KATIE WOOLF: Now joining me on the line right now is Senator Jane Hume, who is indeed the shadow finance minister. Good morning to you, Jane.
JANE HUME: Great to be with you, Katie.
KATIE WOOLF: Thanks so much for your time this morning. Now, Jane. From your perspective, do you feel as though this budget’s gone far enough to try to lower the cost of living for Australians?
JANE HUME: This budget really was a test for the new Labour Government. It was a test to see whether it could build on the strong position that it inherited from the Coalition, you know, unemployment rates low over 3% and going down a triple-A credit rating, economic growth going up. It was also a test to see whether they could address this cost of living crisis. It's bearing down on all Australians right now. But Labor failed that test. They failed it wholeheartedly. They did absolutely nothing to assist your family budget. There is no credible plan in the budget to deal with the source of inflation. Help families deal with that immediate cost of living pressure. They actually said, embedded in the budget, that your cost of living is going to go up. That your electricity bills and your gas bills are going to go up. That your tax payments are going to go up. That government spending is going to go up. But that employment will go down around 140,000 people are going to lose their jobs next year. And that real wages are also forecast to go down not just next year, but for the whole term of this government. So this is a really high taxing, high spending budget and it really does very little to help you and your family get ahead of the curve.
KATIE WOOLF: What do you make of Jim Chalmers obviously saying that they've got this five-point plan for the cost of living relief, cheaper childcare expanding, paid parental leave, cheaper medicines, more affordable housing, and getting wages moving again? I think that that last point is the hardest one, how exactly are they going to get wages moving again?
JANE HUME: Well, this is the thing, getting wages moving again takes more than a wish, you know, you've got to be able to really back it in with high productivity and economic growth, and there's really nothing in this budget to improve the productive capacity of the economy. Those five points that Labor said we're going to reduce the cost of living, most of them don't even kick in for the next two years. The problem is Australians need help with the cost of living right now. Childcare reform is fantastic. That'll make childcare cheaper, but the problem is really not only affordability, it's accessibility. Where are these? You know, where's this demand going to go? Because there are particularly regional communities that are really struggling to find accessible childcare and paid parental leave. Well, that's terrific if you're in the first six months of having a baby, but for most Australian people, for most Australian families, there's very little in that five-point plan that will make a difference today.
KATIE WOOLF: Now for the Northern Territory. There is quite a bit in it for us regarding infrastructure $2.5 billion towards key infrastructure projects. Along with some more housing, investments in remote communities, and more places for Territorians. At university, we do still have issues. So like with the workforce, you know, we hear it pretty regularly on the show people saying to us and businesses saying to us, you know, Katie, we need help to try to get workers into jobs and to try to attract people to not leave here.
JANE HUME: Well, that's exactly right. Because we're now forecasting, there's going to be job losses right around the country. This is going to have an effect on whether businesses run best and whether they can grow, and whether they can employ people where people are needed. We already know that there are job shortages in things like child care, and aged care, and yet this budget is essentially planning to have these industries filled miraculously, magically somehow over the next couple of years. While there's some really good infrastructure investments, certainly being made in the Northern Territory, I'm going to start questioning some of the other choices of infrastructure spending over where I'm from Victoria. One of the commitments that was made in this government was $2.2 billion of taxpayer's money to a suburban rail loop which is a commitment of the Andrews Labor Government down here, five weeks out from an election. Now Labor did say before the election, that they were going to make sure that every dollar that they spend was quality spending, and that was going to be the difference between the Labor Government and a Coalition Government. Well, quite frankly, the suburban rail loop hasn't even been through Infrastructure Australia in the cost-benefit analysis. It doesn't stack up, and the Victorian Auditor General said as much so that really, you know, belies that proclamation by the Labour Government prior to the election. It's not a surprise because, you know, prior to the election, they also said that we're going to bring down electricity prices by $275. They've certainly reneged on that energy prices are going up 50%, electricity 50% gas 40%. They also said that Australians would be better off under a Labor Government that they would feel it in their bank accounts. Well, I think that there's a few Australians out there that a feeling it in their bank accounts, but not the way that Jim Chalmers said that we're going to.
KATIE WOOLF: Well Jane, one of the areas that we're certainly not seeing it in our bank accounts is when it comes to the cost of petrol, and its on-flow in so many different areas, particularly in regional parts of Australia and places like the Northern Territory and more remote areas of the territory. But what we've now learned through the Australian Financial Review, they're saying that costs could jump by 40 cents a litre within a week, potentially skyrocketing some of those prices around Australia's major eastern cities now they're talking sort of $2.14 prices when it comes to your unleaded, we're already incredibly high at this point here in the territory. Do you think that more could have been done around petrol? I know that, obviously, the Coalition had announced or did have the fuel excise in place when it was incredibly expensive. I don't know whether that could have continued on. But could we be doing more in this space?
JANE HUME: Well, I think there's certainly more that we can be doing to tackle the cost of living more broadly. Yes, you're right when the Coalition was in government, the cost of living pressures began to bite. Our response, particularly to the increased petrol prices because of the crisis in Ukraine was to temporarily reduce the excise. That was one cost of living measure that we implemented. Now, Labor’s decision not to continue with that for their own reasons. They had advice that suggested that that was not the best solution. But if that wasn't the best solution, what is the best solution because reducing pressure on interest rates and inflation through careful budget management isn't what they've done. In fact, we're seeing debt and deficit blowout across the next 10 years. Clearly reducing electricity prices and gas prices isn't something that they've been advised to do because they're predicting a 50% and 40% rise in electricity and gas. They're really not tackling supply constraints. They're not tackling red tape, you know, they're actually increasing union action, which will be a cost to small businesses. I'm struggling to see where it is that they are helping out with the cost of living for ordinary Australians.
KATIE WOOLF: Jane Hume, you've given people a bit to think about there, the Shadow Finance Minister. We really appreciate your time this morning. Thanks so much for having a chat with us.
JANE HUME: Great to be with you, Katie.
KATIE WOOLF: Thank you. That is Senator Jane Hume.