LAURA JAYES: Welcome back. You're watching AM agenda. There is no easy solution to the power price problem on Australia's east coast. But a month after price caps were imposed by the government. We don't seem to be having any effects so far. Joining me live now is the Shadow Finance Minister Jane Hume. Thanks so much for your time, Jane. First of all, they've been in place for a month, do you? Does everyone need to give the government and gas companies a little bit more leeway time for this to actually work?
JANE HUME: Well, there's really two elements here. Laura, we knew that this legislation wasn't going to work. It was rushed through, there was no consultation. And more importantly, we also know that when you put in price caps when you fix prices, essentially what you're doing is putting off potential investors into new suppliers. The only way to sustainably get prices down, is to make sure that there is adequate supply. That means we want more investment, not less investment. When you create those price caps and you put in uncertainty Why would people invest in Australia? More importantly, why would you go out and actively insult the gas suppliers, the gas producers, which is exactly what Ed Husic did yesterday? His language was a combination of insulting but also extraordinarily immature and thoughtless. Why would anybody invest in Australia's gas supplies if they're only going to be abused by a minister? He said that they were 'Putin profits' and that essentially, gas suppliers were whinging. Well, that's outrageous and not a good way to make sure that gas supplies are there for the future we've already seen just since these price caps come in prices put up by around 26% by Energy Australia, and that's on top of the prices that have already gone up by AGL and Origin. Clearly, the government's solution to the gas crisis isn't working. They need to go back to the drawing board.
LAURA JAYES: Well, the gas companies are still making huge profits though, so Ed Husic may not be in language that they would have liked. But he's not incorrect is he? They are Putin profits. They are making huge profit still.
JANE HUME: Do you know this isn't the first time that Australia's East Coast has faced a gas crisis. But in fact back in 2017, we also saw soaring gas prices. And the way that the coalition dealt with it was to consult with the energy providers to consult with the gas providers and find a solution to making sure that there were adequate reserves now we're seeing adequate and adequate supply. Now we're seeing the exact opposite of by demonising those gas suppliers, not only are you essentially putting off potential investors that could increase supply in the system, but you know, this is not a way to consult with the industry to collaborate with the industry. It's a broken promise Anthony Albanese not only said that they were going to reduce energy prices by $275. But he also said he was going to work collaboratively, collaboratively with industry. Well, this is not really a great start. Maybe Ed Husic didn't get the memo about that collaborative operation with industry.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, what would you do at this point, because supply takes a while, it takes investment. There would be no relief, immediate relief for the next 12 months if you're just looking at the supply side, so do the caps need to be reworked? Do you want them scrapped altogether? What is it?
JANE HUME: Well, we had a solution. It was called the National Gas Infrastructure Plan. And in fact, experts are now urging the government to go back to the Coalition's National Gas Infrastructure Plan and revisit it. There is an opportunity to have those there are softening international domestic prices to have those flow through through the system, but because of the government's policies around mandatory codes of conduct and energy producers, gas suppliers, you know, wanting to understand what that the implications of that are going to mean for those future contracts with manufacturers, they're actually slowing down those new contracts. So by trying to price specs by trying to meddle within the system by intervening within a market in fact, Labor have caused more problems, more problems and higher energy prices, rather than lower the gas prices.
LAURA JAYES: Or we're here we are about eight months since the election. We've seen the highest growth in in wages in about 10 years. Do you give the Labor government any credit for that?
JANE HUME: Well, the way to increase wages, of course, is to make sure that you have high levels of unemployment and when the Coalition were in government, our sole objective was to make sure that the economy was growing and that jobs were being created. In fact, the higher wages that we're seeing now are as a result of pressures because of that low level of unemployment. When we came to government unemployment was around 5.7%, when we left it was at a record of 3.7% and fewer people were on welfare than ever before. Now, that is a record that we are happy to stand by and that we're particularly proud of the wages information. The wages data that we saw come out yesterday actually shows that those people that are on individual contracts are the ones that are seeing the highest level of wage rises. And of course, we're also seeing turnover between people moving from job to job and seeing those pay increases that way. It's good news, getting wages moving is good news. The bad news is of course is that real wages aren't rising, and that's a broken promise by the Labor government. They said that sluggish wages were the biggest problem, and cost of living were the biggest problem that Australians were facing. That they had all the answers. In fact, their own Budget now says that real wages are going to go down over the life of this Parliament under Labor we're seeing wages staying lower for longer.
LAURA JAYES: So you don't give the Labor government any credit for at least this last data round?
