operate on the basis of that certainty.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: So Jenny, that second bit of audio there was May 29, just after the election. So was this policy simply about getting through the election?
JENNY MCALLISTER: As I’ve said to you, our position on Stage Three tax cuts hasn't changed and our priorities are getting multinationals to pay their share. I also said to you that our budget represents an important moment for the government and opportunity to start repairing the waste management, the misplaced priorities of the previous government and our colleagues particularly the treasurer, the finance minister are working through all those issues in putting together the budget which will be all on display in just a few weeks time.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Alright, Jane Hume we are expecting to hear from Jim Chalmers today. Is this a broken election promise if Labor goes back on it?
JANE HUME: Absolutely. It's a broken election promise. This was a policy that was taken not to one election, but to two elections. It's actually received a mandate twice. Now if Labor crab walk away, I think that we'll see their true colors as I said, as we've seen with their energy policy to reduce energy bills by $275. This has been legislated for years and years. It was embedded in the budget, any decisions that were made about election promises were made with the tax cuts already in mind. In fact, Labor went to the election with a spending commitment of $45 billion off budget and another $18 billion on budget. And now they're looking for a way to pay for it. What they haven't said and I heard you know, Jenny, talking about us, you know, terrible, terrible situation they found themselves in, that final budget outcome that was announced just a couple of weeks ago demonstrated that extra $50 billion on the bottom budget bottom line, demonstrated that when you get the economic settings right, there is in fact a fiscal dividend when we left government unemployment had a three in front of it and it was going down there was a triple A credit rating. The budget was improving, the economy was in good shape. Now Labor have decided to change things up. They have a large spending agenda. And they're looking for an excuse to pursue it. Now if Jim Chalmers was serious about bringing the budget back into line, this speech today wouldn't be all about woe is me, spendings going up, everything's going up and there's nothing I could do about it, we're going to have to raise taxes. It would be about how you reform spending, it would be how you deal with the costs in that budget, how you manage within an envelope. That's what these tax cuts, if they scrap these tax cuts, what happens is, you know, the spending envelope just gets bigger and bigger. It's a free for all.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: All right, but does it mean though, that you can't change anything for four years when you take a policy to an election campaigns are what can be changed and made it wouldn't be the first time and then what will happen with the Abbott government so a few years ago, there are a number of policy backflips. So what can be changed is the question?
JANE HUME: And labor are very good at this and let's let's you know, let's just you know, recall the early 1990s probably before your time, Danica You're much too young for this, but the L-A-W tax cuts. I mean, this is not the first time that this has happened that we've seen Labor backflip on a tax cut, but there is a good reason for that. It's in their DNA. Labor have always felt that government spends your money better than you do. But a tax cut is your taxes, your money, you earned it and you're giving it to the government to spend on your behalf. They would like more of your money to spend because they think they can do it better than you. And we don't think that that's the case. In fact, we think that individuals are much better place to make decisions about how they spend their money than government. So this would be a really big turnaround. We do not think it will have no economic effect whatsoever. It's already baked in. This is a decision about spending, and they're looking for an excuse.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: All right Jenny, I'll give you the last word on this. If you've got a response to what Jane’s just said.
JENNY MCALLISTER: Look, we're not going to be lectured to by the group of people who were unable to land in energy policy for 10 years who were unable to deal with the skills challenges facing the country who allowed wages to flatline for a decade. We face a very challenging situation but we're quite confident with the strengths of the Australian people in the Australian economy, give us a lot to work with. We are going to the budget with an intention to set the country up for the future. It will mean dealing with the legacy of liberal debt, but it will also mean making important and careful investments in areas that will strengthen the economy over the future.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Okay, but does that mean a backflip on Stage Three tax cuts?
JANE HUME: Crickets.
JENNY MCALLISTER: As I said to you out on Stage Three tax cuts,
DANICA DE GIORGIO: So there'll be no changes, is that what you're saying?
JENNY MCALLISTER: I don't know if I can be any clearer
JANE HUME: Come on Jenny, you can commit to it now.
JENNY MCALLISTER: our position on Stage Three tax cuts hasn't changed. It hasn't changed. And I'm giving you the position and it'll all be there on budget night.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Alright. Well, we are expecting to hear from the treasurer Jim Chalmers today, so let's see what he's got to say. We are going to take a quick break though. We will come back with our panel and we'll discuss the religious freedoms debate reignited by the Essendon CEO’s shock departure.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Welcome back to the second edition of our returning weekly Friday show Hume and McAllister. Well the shock departure of incoming Essendon CEO Andrew Thorburn just 30 hours after his appointment was announced, has reignited religious freedom debate. Mr. Thorburn’s role was heavily criticized due to his place on the board of a church that's disparaging of homosexuality. While some have labeled his departure discriminatory, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews has been among the most vocal critics saying he has no sympathy for the ejected club boss.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Let's bring in Jane Hume and Jenny McAlister on the issue now, Jane, we'll start with you. He lasted 30 hours in the job. Where do you sit on this?
JANE HUME: Well freedom of speech and freedom of religious association is sort of fundamental tenants of Australian society. So I think it's quite concerning that somebody would be discriminated against because of their beliefs when they apply for a job. Because let's face it, where does it stop? You know, it shouldn't matter whether you're a Christian or you know whether it's Judaism, whether you go to a mosque or whether you go to a temple, as long as you can do the job at once you are qualified for the role and your beliefs don't interfere in your execution of that role. Well being vilified for those religious beliefs, I think is untenable. Now, where the Essendon Football Club goes from here, I don't know. I do feel that mixing politics and sport is not necessarily the best idea and I would not tell the Essendon Football Club what to do. I'm very disappointed, though, that Daniel Andrews has weighed in on this that he has somehow condoned the vilification of somebody for their religious beliefs that he has somehow decided that because what this man believes isn't aligned with his personal beliefs, that he somehow is disqualified from doing the job of a CEO of a football club. I think that's entirely inappropriate of Daniel Andrews.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: And Jane on a more broader matter. Now, do you believe that this sets a precedent that this could happen in any workplace based on what you believe in?
