Interview with Patricia Karvelas, RN Breakfast
24 October 2022
PATRICIA KARVELAS: The Shadow Finance Minister is Jane Hume, and joins me this morning. Jane Hume, welcome.
JANE HUME: Good morning, PK.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: More than three and a half billion dollars in savings is from seemingly low hanging fruit like spending on contractors advertising travel. That begs the question, shouldn't your government have done that years ago?
JANE HUME: What I'm concerned about Patricia is more that this reallocated spending the $21 billion, apparently, that has been found $11 billion is going back into priorities of the Labor government. But there's $10 billion that potentially is being cut from projects that are not just necessary but are being expected by the communities. We know that local government associations have already started coming out complaining that this Labor Government is cutting vital infrastructure from their communities. And that's not something we want to see. What we want to see though, is the budget tomorrow builds upon the strong position that the Government's inherited from the Coalition. We want to make sure that the budget addresses inflation and doesn't deteriorate the bottom line because, you know, Labor inherited a very strong economy from the Coalition. There was lowest unemployment rate in decades, it was falling. There was an improving budget position. There was $115 billion improvement in the debt in the year that we left office and there was a triple A credit rating. So it's really up to the Treasurer to decide where he takes the budget from here. Labor went into the election with $11 billion of on budget spending. That was on top of anything that the Coalition was promising. I'm looking forward to seeing how this is blown out now.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: But the government has announced $21 billion of savings and spending redirections. That's a big amount of money. That didn't happen in any of your recent budgets did it?
JANE HUME: Well, what we're concerned about is that there is a political lens rather than an economic lens that's been put over these cuts. And the best example of that, of course, is the $2.2 billion that's being redirected to Dan Andrew’s Suburban Rail loop that has no approval from Infrastructure Australia, that the Victorian Auditor General's said wasn't a good deal. In fact, the cost benefit ratio of that project is expected to be just over 50 cents in the dollar. Now, if Labor are genuine about this idea of quality spending, as opposed to just spending for its own sake, well then how on earth they could support a $2.2 billion investment in the Suburban Rail loop, makes us all scratch our heads. That does sound like very much a political decision, rather than an economic one. Certainly a convenient one five weeks out from the Victorian State election.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Do you support some of the other cuts to infrastructure projects which was seen as not meeting value for taxpayer money? For instance, car parks?
JANE HUME: Well, we haven't seen exactly what is being cut from the budget. We'll see that tomorrow.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: So you may support it?
JANE HUME: But I think the most important thing is that you make it a main higher spending traditional Labor budget is only going to make the RBA’s decision next Tuesday that much harder, you know, the government shouldn't definitely shouldn't respond to these growing cost of living pressures with increased taxes. We've said that before. We want to see Labor commit to the Coalition's tax to GDP cap, the 23.9% that we put in place to put a speed limit on their spending. And we want to see a plan to return inflation to when that within that RBA’s target of 2 to 3 per cent. And most importantly a plan that delivers relief-
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Labor is not going to be putting extra money in people's pockets. They're trying to limit any of that extra spending because it's stimulatory and of course, they are trying to lower inflation. They're working with, you know, in tandem with the Reserve Bank. Do you agree with that?
JANE HUME: In fact, are they working in tandem with the Reserve Bank? We're seeing higher deficits, not lower deficits. If they really wanted to work in tandem with the Reserve Bank, they've got really three choices. Philip Lowe said it himself. He said you've got three choices. One is to raise taxes, we certainly wouldn't encourage that. The other is to cut spending. And the other is to create real economic growth and yet we're seeing economic growth forecasts come down in this budget. We're seeing spending go up. So there really isn't a solution to. We're really not seeing fiscal policy-
PATRICIA KARVELAS: What would you cut then? What you're saying is there’s too much debt and you think that there needs to be budget repair. That's what I'm hearing from you. So what needs to be cut, what would you do if there are sensible cuts to be made?
JANE HUME: If there are sensible cuts to be made that’s not certainly something that we would support. But in fact, it's not our decision as to what to cut. That's the government's decision-
PATRICIA KARVELAS: It is but if you’re saying there needs to be more cuts.
JANE HUME: and they haven’t yet said exactly what it is that they are going to cut.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: If you're saying there needs to be there needs to be fiscal restraint, there needs to be budget repair, you need to be able to say we think this is wasteful and be clear about it beyond the Suburban Rail loop.
JANE HUME: Well, I think the $2.2 billion for the suburban rail loop is a very good example of what we would believe is a misguided opinion on what is effective and productive.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: But if we're gonna go with that sort of idea of, you know, effective and productive spending, the Federal Auditor General didn't like your sports rorts agreements as they've been described, or the car parks either but yet you defended them in government.
JANE HUME: Well, those projects and I think we know it we've seen particularly those that were in regional areas have actually delivered significant productivity gains. You know, we want people to be able to get to work faster and get home sooner. But if the Labor government has decided that that's what needs to be cut with, what we would want to see is, you know, the modeling behind why those decisions have been made. Is it because that they can't deliver the projects on time? Is it because they just simply don't like them? Is it because they are in a Liberal held or Coalition held electorates? We want to be able to understand exactly what it is that caused those decisions and whether the money is being redirected into genuinely productive capacity, or genuine productive capacity, or just simply programs that the Labor Party have prioritized for the sake of their own electoral fortunes.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Just finally, let's look at the issue of women in the Liberal Party and in pre-selected seats. Your deputy leader Sussan Ley wants an official target not a quota to get women pre selected into 50% of federal seats. Do you back that?
JANE HUME: Well, in fact, we have had a target of 50% of women in federal seats for some time. Unfortunately, the ebb and flow of electoral fortunes does mean that a lot of good women that we would have had elected this time around had we have won, or had we've even held have disappeared, at least at least from from the green seats and even some of the red seats already, but-
PATRICIA KARVELAS: So you don’t think you need to adjust?
JANE HUME: No, I think we actually do need a target and something that we've been talking about for a considerable period. of time. The question is how we get there. Each one of the states has their own individual programs. There'll be a fair bit of coordination that needs to be done and certainly the election review will cover this topic and in a bit more detail.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: You say we've already got it if the thing you've already got is not working. I mean, I've been and watched the parliament. You just have to look at your side to see that, particularly in a lower house. It's quite something. It's a sea of men, and you know it to be that that's that to be the case, that means your system is not working.
JANE HUME: That's exactly right. It's Patricia, which is why we want to make sure that each one of those programs that's running in all the different states is coordinated, that we're adopting best practice and that we make sure that there is a singular focus on improving the gender diversity and gender diversity more broadly of our political ranks. It is really important not just because you want to better reflect the community that you represent, but also because when you have diverse groups around the table, better decisions get made, better decisions make for better policy, better policy makes for better politics.So we know that there is an imperative to do that. This is not something that's coming from the women in the Liberal Party. This is something that's coming from Liberal Party more broadly. And I think that there is a collective view that this is something we need to focus on.
PATRICIA KARVELAS: Thank you. That’s Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume.