LAURA JAYES: Welcome back. You're watching AM Agenda. The cash right now is at its highest level in 12 years. This is after the RBA announced a quarter of a percentage point increase yesterday. The latest hike has prompted Treasurer Jim Chalmers to defend his government's record on fighting inflation as households feel the pressure. Joining me now is Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume. Thanks so much for your time, Jane. First of all, when we look at the RBA decision yesterday, they're citing two things that are really pushing inflation, that is petrol prices, and the increase in rents. What would you do about that?
JANE HUME: Laura, they weren't just citing petrol prices and the increase in rents. In fact, they were saying that this core inflation, this sticky inflation that Australia is experiencing at the moment is much harder to bring down. When inflation is higher, for longer, that means interest rates have to stay higher for longer as well. We've been urging the government to have a plan to bring down inflation. So we don't just use monetary policy, just rely on the RBA to do all the heavy lifting. But use fiscal policy as well. In fact, Michele Bullock spoke to us at Senate Estimates and said that services price inflation is one of the things that is pushing that, that is within the control of the federal government, of the Commonwealth and something that Jim Chalmers should be tackling head on rather than simply pointing to overseas factors saying, oh, it's all about fuel prices, this is because of the Middle East, this is because of Russia. Of course, now he's also saying, oh, this is because of the state's programs of infrastructure rollout. You know, at some point, Jim Chalmers has to step up and take responsibility for inflation rather than turning it all over to the RBA. Because if you do that interest rates are going to keep having to go up and Australians are paying the price. We already know that if you have a $750,000 mortgage, you now have to find an additional $24,000 a year to pay back that mortgage just from 15 months ago, that's not the sort of money you find on the back of a couch. I reckon yesterday afternoon after the cup was won, a lot of families went home and pulled out a calculator and a piece of paper and a pencil and said, how are we going to do this?
LAURA JAYES: That's right. But what has also been talked about, particularly from economists, is that we've had massive migration. We need that because businesses are still crying out for workers. But economists are now saying it's been too fast, and it's too much. What would your side do?
JANE HUME: Well, look, a well managed migration program has underpinned Australia's economic growth and prosperity for decades. We know that, but well managed is the key here. One of the other things we heard at estimates was that we are now seeing a net migration of around 125,000 people per quarter. So that's the size of an entire political electorate.
LAURA JAYES: So what you're seeing is, it's more than just meeting the numbers, the numbers are too high?
JANE HUME: Not only the numbers are unbelievably high, higher than we've seen, I think ever before. But they're also higher than the government specifically outlined at its jobs and skills summit, almost twice the amount that the government outlined at its jobs and skill Summit, just a little over a year ago. So clearly, the migration program is out of control. It does need to be better managed, yes, of course, we must feel those skills. But it gets to the stage where if all your economic economic growth is relying on migration, and it is at the moment, we're actually in a per capita recession, if all your economic growth is relying on migration, it is the ultimate Ponzi scheme. It is entirely unsustainable, and it's fueling inflation.
LAURA JAYES: Ok, so is this official from your side of politics now that the migration level needs to come down?
JANE HUME: Officially, from my side of politics, you'll hear that the migration level needs to be better managed, it needs to be better coordinated, if you're going to start cutting infrastructure projects, how are you going to do that and manage a migration program of this size of this scale? At the same time, if you're going to have, you know, you need a proper housing policy. Where are these migrants going to live? Otherwise, it's going to be that the size of the migration program is going to be the economic detriment to all Australians and we're going to see higher prices and we're going to see increasing housing shortages and pressure on the infrastructure that we already have.
LAURA JAYES: Well, we're already seeing it. A spokesperson for the Treasurer in the Australian newspaper this morning has said quote unquote, it's embarrassing and humiliating for Senator Hume to describe inflation at 1.2% as out of control. She was reminded today that inflation was almost twice that in the last full quarter of the government she was a part of. Dutton style negativity is no substitute for economic credibility.
JANE HUME: Well, I love the fact that Jim Chalmers is sending out a faceless lackey as a spokesperson rather than actually fronting up to the cameras himself, and telling Australians that quarterly inflation of 1.2%, which was much higher than forecast, much higher than forecast by the government, higher than forecast by the RBA, and responded to by the RBA, with an interest rate rise. If he can front up to the cameras and tell me that 1.2% inflation in a quarter isn't too high. Well, good luck to him. I think that that would speak volumes. Instead, he sent out somebody else to have a political swing, if that's the way he wants to play, no problems. But quite frankly, I think that if this government doesn't do more, to bring down inflation, to bring down inflation, so that the RBA doesn't have to do all the heavy lifting, keep pushing up interest rate rises. Well, the government has a lot to answer for, they can talk about the cost of living. Anthony Albanese said at New Year's Eve that that was his New Year's resolution, to bring down the cost of living. It's November, he has comprehensively failed to do that. Yet the government keeps spending more money, fueling aggregate demand, and inflation keeps going up. The RBA keeps having to lift interest rates. That is on Jim Chalmers watch. If he doesn't have a plan to bring down inflation. He's not doing his job. Don't send out a faceless lackey. Do it yourself, Jim.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, there's a lot more to talk about when it comes to the migration story. We'll leave it there today. Jane, we will speak soon.