TOM CONNELL: My next guest is Jane Hume. Of course, some of you might know her as a federal politician, a Senator, but we're going to just begin with reflections on the Queen. I understand and thank you as ever for joining me, Senator, but I understand you did meet the Queen once before.
JANE HUME: I did, Tom. I met her in 2011 when she came out for her last visit to Melbourne. I was on the board of the Royal Children's Hospital at that time, and we were opening our brand new building here in Melbourne in Parkville. The Queen came to officially open the building. She and Prince Philip were quite amazing as they toured the building and they met some of the staff, both medical and the nursing staff, but they said hello to as many people as possible. I practised my curtsey well in advance. The Queen was, she was extraordinary that day. She was wearing bright pink, and her skin, I know this sounds very shallow, so just bear with me, shallow as puddle I am, but her skin was so beautiful. She had the skin of a 30-year-old. It was just mesmerizing. So yes, it was quite an experience.
CONNELL: She has been that constant, of course, in your life and my life. Will there naturally be a sort of diminished connection to the royal family for a lot of Australians with Charles as King, is that just going to happen regardless of where you sit on the whole debate?
HUME: I very much hope not. Obviously, King Charles has a very special connection with Australia already. The continuity of the monarchy and a constitutional monarchy as a form of government, I think, is really important for Australia. You know, I heard this amazing stat, we know that the Queen lived through 15 different prime ministers in the UK. But there was this amazing story behind that. Winston Churchill was the first, he was born in 1874. Liz truss was the last, she was born in 1975. So there were 101 years of Prime Minister in the life of one Queen. I think that is just extraordinary. You know that continuity, as I say, the continuum of the monarchy on the constitutional monarchy in Australia, I think is really important for stable democracy.
CONNELL: I actually tried to look up if you're a Monarchist or Republican before the show. I'm getting the sense you're a monarchist?
HUME: I am. I am very much in favor of a constitutional monarchy as a form of government. I wouldn't go as far as I'm not a royalist. I don't wear the Union Jack underwear or any of that sort of stuff, you know, but I am very much in favor of anything that ensures that we have a stable democracy, and that's certainly what a constitutional monarchy is provided not just in Australia, but right around the world.
CONNELL: Well, we'll pick up on that perhaps when you get your sparring partner Jenny McAllister back in a few weeks. I just thought I'd note that, and I couldn't find it anywhere online. So there you go. The RBA is being grilled today at this committee. The last grilling was in February, and even back then, we heard Phil Lowe say that there was an expectation rates would not change until 2024. Are Australians entitled to be a bit angry about what the RBA has had to say versus the reality?
HUME: Well, I think the reality is it's been a very tumultuous period of time, not just in our economy, but in global economies. The RBA makes decisions based on the information that it has at its disposal at that time. What I think was most interesting come out of some of the testimony that we're hearing today, and admittedly I haven't been able to sit and watch all of it, is that Philip Lowe believes that rates still may need to rise, although, albeit by not quite as large increments as we've seen in the last few months. That's because there is still a need to rein in inflation. The most important thing that I think a government can do now is to make sure that its fiscal policy is working in line and alongside monetary policy, which the RBA is responsible for, to ensure that the RBA doesn't have to do too much of that heavy lifting. We know that the government, for instance, had a lot of on-balance sheet and off-balance sheet expenditure that wasn't that announced well before the election. I think it was around $45 billion in off-balance sheet expenditure and $18 billion on balance sheet expenditure that was in excess of anything that the government was committed to. Now, if you increase your payments, increase your expenditure, of course… then the RBA has to pull that lever that little bit harder.
CONNELL: But the coalition was increasing too, just not by the same amount. So the principle that Coalition was doing the same as what Labor is doing, as you just explained, they're just not to the same extent. You did the same thing with your last budget.
HUME: It's all about sending out those signals, saying it's time to sort of rein in a little bit more fiscal rectitude so that the RBA can also get those signals and make sure that it responds in kind with interest rates. Because, of course, we know that interest rates mainly hit hard on about a third of the population. Because a third of the population are mortgage holders, one-third are renters and another third of people own their own homes outright. It's that third that are the mortgage holders that are feeling the major brunt of the RBA decisions to raise interest rates, which is largely correlated to the government's position of increasing deficits as well. So if we could rein in those deficits, it would send that right signal to the RBA to make sure that it doesn't have to do all of the heavy lifting, and the one-third of Australians that are really carrying the burden for everybody else right now will have the squeeze eased.
CONNELL: Should just note that a huge part of what the RBA is having to do is all about inflation, both global and in Australia. We'll have to leave it there. We're a bit short on time today, but we'll talk to you next week along with Jenny McAllister as well. Jane Hume, thank you.