Hume & McAllister, Panel with Tom Connell on SkyNews
10 February 2023
TOM CONNELL: Well, welcome to our first edition for 2023 of our returning weekly Friday show Hume and McAllister. Each week, Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume and Assistant Climate Change and Energy Minister Jenny McAllister, face off and fire up on the big news and political developments. Jane, Jenny, welcome back. Of course. Let's start off with what's been firing you up over, I guess you're coming up off a long run up over the summer break. Jane, what's been on your mind?
JANE HUME: Tom, before the election, Tony Burke said that Australians would feel a change of government in their bank accounts. Well he was 100% right on that one. Because nine months into this Labor government the cost of living only continues to skyrocket. This week, we saw the ninth consecutive interest rate rise coming out of the RBA and interest rates are now as high as they were a decade ago under Julia Gillard. 800,000 Australian households are going to switch from a fixed rate to a variable rate mortgage this year and those households will only feel more pain because of the increase in the cost of living with groceries and energy bills going through the roof. The Cost of Living Committee heard last week from Woolworths that people are beginning to change their consumption patterns. Leaving things in the trolley, leaving them at the checkout because they can't afford to take them home. And all of this is happening while real wages continue to go backwards. Not just grow slowly, but go backwards. And they'll continue to do that right throughout the term of this government because that's what their budget papers say. So the old adage is true, Australians will always pay more under Labor.
TOM CONNELL: All right. Jenny, surely weren't at the exact same points Jane had. What have you been mulling over during the summer break?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Well, I wanted to reflect on something happening this week where the government is taking additional steps to support Australian women at work. I put a significant birthday coming up this year and what that means is 25 years are about there. Since I graduated from university at that time, the gender pay gap was 16%. It's now sitting at 14%. And honestly, that's just not fair and it's not right. And it's a waste of the talents of Australian women. So this week, we introduced legislation into the parliament, that will require companies who have more than 100 people to make their gender pay per pay gap public. And we know from the international experience that when you do that, the scrutiny that comes on to those employers, gets them to pay a little more attention to this question. We cannot wait another 25 years to solve this problem. It's not fair it's not right and will be good for women and good economy if we can get this done.
TOM CONNELL: Interesting data because the same job they're asked to compare so whether it's as high as 40% how it differs between companies. I'm sure it'll be interesting reading. The high cost of living continues to be a sticking point, of course for the government after another rate rise this week. There have been renewed warnings that Australian homeowners could be facing that mortgage cliff you heard about from Jane. Labor is under pressure to deliver meaningfully meaningful energy price relief. Jim Chalmers this morning laid out his three point plan to combat inflation, saying the need for Australian spending budget repair remotes. A lot of people are really feeling the pinch from these interest rate rises. And that's why our government is to the extent that we have levers trying to relieve inflationary pressure on people the cheaper childcare, trying to put downward pressure on energy prices.
TOM CONNELL: Jane it's been interesting to listen to the treasurer has raised writing more and more that the first priority the number one priority the budget is spending restraint because otherwise he goes directly against what the RBA is trying to do. Is that a fair enough strategy?
JANE HUME: Well, I think you can not just listen to what people say but look at what they do. Because at the last budget Labor took an additional $23 billion of spending onto the budget bottom line. So that spending profligacy is one of the reasons and the messages that it says is one of the reasons why the RBA is left to do all the heavy lifting in the effort to control inflation. If you've got your fiscal policy moving in one direction and your monetary policy moving in the other. Well, that makes for very uncomfortable living for Australians that wear the brunt of those interest rate rises. So that's why fiscal restraint is so important, particularly now. And we've seen the IMF come out and say that some of these decisions that the government is making, particularly these great big off balance sheet funds, will actually fuel inflation further. The problem is that this government has its economic priorities, all wrong. And that's why we're seeing that increasing pressure on the cost of living, so don't just listen to what they say, have a look at what they do.
TOM CONNELL: So Jenny, there's a possibility of recession that's been spoken about more and more. If it happens, whose fault would it be?
