KENNY HEATLEY: Hello and welcome to 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 get fired up hopefully on the big news and political developments. Jane, Jenny, welcome to the show.
JANE HUME: Good to be with you, Kenny.
JENNY MCALLISTER: Good morning.
KENNY HEATLEY: Now usually we start off by giving you an uninterrupted 60 seconds slot to just talk about anything that's on your mind. Jenny, why don't we start with you today? What's on your mind?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Thanks, Kenny will from today millions of Australians will be able to purchase two months worth medicine for the price of one. For those Australians with ongoing health conditions, perhaps Crohn's disease, high cholesterol or heart condition, this is important cost of living relief. If you're on a Medicare card, the savings can be as much as $180 per year per medicine. If you're on a concession card, perhaps $43 per year per medicine. And importantly, all Australians will benefit from freeing up the need for these people to go back to the doctor. Freeing up GP's to do what they do best. Diagnose, treat and support health conditions across the population. Matters for rural Australians to for people who may have had to drive a long distance to renew a script. That journey won't take place as often as it might have. We came to government promising cheaper medicines. And despite the best efforts of the Liberals to stop this in the Senate, we're delivering it.
KENNY HEATLEY: Thank you Jenny and the 60 seconds on the clock for you. Jane, over to you.
JANE HUME: You'd think in a cost of living crisis if the Albanese government had a chance to slash the cost of airfares, they'd take it but unfortunately, it seems that they've done the exact opposite. Why? Well, we don't really know. Wasn't it a recommendation of the department. It doesn't seem that that's the case. Was it a decision of cabinet doesn't seem that that's the case either wasn't taken in the national interest. Well, that's the excuse that's been given, but no one's really explained it. It does seem that Stephen Jones is the only one telling the truth here. Caught out telling the truth, when he said that it wasn't just a deliberate decision to prop up Qantas. Now, no fewer than three chairs, current and former of the ACCC have said that this is a bad idea. And that's on top of industry bodies and aviation experts as well as economists. There's gonna be an awful lot of questions to answer about this next week in Parliament. Why this decision to block Qatar's additional 21 routes has been taken. But the real question for you is, during a cost of living crisis, why is the Albanese government making decisions that are costing you more?
KENNY HEATLEY: Thank you so much and we'll get into corners a little bit later as well but Australia's energy market operator has warned South Australia and Victoria in particular could see blackouts as El Nino arrives this summer. Hot, dry conditions. It points to delays in renewable projects and coal fired power becoming more unreliable. AEMO boss, Daniel Westerman says it's underscores the need for clarity for investors in renewables. Urging Australians to be alert but not alarmed. Jenny, Energy Minister Chris Bowen and system is working to ensure the power grid is stable amid these warnings. The reality is though, there's an enormous pipeline of renewable investment but few projects have been delivered due to red tape, costs and tight labor markets. It doesn't look good for the summer does it?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Well, this is an important report from AEMO, and it's one that they put out every year. And the purpose of the report of course, is to alert investors to the opportunities that exist for investments that will support the grid and will support the operation of the national electricity market. You're right, that we have a big task to climb. We have many aging assets, particularly coal fired assets, that are coming to the end of their life and will need to be replaced. And over the life of the last government, four gigawatts of dispatchable capacity left to the electricity system, and only one was brought on. So we've got a lot of catching up to do. The uncertainty that was a result of the Coalition's inability to land an energy policy in their last period of government has produced a situation where we need to work with a level of focus to bring stability back to this market. But let's be clear about what the AEMO is telling us in the report. They're saying yes, that there are reliability risks, but they are of course and appropriately very conservative in the way that they describe those risks. But they're also saying that should the government's plans and programs come to fruition in the way that they've been described and on the timetable that these will go a very long way to mitigating any of the risks that are described in the report over the medium term.
KENNY HEATLEY: Jane, she has a point there. The Coalition knew coal fired power stations were reaching their shelf life, 10 years of relative inaction on energy policy while the Coalition was in power, is it coming home to roost?
