TOM CONNELL: Welcome back to the segment every person in this building watches, and many of you around the country, Hume and McAllister. Each week the Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume and Assistant Climate Change and Energy Minister Jenny McAllister, face off, fire up, the big news and developments may start with your favorite part of it. Me being quiet, Jane saying what's what's on your mind this week?
JANE HUME: Tom, National Accounts came out this week and the data told us what Australians already know that they're doing it tough right now. And in fact, we're in a per capita recession. We now know that mortgage repayments are twice what they were just a year ago that that national savings are now back down to a level that they were at in 2008. And if you ask anybody on the street, they'll tell you that they're feeling poor than they were just a year ago.The Treasurer has said that this is steady and sturdy in the economy. Well, quite frankly, what we're looking for is an economic plan because if this is as good as it gets, heaven help us.
TOM CONNELL: Jenny, what about you?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Well thanks Tom. The Albanese Government was elected on a promise to get wages moving and that is just what we're doing with our Closing Loopholes. Bill that we've introduced this week. We are cracking down on the labor hire loophole that is used to underpaid and bargained wages and conditions. We are criminalising wage theft. We are properly defining casual work so that casuals aren't being exploited and we're making sure that gig workers aren't being ripped off, and really importantly, that their safety is protected. When Australians go to work, they deserve to be paid fairly. They deserve to be safe. They deserve to have the option of a secure job. And as they've not had their pay solid.
TOM CONNELL: We've had a week this week in parliament dominated by aviation. The Transport Minister Catherine King defending her decision to block Qatar Airways flights or more flights I should say she told media this morning. A letter from Australian women who was stripped searched at a Qatari airport informed the decision but wasn't the only factor. What can you tell us Jenny? Because I keep hearing different explanations. Are there sort of cheat notes they're giving to you that can crack this matter wide open for me because I'm trying to follow it and maybe it's my comprehension, I'm struggling?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Well, Tom, it's quite routine. If you really do want the explanation from the very beginning. It's really routine for other countries to approach Australia and to seek access at a country level to our aviation sector. Happens from time to time and that's what happened in this case with Qatar. When those applications are made, they're considered by the minister and a determination is made in the national interest.
TOM CONNELL: Do you know more about the national interest? It's not like national security, shouldn't you be able to explain, maybe not you personally or the Minister, here's why it's not in the national interest. Wouldn't that help all this?
JENNY MCALLISTER: It is a broad, it's broad concept and the Minister has made it really clear that she applied it in this case, and I think the thing she's been keen to emphasise is that it's not about the commercial interests of one carrier or another carrier. It is a broad test about the national interest very broadly.
TOM CONNELL: Commercial interest to Qantas, though is that they're viable company so that kind of is factored into it, isn't it?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Well, it's not exclusively about the commercial interests of a particular-
TOM CONNELL: No but is-
JENNY MCALLISTER: the national interest is a broad concept.
TOM CONNELL: But is talking about Qantas being a viable company, that is actually in the national interest?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Look, I think the broad point is that everyone wants a sustainable competitive aviation sector, but it occurs in a context and one of the things that, I suppose I'd make two points in that regard. There's no single decision that determines that and, more generally Minister King has initiated a green paper white paper process that will allow people to have a say about the broad future of the industry and that's a really important piece of policy work that she's leading.
TOM CONNELL: Jane, interesting decision from Michael McCormack when he was Minister. He delayed a decision and then gave Qatar Airways fewer flights and they wanted so he was worried about Qantas being viable as well. Isn't this a sort of continuation of that decision in thinking?
JANE HUME: I think you need to look at the decisions that are made within the context in which they're made. And of course, back then, that was at a time where airfares were at record lows where Australians were actually benefiting from cheaper airfares particularly to Europe. Whereas now this decision was made in the context where airfares are historical highs and Australians are paying the price.
TOM CONNELL: Of the back of those profits on prices-
JANE HUME: So if you're not running a protection racket for Qantas, well what is going on here? If it's on the basis of human rights, which is the implication when we're talking about the decision around women that were taken off the Qatari flight I mean, that's there was a horrendous reprehensible behaviour. It's appalling to read about but do you think it should be a reason to stop an airline from flying in? It was the government but the government owns the airline. We've still got Qatar Airlines here/ And there are let's face it, there are airlines from other countries with whom have human rights issues as well. The excuse that I think struck most with me and you maybe you can answer this one Jen, was that there were other ministers that were coming out saying well, they could always just put on more, bigger aircraft, and send them to places like Adelaide. Well, what you're asking for is Qatar, who has the most fuel efficient aeroplanes in the A350s to essentially ditch those, and bring back the A380s which are absolutely, they're fuel guzzlers so that you can pick up more seats. Now, that seems entirely inconsistent as well. So there is not a consistent message at all. We're asking what the national interest really is.
TOM CONNELL: We're short on time. I'm gonna skip that one, that alright? Let's talk about Eraring. It's going to be extended it looks like. Interesting call isn't it, this old coal fired power station from New South Wales. What did you make of that within your sort of sphere?
JENNY MCALLISTER: Yeah, so look, broadly, we've known for a very long time that many of the older coal generators were coming to the end of their lives. And in fact, over the last decade, I think they're about 20 have announced their intended closure date. And unfortunately, under the last government, there were no plans made for what was going to happen once those closures took place. The New South Wales government has taken the decision to take a closer look at energy security in the context of the New South Wales market. They've received a report which has sort of been widely canvassed in the media this week, and they've indicated that they're going to initiate some discussions. There are, significantly though they've also made a series of announcements about other investments that they want to make across the-
TOM CONNELL: So might get extended but then some renewables to go after that, but the extent is interesting, isn't it?
JENNY MCALLISTER: I think they are examining the options are available for them.
TOM CONNELL: Okay.
JENNY MCALLISTER: I think the point that Mr. Bowen sometimes makes is we don't want any of these things to run a day longer than they need to, but we certainly don't want them closing a day earlier than is sensible.
TOM CONNELL: The NSW Leader is playing down the risk of blackouts without Eraring. He says it's nearing the end of its life anyway.
JANE HUME: Well, we know that some of these coal fired power stations are nearing the end of their lives, but that's being hastened by the rush to renewables because essentially, that makes coal fired power stations more unviable. If we haven't got that transition for baseload power, particularly in gas which let's face it, this government is doing everything it possibly can to discourage new investments in the gas industry. But of course, we're going to see an extension to things like Eraring and Loy Yang A have down in Victoria as well. So state Labor Governments are having to make this decision because of the ideological position you've taken in that rush to renewables.
TOM CONNELL: Australia Post, just finally, is doing it's big items, things that what we call it and don't want to say something awkward. There's a pineapple, there's a prawn.
JENNY MCALLISTER: On a coin.
TOM CONNELL: So it's not on stamps. I've got a 30 second, I'm going terribly today. What's your favorite big thing in this series?
JANE HUME: I took my kids, well I don't know whether it's on the coin, I took my kids to see the big lobster in South Australia. They were bored, relentlessly bored and the photographs demonstrate that.
JENNY MCALLISTER: I'm gonna go also with the crustacean because of course as someone from northern New South Wales, the big prawn looms large in my childhood. And, you know, it's a tough choice that the North Coast, many options, many big things. Big Merino wool sheep is mine.
JANE HUME: That's anatomically correct. I parked underneath it once.
TOM CONNELL: Yeah I'm just gonna leave it right there. Jenny. Jane, thank you. That's it for Afternoon Agenda. Thanks for your company.