JANE HUME: There is nothing there's no policy that this Labor government has put forward that is added to the good economic conditions left to them by the Coalition. It doesn't matter whether it's industrial relations, it doesn't matter whether it's energy, it doesn't matter whether it's their budget, there is nothing in any of those economic policies that would add to the edge of the good economic conditions. And that's what about
LAURA JAYES: What about the advocacy to the Fair Work Commission for a wage rise, something that your signed up for us to do?
JANE HUME: Can you really take credit for an independent umpires decision? If that's what Labor’s doing, if that's what they're hanging their hat on, good luck to them, but that wasn't their decision. That was the independent umpires decision.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, let me quickly ask you about the Voice because this is going to be something that persists this year, there's going to be long, complicated conversations about it. Where what information do you require? Does your side of politics require to support the voice and is there a disagreement within the Coalition?
JANE HUME: So first of all, I want to put the question of the Voice itself aside and talk about the mechanics of this referendum and as Shadow Special Minister of State this is really what I'm most focused on now. The Labor Party have decided that for the first time since Phar Lap won the Melbourne Cup we will not have a pamphlet with this referendum. We won't have a yes and a no case. And we won't have a funded yes and no case. Even though we want to apply donation laws and foreign interference laws, when you don't have a yes or no case you make the AEC’s job that much harder. In fact, it won't be until about six months after the referendum takes place that we'll be able to analyse who donated which case or to which cause I should say, and whether there was any foreign interference by that stage the referendum is done and dusted.
LAURA JAYES: Well you have the opportunity to change donation laws and you didn’t do it. I mean, that’s how the system works is it not?
JANE HUME: This isn't about donation laws. This is about how they apply to a referendum. Now-
LAURA JAYES: What do you think that might cover up? Who do you think would be putting money towards the yes or no case that you would have concerns about?
JANE HUME: I don't but I do want to know where the money is coming from and I think that Australians have a right to a transparent and well run referendum. Without a yes and a no case, we can't see that for around six months after the referendum takes place when the outcome is done and dusted. Most importantly though, if you want to give a referendum any chance at all, of getting up, and we know how hard it is to get up a referendum in this country, surely you would want to provide more information, not less information to electors. And by denying them the pamphlet, which they have used for decades past in every referendum, by denying a pamphlet go into each household, even a digital version, well, that's actually giving an opportunity for misinformation and disinformation to flourish. An official yes campaign, official no campaign and the 2000 or so words that would go with it in a pamphlet that would be written by parliamentarians on both sides would provide a filtered form of information that we know would be official and could go out there and give people comfort that when they make the decision, which is an important one, when they make that decision they're doing so in the knowledge that they understand what the issue is.
LAURA JAYES: Okay before I let you go, earlier this year, I mean, I know we're not far into this year, so a week ago, you described the Party as having an existential crisis when it comes to women. This is something you and I have discussed ad nauseam really, and we need to keep on doing. You've talked about a fundraising levy forcing MPs essentially to contribute to a new women's network aimed at boosting the number of women to get in. How are you going with that? How's the response been from within?
JANE HUME: Oh, actually, we've had really good feedback from colleagues and from party members alike. We aren't we know that in order to make sure that the Liberal Party is a forward leaning and modern organisation that's sustainable into the future that has a really important role to play in the political future of this country. That we need to make sure that we're more representative of the people that we seek to govern. It's not just our parliamentarians. It's also our membership as well. So the recommendations in the review were threefold. They were increasing party members, female party members by 50, you know, 50% of new members should be female at least. We want to make sure that 50% of parliamentarians are female within the next three terms or three elections. And in order to do that we want to create support networks around this new network as part of that, to make sure that the support network is sustainable. We want to make sure that it's well funded. That might involve a levy. It might involve subscription fees. It might involve fundraising. There's all sorts of ways to do it. That Report now is out there. It's with the Federal Executive, whether they adopt those recommendations or not is up to them, but I would genuinely hope that they consider it because this is a way forward for our party that will make us a genuine political force. For decades to come.
LAURA JAYES: I mean, genuinely hope it's got to be better than that, doesn't it? You say this is an existential crisis.
JANE HUME: Well, that's exactly right. In order to make sure that our party is that force that we want it to be. That we fulfill Menzies original vision that we make sure that one of the parties of government, that is in government more often than it is not, we want to make sure that the party represents most Australians, modern Australians, ordinary Australians, and that includes both genders.
LAURA JAYES: Jane Hume, great to see you. Welcome back. 2023 it's going to be another busy one.