JANE HUME: Now what the decisions that this government is making, particularly around their ideological opposition to gas that would support renewables that transition to renewables. That's really what's causing the problem here. This AEMO report is a pretty dire warning. And if it's out there for investors, Jenny, I think that investors should be more frightened about the fact that your Government has actually turned them away. Particularly from that gas market, by a combination of things like price caps, the safeguard mechanism, now the PRRT. All these things that are piling on into the gas market that are essentially turning investors away, that we know that you have to have a secure baseload power in order to support that transition to renewables. But if you rush headlong into an ideological, tsunami of renewables, well, of course the grid is going to be unstable. And you quite frankly, if Australians feel like that their electricity bills have already skyrocketed. Let's remember that they are at record highs under this government. Imagine what your electricity bills are going to be like when we get that $100 billion bill for 28,000 kilometres of new poles and wires right around the country.
KENNY HEATLEY: Okay, moving on. Campaigns for the Voice officially got underway this week after the Prime Minister locked in a referendum date October 14, is it. It was the worst kept secret in Canberra. Anthony Albanese took his own campaigning to a crucial battleground Tasmania yesterday off the back of the Adelaide launch. No campaign has meanwhile warned a yes vote will do little to help meet Close the Gap targets. Jenny we now have this date for the Voice to Parliament referendum. Yes and No camps. They'll be intensifying their campaign efforts over the next six weeks or so. But it doesn't seem like a lot of time to turn things around from a losing position at the moment for the yes vote if you are to believe the polls. Are you worried? Do you think October 14 is the right day?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Look, I'm more concerned about communicating with the Australian people about the opportunity before all of us. The referendum asks people to make a really simple choice whether or not to accept the proposition that there should be a voice that will be about recognising the First Australians in our national Constitution, providing them with an opportunity to make representations through a committee to the Parliament and the executive on matters that concern Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And in the process of doing that, getting better results. And that's the story that I'll be telling to the people that I'm talking to over the next six weeks. And I'm really confident that as Australians turn their mind to this question, it's a proposition that will just make sense. Because we know that when we listen to people, we do get better results. We've been doing the same thing for a long time now, sometimes with the best of intentions. But we haven't got the results that we want for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. And more importantly, we haven't got the results that they want. And what they are telling us is that they want this opportunity in an institutional way to speak to government about the concerns that matter to them. I think Australians will understand that and I think they'll be prepared to give it a go when October 14 rolls around.
KENNY HEATLEY: In his announcing the date speech, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told us what the Voice is and what it would do. Jane, does this put to bed the argument that he hasn't provided the detail?
JANE HUME: No, quite the opposite. I think this is going to be a profoundly disappointing experience for so many Australians who have such an enormous amount of goodwill, particularly around Indigenous recognition, of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution. But unfortunately that Goodwill has been taken advantage of by attaching to that recognition, this Voice to Parliament which could have profound consequences that simply haven't been explained. You know, when we started talking about this, we were trying to move towards a consensus way of establishing recognition of Indigenous Australians in the Constitution. Anthony Albanese and the Labor government have chosen to veer away from that path of consensus. That's gonna be really disappointing because let's be frank, if you cannot explain how this voice is going to work, how can you possibly vote for it? If you can't explain how it's going to work, and you can't change it once it's there, how can you vote for it? And if you can't explain how it's going to work, you can't change it once it's there and it risks what we already have, which is a constitution that is the foundation document of the most stable liberal democracy in the world. How can you possibly vote for it? This was a deliberate decision by the Albanese Government, I am profoundly disappointed that it will I think it will go down. But that is a choice that Anthony Albanese has made because we could have walked this path to reconciliation together.
KENNY HEATLEY: Jane Hume, Jenny McAllister, stay with us. We're just gonna take a quick break and when we come back, we're going to wrap up the panel with fresh scrutiny on the national carrier Qantas.
