Interview with Laura Jayes, AM Agenda
10 May 2023
LAURA JAYES: Welcome back. Well, Jim Chalmers' Budget promised cost of living relief for Australians. But not everyone is convinced that the Government has done enough to help those who are struggling the most. The Opposition says the Government has failed to act in any meaningful way on inflation, power prices, housing, describing last night's budget as one of broken promises. Joining me live now is the Finance Minister Jane Hume. Good to see you. What do you take exception with?
JANE HUME: Well, before I start with that, Laura, I think I should probably correct you. I'm the Shadow Finance Minister, as much as I'd like to be the Finance Minister today, unfortunately, I’m the shadow.
LAURA JAYES: That does change the dynamic quite a bit. Alright, let's get into it. So what's your biggest problem with this budget?
JANE HUME: Well, this is a traditional Labor budget, you know, it's a big tax, big spend budget, there's an additional 185 billion just in this year alone, of additional expenditure and of course, that means that this Government isn't tackling inflation, which is the biggest driver of the cost of living. Inflation is the thief of the night, it erodes your purchasing power, it eats at your savings. It reduces your standard of living. So unless you're tackling inflation, essentially, you're failing in your duty. And I know you've got Chris Richardson on so I don't want to steal his thunder. But last night, his response to the Budget, his immediate response was well, I thought that the RBA had probably finished, its rate rises. But now it may well have to bring out, I think the phrase he used was the baseball bat again and that's a real disappointment to those thousands, millions of Australians that are really struggling right now those with mortgages, who are essentially shouldering all the burden from those rate rises that the RBA is forced to make because the Government isn't moving fiscal policy in the same way as monetary policy.
LAURA JAYES: So you think this welfare spend is inflationary. If that is the case, who would you not have given that money to?
JANE HUME: Well, this is the thing, we're looking through the Budget papers, and every line says this isn’t inflationary but that's not enough. Is it actually reducing inflation and if it is, well, where? Because we can't find a policy that has a sustained deflationary effect and that should be an objective of this Government. In fact, they have removed the explicit objective of maintaining or tackling inflation from the fiscal strategy. I think that's really disappointing. So we would have liked to have seen more. In fact, we're seeing some policies there that could potentially push inflation higher for longer. So for instance, there's a new tax on farmers, the biodiversity levy, and there's a new tax on truckies with new charges, a fuel charge and because of that, you know, that's actually going to affect both agriculture and transport and that's going to push the prices of food and groceries even higher. We haven't seen that model yet. That's certainly something that we will analyse a little further during the Senate Estimates process. But those sorts of measures may potentially have a more inflationary effect. That's not deflationary. That's not what this Budget should be doing.
LAURA JAYES: What about housing, because these Budget papers show about 140,000 people are going to lose their jobs, perhaps in the next year. But we're also going to welcome about 700,000 migrants, that has obvious problems, right? But the pressure on housing is huge. Is there any thinking there? I mean, there's an incentive for developers to build, great. But does the Coalition need to just support the Government in any kind of way to get homes built more quickly?
JANE HUME: Yeah, this is extraordinary and in fact, you know, that 700,000 figure, I think, is an underestimate, because when you look at the Budget as a whole, in fact, it's 1.5 million in net migration in five years, if you include this year as well and of course, that comes at a time when infrastructure is either being delayed or being cut. So there isn't that supporting infrastructure behind that large migration growth and as you said, housing. We're in a housing crisis already. Now, if I were in Government, at a Federal level, and at every State and Territory level other than Tasmania., well, the first thing that I would do would be to ask those State Premiers, what are you going to do to open up supply? The fact that Anthony Albanese hasn't been able to do that so far, suggests to me that either the Premiers are the ones that have all the power or they're not respecting the Prime Minister.
LAURA JAYES: Don’t the States have all the power?
JANE HUME: Well, this is really it, isn't it? So surely if you're controlling that National Cabinet the way Anthony Albanese should be, if he's delivering for all Australians, which is the promise that he made, that he wouldn't leave anybody behind. It's time to get those Premiers in order to make sure that they're opening up supply. That is the only sustainable way to bring down the cost of housing in the same way that opening up new supplies of energy is the only sustainable way for electricity and gas prices to decrease.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, Jane Hume, thanks so much for your time this morning.
JANE HUME: Thanks Laura.