JENNY MCALLISTER: The Treasurer has made it very clear that inflation is the highest priority for the government. Taming the dragon, I think he has referred to it. It's really important. And as the Reserve Bank Governor has made clear, the path through this is narrow and challenging, but we are absolutely determining-
TOM CONNELL: As in avoiding recession, is a narrow possibility potentially?
JENNY MCALLISTER: The path through this to deal with inflation while maintaining economic growth is challenging, but the reserve is absolutely focused on it. We can see that from the governance statements. And so is the government. You saw Jim Chalmers this week lay out a clear plan, a clear strategy for the government to deal with inflation, dealing with cost of living, dealing with some of the supply side constraints that are causing challenges in the economy, and of course, responsible budget management. We know that inflation hurts families, and we know that there's a lot of families doing it tough and worried about this year. We're going to do everything we can in the course of the budget to get inflation under control, but provide relief where we can.
TOM CONNELL: It's a situation where the Opposition is going to say ‘cost of living, cost of living’ Jane and that's the concern of voters. But again, aside from the not too much new spending, there's a rebate coming for power bills. There’s not a lot else that can be done right now. Are you trying to set up the government for an impossible task here?
JANE HUME: No that’s not true.
TOM CONNELL: Okay, well, what else? What else? What else would you have them do?
JANE HUME: No that is the task Tom. This is the problem Tom. This is the task of government. This should be their number one focus, reducing inflation, reducing the cost of living and it is their responsibility. Jim Chalmers seems to think that somehow the RBA can do all the work or finally we're getting to hear some noise from them now, but quite frankly, I think that's shutting the gate after the horses bolted. That's the reason why we've set up this Cost of Living committee in the Senate, so that we can hear from people right around the country, whether it be energy people, whether it be retailers, whether it be you know, groceries, whether it be charities and not for profits as to what problems they facing, but also what solutions they can be providing those implementable practical, responsible solutions that won't further fuel inflation. And we began to hear that last week in the first three days, but we'll continue to do that right around the country because the cost of living affects different cohorts in different ways.
TOM CONNELL: We spoke last week Jane. What so you're saying sort of tax breaks for companies to be the ones that help to relieve Australians? Is that what you're talking about?
JANE HUME: No-
TOM CONNELL:. It’s obviously a limited menu to choose from.
JANE HUME: Yeah, that was one solution that we discussed. That was from one witness and it was actually about a tax break for food donations. In conjunction with Woolworths Woolworths have seen a 20% increase in the demand for food donations from their charity partners. Foodbank was saying that the people that they're seeing come through the door are actually dual income and and you know the Salvos were telling us that one in three people that walked through their door, saying that the reason why they're there is the cost of living. So all of this is really important data to understand and to understand where those points are, which points in the supply chain, it could make a difference. Perhaps it's from reducing red tape. Perhaps it's from aligning your policies between states and you know, in the Commonwealth, perhaps it's got a tax deduction for a particular you know, for whatever it might be, but these are the solutions that we can find that won't fuel inflation further.
TOM CONNELL: The tax deduction, presumably would be around Woolworths which is why I mentioned companies. I wouldn't think Foodbank’s paying that much.
JANE HUME: Oh, it was for food inflation with food donations. I thought it was an interesting idea. But you know, obviously not one that’s-
TOM CONNELL: Yeah I know that I'm just, I wasn't suggesting, I’m just saying the company gets some sort of tax break, perhaps.
JANE HUME: Or the individual.
TOM CONNELL: So Jenny, what do you think of that sort of tuning in to your suppose co-hosts or co-panelists, inquiry, looking at all these different ideas? Because yes, we know you can't just sort of go out and spend money and add to inflation, but there are other ways to tackle it. Is the government really trying to think outside the box and deliver anything that it can to Australians?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Look, I think from Jane’s last contribution, you can see there is a lot of admiring the problem, but actually not a lot of solutions on the table from the Opposition. From the government perspective, we are constructing our next budget-
JANE HUME: Hey, we had three days of inquiry. Three days we've done more in three days and you've done in nine months.
