LAURA JAYES: Joining me live now is the Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume. Thanks so much for your time, Jane. First of all, GDP figures, we have just seen another interest rate rise. We'll get to hear from Governor Phillip Lowe tomorrow, and all this in the context of an upcoming federal budget as well. Do you think this budget needs to include cuts?
JANE HUME: Well, certainly, when the Albanese Government were in campaign mode prior to the election, they said that they had the answers to tackle the cost of living. What we saw yesterday was a fourth consecutive rise in the interest rate and the cash rate since the Labor government came to office. The additional 200 basis points in total, when added up, roughly equates to, for a family with a $750,000 mortgage, an additional $900 per month in repayments. We know Australians are doing it tough right now. It's not just mortgage repayments, it's also the cost of the bowser, and it's the cost at the grocery checkout. The Albanese Government said that they had the answers to the cost of living pressures that Australians were facing. Yet we haven't seen an economic plan to deal with those cost of living pressures, to deal with inflation. Because unless the government has a plan to deal with inflation fiscally, well, then it forces the RBA to do all the heavy lifting, and that's what we're seeing play out right now.
LAURA JAYES: Would interest rates have been lower under another Coalition Government?
JANE HUME: Well, certainly the budget would have had a much smaller deficit. We know that the Albanese Government has some pretty big spending plans, and indeed some of those are being announced today. When we went to the election, we knew that we were predicting government payments would be much lower than they are under an Albanese Government, and that's exactly what's happening. We want to see that the Albanese Government should make considered, prudent, and responsible decisions around this budget to ensure that fiscal policy is moving at the same pace and in the same direction as monetary policy. Otherwise, Philip Lowe is going to be forced to keep pulling on that monetary policy lever much harder. That's going to feed into the pain in the pockets of ordinary Australian families when they're paying their mortgages.
LAURA JAYES: Well, what fiscal levers are you talking about? What should Anthony Albanese be pulling on in this budget?
JANE HUME: Well, that's up to the government. That's not up to the opposition to make their policies for them. But we would like to see more attention paid to an economic plan to reduce the cost of living, an economic plan to reduce inflation, and using fiscal policy effectively and prudently and responsibly to do just that.
LAURA JAYES: Yeah, it's, it's hard to kind of figure out what you're saying here, though, because Chris Richardson, a respected economist, has said, you know, a lot of this is actually out of government's hands. So whatever levers Anthony Albanese is able to pull on, they are still at the fringes, aren’t they?
JANE HUME: No, not at all. In fact, the signals that the government can send by managing the budget prudently by managing the budget responsibly will be part of those signals that they're sending to the RBA. In fact, what we're seeing from the Albanese Government is quite the opposite. You know, Philip Lowe, back in July, said that inflationary expectations are one of the things that they take into consideration, that one of the things that drive inflation and one of the things they've taken into consideration when they make decisions about interest rates, and we saw the Assistant Treasurer Stephen Jones almost immediately after talk about hyperinflation and prices increasing by 20%. Now, when a policymaker makes those sorts of ill-considered comments that actually drive further inflation, it doesn't diminish the chances of, reducing the cost of living and reducing inflation. So we'd like to see a little bit more of a considered approach, a more mature and more fiscally responsible approach coming out of this government in order to make sure that Philip Lowe and the RBA don't have to keep raising rates to compensate for the fact that the government isn't doing its fair share of that heavy lifting.
LAURA JAYES: I mean, you've seen the budget, you know what's in there in terms of the last budget that you handed down? Is there anything that you would cut? Is there an obvious cut there any low-hanging fruit?
JANE HUME: Well, it's not up to me now. That budget is done and dusted. It's up to the Albanese Government and its economic and finance team to make sure that the budget that it presents not only addresses a cost of living but also presents an economic plan that will help ordinary Australians. Whether it be at the grocery checkout, whether it be when they're paying their mortgage, to help ordinary Australians…
LAURA JAYES: Okay, but how do you do that? Because you're talking about two different things in here. You talk about wanting people's cost of living to be eased immediately, which would mean a direct subsidy, but then you don't want to add to those inflationary pressures, and you want long-term budget security and getting that debt down. Those two things at the moment seem like they're completely non-complimentary.
JANE HUME: No, that's not at all the case. In fact, when we first went into opposition, the first policy that we announced was to double the pension work bonus, which was a very modest proposal to allow older Australians that are on the pension to get back into work that will help them with the cost of living pressures, but more importantly, will also help businesses build those skills gaps, fill those, those labour shortages. That has been on the table now for two months, and yet Labor has done nothing about it. In fact, instead, they held a job summit, which didn't actually have any outcomes this week that could have filled those labour shortages. In fact, the announcement that they made was less generous and, therefore, less effective. There’s less of an incentive for pensioners to get back into the workforce, and therefore they won’t fill those skill shortages. So we think that was a terrible opportunity missed by this government. In fact, they could have supported that private senator's bill that was debated just this week, we could’ve passed it today and could have already been done. And pensioners could be getting back to work right now. Instead, we're now waiting for the Albanese Government to stop sitting on its hands and get this done. But even if they do, this scheme will be less generous, and it'll be less effective than it could have been.
LAURA JAYES: The cutting of fuel excise expires at the end of this month that is not going to be extended by the Albanese Government is that the right course of action?
JANE HUME: When we put that fuel excise cut in place, it was to deal with the cost of living pressures that we saw Australians facing back earlier in the year. We put a sunset clause on it on purpose so it could be reassessed by the government of the day. That's the Albanese Government's job to do right now is to reassess considering the circumstances at the time, but we made that decision based on the economic circumstances at the time when we were in government.
LAURA JAYES: Petrol prices have come down. So is it the right time to have that full fuel excise?
JANE HUME: I would love to be able to give you an answer. Unfortunately, it's not something I have the power to control. That's a decision for the Albanese Government and a decision that they need to make. They've said that they're not going to extend the fuel excise cut. That's certainly going to feed into the cost of living pressures that are facing ordinary Australians today…
LAURA JAYES: So has the Opposition's position changed on this in the last week, though? Because your leader did say that it should be extended. You're saying now it's up to the Albanese Government. Does that seem to be a change?
JANE HUME: I don't think he did say that it should be extended, Laura. I think he said that this was a decision for the Albanese Government, one that they had to make. Now they’ve made that decision, that’s the decision they have to live with. We made decisions when we were in government, and we lived with those decisions. It's up to the Albanese Government to do the same.
LAURA JAYES: Right, can’t wait to see this next Budget. A very interesting one, and a very interesting time ahead. Jane Hume, we'll speak to you soon.