KENNY HEATLEY: Welcome back to NewsDay and our weekly show Hume & McAllister. There's fresh heat for the flying kangaroo. Qantas has announced it will extend the deadline for claiming COVID flight credits it comes as the consumer watchdog launches legal action. After hundreds of complaints the airline allegedly advertised flights in had already cancelled. And as we've heard this morning, the Prime Minister is under pressure to review the decision to block Qatar Airways from adding extra flights into Sydney and Melbourne. Jenny, these allegations and legal problems for the national carrier Qantas about selling tickets on ghost flights are extraordinary. And now Wayne Swan, the Labor Party President is saying that you know, this review into Qatar’s permissions to fly into Australia should be reassessed. After everything that has come out about Qantas. Does this need to happen? Do we need a reassessment of Qatar Airways in Australia?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Firstly, the news that the ACCC is commencing legal action against Qantas is built on some really troubling allegations that have been made by the ACCC. There's obviously a limit on what we can say about those matters now that they are before the courts. But I would reiterate this, that the government has said for our entire time in office that Qantas needs to do better in relation to its overall performance and how it delivers for its customers. That remains our view. More broadly, you're asking I think about the Qatar decision. This is a treaty level agreement between two countries. It's been dealt with in the usual way and it does require the Minister to consider the national interest. Now there are a very broad range of factors that go into that. And I think the minister has been clear that she took a broad view it come into her decision. I'm really confident that you know Minister keen is doing a very good job in her portfolio. She's also of course, driving good long term thinking about the future of the aviation industry. And we can expect shortly the release of the green paper, part of a long process she set out to examine issues like competition, as well as a range of other questions for the aviation sector.
KENNY HEATLEY: Okay, Jane, we're running out of time. But does the government need to reassess its relationship with Qantas and be more careful about Qantas lobbying efforts after this alleged anti-competitive behavior that keeps ticket prices expensive for Australians?
JANE HUME: Well, certainly the government needs to explain why it's made this decision specifically about Qatar Airways to prevent them taking on those additional 21 routes. As I said earlier, Stephen Jones, I think belled the cat when he said that it was a deliberate decision to make sure that that connoisseur's profits remained and I think that that's quite confronting. Catherine King has said that she consulted widely on this decision. And yet, when you asked Clare O'Neill, Richard Marles, Brendan O'Connor, no one could actually say that they had been consulted. Is she honestly saying that she didn't consult with the Prime Minister on this one? Because he's turned it all over to her. He's the former Transport Minister, so he knows an awful lot about aviation. I find it very hard to believe that the Minister made this decision unilaterally without talking to the Prime Minister or any of those colleagues. Particularly the ones that are in the National Security Committee. If this was actually a decision that was made in the national interest, Penny Wong wasn't consulted, if it's a treaty decision, Jenny, surely Penny Wong would have been consulted? She said that she wasn't. So where did this come from? Why was it made? Who was putting the pressure on to deny Qatar those additional routes, which would have brought the cost of airfares down for all Australians? That's the decision, that's the question that we need to be asking.
KENNY HEATLEY: Just quickly, Jenny.
JENNY MCALLISTER: Look I'd reiterate the point that this is a very standard decision and from time to time, other countries come to us and seek increased access for airlines. And various decisions have been made over time, including decisions made under the previous government by Mr. McCormack. We of course want to see-
JANE HUME: And Mr McCormack said that even he consulted with-
JENNY MCALLISTER: a competitive airline industry in Australia-
JANE HUME: Anthony Albanese.
JENNY MCALLISTER: Minister King has initiated a broad policy process to examine those questions. And we know that in the meantime, the thing that will really help consumers is the having a whole range of carriers that are operating into the Australian market, lift that overall number of flights coming in and out of Australia. There is not, it's not one single airline airline or one single decision that will make the difference for consumers.
KENNY HEATLEY: All right, Jenny and Jane Hume thanks so much.
JANE HUME: Except for about 40%, the cost, 40% the cost could have come down had that decision been made.
KENNY HEATLEY: Okay. Thanks so much to you both. Have a great weekend. We'll talk to you again hopefully soon.