JENNY MCALLISTER: Jane, that is simply not right. This government is delivering cheaper and delivering cheaper childcare. We are working to unlock some of the whereby chain constraints that we inherited from you by investing in free TAFE and working through the National Reconstruction Fund with industry to establish the industry
JANE HUME: $15 billion dollars of borrowing to get that, $15 billion dollars you're borrowing for that.
JENNY MCALLISTER: Senator Hume our budget will demonstrate responsible budget management when it comes down-
JANE HUME: That’s because you’re taking off the budget. The IMF said that’s a bad idea.
JENNY MCALLISTER: We did that in the last budget in October and you will see it again in May.
TOM CONNELL: Alright, we'll take a quick break. We’re not quite on the same page there but maybe we will be on The Voice. Another big issue of the week, the Indigenous Voice to Parliament, stay with us.
TOM CONNELL: You are watching Hume and McAllister. Debate well and truly reignited over the Indigenous Voice to Parliament this week with Lidia Thorpe’s shock exit from the Greens. The Senator will support the black sovereignty movement from the crossbench. The Greens announced meanwhile they would support the Yes campaign following her departure. The Liberal Senator Andrew Bragg says he’ll lobby his party to support the Voice. Opposition leader Peter Dutton remains adamant detail needs to come first.
TOM CONNELL: It seems as though we could have Labor compromising at the moment. They're set to do so on pamphlet being mailed out, to both sides and perhaps even as well in some more detail. So Jenny, these are the PM’s words. He seems to have, striking a bit more of a conciliatory tone. Is this a shift, realizing it can't be the normal sort of adversary politics? You need to somehow get it on as many people as you can on the same page for any referendum to pass.
JENNY MCALLISTER: A couple of things look, ultimately this is about the Australian people. The invitation that was offered at Uluru was a generous invitation to the Australian people. And in the end it will be the Australian people that decide it won't be all about politicians and parliamentarians. But of course, we've always thought that it would be best to have as many parliamentarians on board as possible. And we're always open to constructive dialogue with any of our parliamentary colleagues about how we approach this.
TOM CONNELL: Jane, do you start just broadly as a supporter of this idea?
JANE HUME: Well, the Coalition has always, well at least for the last 20 or so years, wanted to somehow find a way to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constitution. There's been lots of debate as to how that might occur, but that's certainly a great starting point. Some of the conversations that have been going around this week about compromises being made have really not necessarily been about the question itself of the voice, but around the referendum machinery. And I think that it's very important not to conflate the two. You know, the referendum machinery that is established now will set a precedent for the future but it will also reflect the traditions of the past, the orthodoxy of the past. And that is a step, keeping that orthodoxy is probably the best way to give people comfort, that you know that this has been approached in a very genuine way. And that's really what this pamphlet is all about. We've had a pamphlet in referendum and since Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup, it's been it's a common process. outlining a ‘yes’ case and a ‘no’ case. And that's a really important step. Really important step.
TOM CONNELL: Okay, but on funding for both sides, which was another point from Peter Dutton. We only had that introduced to go through history in that recent referendum before then it wasn't a tradition. So should we go back to the previous tradition where that's not the case?
JANE HUME: Well, the decision of funding is actually a decision for government that's outside of the machinery, but it would certainly, it essentially it's a moot point unless you have an official ‘yes’ campaign and an official ‘no’ campaign. The reason why that's so important, is because if you want all of the electoral integrity around normal elections, donations for an interference to apply, well, then you really need to have those things funneled into just two campaigns, a yes campaign or no campaign. Is that let 1000 Flowers bloom and there's yes or no groups all over the place, well how do you monitor those donations? How do you monitor foreign interference?
TOM CONNELL: Yeah but you can have them without having to throw in tax payer money? You can have official campaigns without-
JANE HUME: That is entirely a decision for government. Look a ‘yes’ campaign and a ‘no’ would establish the way that they operate.
TOM CONNELL: You don’t have a view on it?
JANE HUME: As I said, it's a decision for government. Once the government tells us what it is that they would like to, the way they would fund it, that's fine. But they really need to say that they want to get behind a ‘yes’ campaign and a ‘no’ campaign first of all.
