Interview with Laura Jayes, AM Agenda
20 October 2022
LAURA JAYES: Joining me live now is the Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume. Jane Hume, thanks so much for your time. I think you know hindsight is a wonderful thing. And we forgiving of governments at the time because they made mistakes. But what do you think is the biggest lesson now about what not to do in the future?
JANE HUME: Laura, I've only just read the beginnings of this review. Obviously it only came out this morning and, but reviews like this are really important. It's important to be able to look back on the decisions that were made at a time of economic and health crisis. And say were they the right decisions, and what will we do in the future? Because one thing that we do know is this won't be the last pandemic, this won't be the last health crisis that Australia ever faces. So what is it that we could do differently? I look back on March 2020, which was a time of extraordinary health and financial uncertainty. The information that we were getting out of Treasury at the time showed double digits contractions in the economy, and certainly double digit, particularly 15% unemployment. And if you recall, back in March, we delivered the equivalent of three budgets in the space of five weeks. There was first of all, a stimulus package. Then there was a safety net package and then there was job keeper building the bridge to the other side. And while that was done an extraordinary haste, in conjunction with the public service, the parliamentarians and the private sector all working together, of course, there would be things that we would do differently. Despite the haste there was a framework through which all of the particularly economic recovery packages were delivered. Everything had to be temporary. It had to be targeted, I've had to be proportionate, and it had to be scalable, and most importantly, had to be delivered on the existing tax and transfer rails and that way, we ensure that our support was timely, and it was delivered as cost effectively as well. And the outcomes I think, speak for themselves, you know, we had, if we had have had this insane number of deaths is say, UK or the US on a on a per capita basis, we would have seen 40,000 Australians die and that's certainly nothing like what we saw. The fact that we close the borders so quickly, meant that we were to some extent not to a large extent, protected from the worst ravages of COVID 19. The hotel quarantine program in most states, although not Victoria, worked exceptionally well. And the economic responses meant that when we got to the other side, people were still in work. The economy was growing unemployment in fact, when we left government obviously had a three in front of it. It was on its way down, and the budget was beginning to repair itself.
LAURA JAYES: Yeah, sure, but brutal lockdowns you know, even some sections of the media were calling for for curfews and lockdowns, I accept that. But in hindsight, was that the right thing to do these border closures and they were state government. They were state government calls. But you backed them in?
JANE HUME: They were very much state government calls and of course when there was a fine line there establishing the National Cabinet, I think was a really important initiative in order to manage and coordinate the pandemic responses. However, what we found, I think, you know, for many Australians, for the first time, they realized just the power of individual states and individual state premiers in delivering that protection. Let's remember to this was a time of great fear and uncertainty, would we do things differently? Absolutely. Should we do things differently next time? Absolutely. And I think one of the great recommendations of this report that was sponsored by the Ramsey Foundation was to make sure that all modeling that that informs these decisions made by premiers, whether it be around health responses, or whether it be around economic responses, is made transparent and I think that's exceptionally important. For things like school closures, for instance, which we know now is so damaging for our young people. Well, what was the health information? What was the health advice that informed that decision? Because we know that transmission in schools was actually very small, was very minimal. And yet now when we see the fallout, whether it be education or whether it be mental health, whether it be developmental delays on some of our young people, well, was it really worth that decision? So this is why reports like this one is so important.
LAURA JAYES: Yeah, they certainly are. Can I just ask you a question about another issue at the moment. This is the sports washing issue. This is a new term that's been coined, really, fans of sporting teams, some players want to boycott fossil fuel companies. What do you think about that?
JANE HUME: Well, I heard Jennifer Westacott talking about this on your show just a little earlier. I think that that would be a terrible shame. You know, particularly community sport relies on sponsorship from local businesses, and it would be a real shame. I think if activism was what drove sports to run out of money. Because we want to see more community sport we want to see more professional sport we want to see a pathway for our young athletes to grow into professional athletes. And if we can't do that through corporate sponsorship, or I'm not entirely sure where the money comes from, it will go back to you know, even more sausage, there's more pressure on parents and quite frankly, we're already in a cost of living crisis. I don't think that parents are going to want to have to spend more money on getting their kids into community based sport. I think that that would be a real shame.
LAURA JAYES: Jane Hume, thanks so much for your time as always.
JANE HUME: Great to be with you.