JANE HUME: I very much hope not. When we had the conversations about religious discrimination, that a lot of that was around schools and education and teaching. This is one of the first times I think that we've seen the issues play out in, certainly in sport, but in broader society, and I think that this should be concerning. It is worth the conversation is worth the discussion. And the good thing is, I think, is that it is a discussion that's being had by ordinary Australians because it is happening in sport. They're turning their minds to this for the first time. And wondering whether this form of vilification of somebody for their religious beliefs is the way, is the path that we want to go down.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Jenny, has Essendon taken the right approach here in your view, did Andrew Thorburn have to go?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Look I'm pretty reluctant to comment on incidents decisions, how Essendon Football Club goes about the planning and CEO is really a matter for them. But I will say this, our country has been well served by policies that tend towards inclusion. We're a nation that is generally pretty intolerant. of intolerance. We've got a pretty comprehensive architecture of protections against discrimination. But I think it has been very important over the last 30 or so years, 40 years actually, in shaping modern Australia. It's an architecture that Australian Labor has been deeply involved in constructing and we're very proud of it and we'd always seek to defend it and where we need to to extend it.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Okay, but do you think then it's appropriate for somebody to be sacked or to leave a role based on perhaps their views or what they believe in?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Look, you want a country where people can get ahead, no matter who they love, no matter who they worship? Actually, you heard the Prime Minister talking about that on election night. In his speech on that evening, he talked about these very issues. It shouldn't matter who you love, where you live, who you worship, or frankly, what your last name is. You shouldn't be able to get on with your life and be part of an inclusive society. We - sorry, Danica.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: So I was gonna say so then do you believe that Essendon has made the right decision here should he have gone or should he have been able to stay in that role?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Look, we don't have a lot of information about what transacted between the leadership of the club and Mr. Thorburn and I'm pretty reluctant to wade into it without that information. I don't think it's fair. But I will say this. We went to the last election, acknowledging that it would be a good thing, if we could extend the anti discrimination provisions to include the protection of religious belief. Now, those anti discrimination provisions have been built up over many years, starting with the Whitlam government. Key interventions under the Hawke and Keating governments, also under the Rudd Gillard government. We are interested in moving that debate forward and I think you'll say the Attorney General has something to say about that in the coming months.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Okay, but does it set a precedent now by us joining the same question so Jenny, do you believe that this now sets a precedent for other workplaces to follow suit?
JENNY MCALLISTER: As I said to you, I'm pretty reluctant to weigh into the details about what happened between Mr Thorburn and Essedon.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: No, but I'm talking in general.
JENNY MCALLISTER: I don't have all the information to make a judgment.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: In general, but in a general sense, though, does this set a precedent now for other workplaces? To follow suit based on a person's beliefs?
JENNY MCALLISTER: There's an important conversation to be had about the shape of legislation that might be put in place to protect people against religious discrimination. We know that Australians do experience it in a range of, in a range of areas whether it's a woman and hijab or young men in America, we want to make sure that people can get on with their lives without interference. That's an important policy question. I think the implications of the assumption decision, as I said, are hard to understand because we don't understand everything that transpired between Mr Thorburn and the club.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Okay. Well, Tom Connell, our regular host, tells me that he always likes to end this panel on a positive and very random topic. So I'm gonna throw this one out to you both today about wardrobe malfunctions. I've had my fair share. I'm not gonna lie. Jane, tell us about yours.
JANE HUME: Yeah, I did have a wardrobe malfunction. Almost the moment I started in the Senate, believe it or not, I turned up for a parliamentary sitting week and my suitcase had got lost and I was so new on the job. I didn't have anything in Canberra waiting for me. So I had to borrow a suit from Sarah Henderson who at that stage was the Member for Corangamite. She was in the House of Representatives and she leant me this suit, beautiful red suit. And I wore it and A - I look nothing like Sarah Henderson and nothing alike is good, but B it was the same color as the Senate benches. So whenever the camera panned onto me I just looked like this sort of floating head the entire day. It was absolutely ridiculous. It was a big fail. So that's why I never wear red in the Senate chamber.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: There you go, so you learned from that moment on what to wear in the Senate chamber. Jenny, what about you? Can you tell us what you've experienced wardrobe malfunction wise?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Yeah. Well, these are the perils of parliamentary life. There's a lot of travel when you can turn up in the wrong place. Or at least you can turn up in the right place with the wrong clothes quite a lot of the time and I've had almost exactly the same circumstances of Jang going down to the parliament and realizing that the bag that had all the jackets were still hanging on the door, but they had a very nice collection of sort of pants and skirts. But I recently basically exactly the same thing going to a UN conference and to the mortification of my staff ended up wearing the same dress two days in a row. I can tell you that the diplomatic community that was very diplomatic about it, and they're all very polite, and no one mentioned it. And so that's the very nice thing about hanging out with diplomats is that they tend to be very good about these kinds of things.
DANICA DE GIORGIO: Well, there you go, and yeah it's always embarrassing turning up when you're wearing the same dress. I remember a few years ago, was presenting on Christmas day wearing a very frilly outfit. I looked like a Christmas tree. Never to be worn again, but we live and we learn. We're gonna leave it there.