TOM CONNELL: To you Jenny?
JENNY MCALLISTER: We are not contemplating public funding for campaigns at this time. But Jane’s right, but there's going to be campaigns on either side. It's going to be really important that that campaign is respectful and inclusive.
JANE HUME: Agreed.
TOM CONNELL: And official?
JENNY MCALLISTER: I think there are going to be a range of organizations and institutions that want to make a contribution to this debate. A broad ranging democratic debate generally can help us not harm us and I'm supportive of that.
TOM CONNELL: And that can still happen. It's obviously. you can't say you're not allowed to campaign on it. But would it still be helpful to have an official? Yes and no campaigns and sort of things Jamie was talking about you have that too, you know, looking at standards of advertising and, dare I say truth and political advertising and also donations.
JANE HUME: Authorisations, all of that?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Look, I think that the government is working through the mechanics of the referendum as Jane’s indicated, but we're not contemplating funding for campaigns at this point.
TOM CONNELL: Alright sounds like it’s slightly to be confirmed, but interesting.
JANE HUME: Tom, before we move on. Let me just, let me just throw this one out there. We know that in ordinary election, we want it to look like and the government says they want it to look as much like an ordinary election as must as possible. And I think that that's a terrific approach. But in ordinary elections, we have scrutineers for each party. How do you have scrutineers, if you don't have an official ‘yes’ case and a ‘no’ case? Who are they scrutineering for and how are they scrutineering? This is a very strange way to approach a referendum like this. More importantly, take the issue aside, take the issue of the Voice and the question aside. Imagine if this was a referendum for a Republic. Imagine if it was a referendum about increasing the number of parliamentarians. These are the things that Australians would expect they're not anonymous asks, we just want to make sure that all Australians are entitled to a well run referendum. That's not a decision. But it must be a well run and tight process.
TOM CONNELL: I've think we've now run out of time to our final topic, which means you get another question Jane and I asked it before. Very briefly, are you supportive, before we lay into all the detail, I understand you can say I want to see more detail before being fully supportive. But do you support an Indigenous Voice to Parliament being in the Constitution?
JANE HUME: I really wish I could. I don't understand what it's all about yet, because those questions have not yet been answered. The model hasn't yet been determined. You're asking me to vote on a vibe. Change my Constitution on the basis of a vibe. I want to be open hearted. I want to be very generous. I want to be good willed here. But this is an enormous ask of ordinary Australians to vote on something that they don't yet understand.
TOM CONNELL: I’ve got here that we're ending with the lighter side to wrap up our panel. Not sure if I'm being set up here. Does anyone know anything about that?
JANE HUME: I do. Yes, apparently you're asking about New Year's resolutions.
TOM CONNELL: See I’m not prepared today, clearly. I didn't read the memo of my own show. Thank God you’re both here. Mine is to read all the material of the program before I go to air. Jane, what's your one?
JANE HUME: Oh my goodness, you don’t? I thought you did that already, oh man.
TOM CONNELL: My three year old did not sleep last night. I normally do.
JANE HUME: Look mine are pretty boring. You know, eat better, make sure you exercise and I was pretty good throughout January. Dropped me off a little bit in February, that last sitting week not so good at all. But hey, I reckon I've at least been better than Albo. His was to tackle the cost of living and I reckon I've done better in the last month and a half on my New Year’s resolution than he has on his.
TOM CONNELL: Come on Jane, it’s meant to be the lighter side of the show. Geez she’s started with the political bets. That early inquiry has really set you on the politics. Jenny, what about you?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Well, relevant to your lack of sleep. My goal has been to get up at five each day. My normal waking time is six, but I want to have a little bit more time for exercise so I’m trying a 5am start. Which I’ve largely managed to do. Although, honestly, the Parliament has knocked that goal around.
TOM CONNELL: If you’re feeling lazy, hearing 5am for a get up, you're not alone trust me. Jenny, Jane, thank you. We'll talk again next week for another week of politics, you two have another sitting week.