Interview with Michael Rowland, ABC News Breakfast
12 May 2023
MICHAEL ROWLAND: The Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has used his budget reply to accuse the Government of fuelling inflation, criticising Labor over growing migrant numbers and labelling its cost of living measures a band aid fix. In setting out his economic vision, Mr. Dutton says he wants people on welfare payments to earn more income before their support is affected. He is also pushing to restore 20 Medicare subsidised psychological sessions up from the current ten and ban sports betting ads during games if elected. The Shadow Finance Minister and Victorian Senator Jane Hume joins us now in the studio. Jane Hume, very good morning to you.
JANE HUME: Good morning to you, Mike.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: So it turns out the Opposition is willing to wave through most of the close to $15 billion cost of living relief package. So it's not inflationary after all?
JANE HUME: Well, we think that millions of Australians have been very disappointed with Labour's budget on Tuesday night. The cost of living is the number one issue for Australians right now and they were looking to their Government for help. But really the only way you can sustainably bring down the cost of living is to tackle inflation head on and in fact the reduction of inflation as an objective was removed from Tuesday night's Budget papers. I think that would be a great disappointment to so many Australians. You know, inflation, it's a thief in the night. You know, it erodes your purchasing power. It pushes down your real wages, it eats at your savings, and it reduces your standard of living unless you tackle inflation, unless you slay that dragon. Well, essentially, you're not governing. You're not doing your job. You're turning it all over to the RBA to do all the heavy lifting with interest rates.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Well, you've been criticising the Government for spending too much, the Opposition's word since the Budget on Tuesday night. You are supporting $1.9 billion for single mums, $3.5 billion for Medicare, $2.7 rent assistance and $11.3 billion in increased wages for aged care workers. I'll ask the question again. Clearly in supporting those measures and most of the cost of living package, the Opposition does not believe the budget is inflationary?
JANE HUME: Well, in fact, we do feel that the Budget is supporting all of these spending measures. Those measures are going to go through. They're going to go through with the support of Labor, with the support of the Greens, with the support of the Senate and we do want to make sure that the most disadvantaged are assisted right now. But more importantly, if you're governing for all Australians, you have to tackle the problem at the source, not simply the symptoms. The only way to do that is to bring down inflation, and have that as a specific objective. In fact, there's very few measures that we can find in this Budget that have the objective of decreasing inflation. In fact, many of them will make it worse.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. What will the Coalition do to decrease inflation if you were running the books?
JANE HUME: Well, there's many things that we wouldn't do in this Budget. For instance, there's a tax on farmers, a biosecurity levy. There's also a tax on truckies. Both of those will combine to potentially push up the price of groceries. That's inflationary. There's 10,000 additional new public servants, and that's just in this year alone. Expanding the public service is an expansionary fiscal policy. It's not contractionary. So there's plenty of things that we wouldn't do. But I think that most of that was outlined in the Budget in reply last night.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. No word yet from Peter Dutton as to whether the Opposition will support the $40 a fortnight increase in Jobseeker. Will you in the end?
JANE HUME: Well, the most important thing is that we will try to amend that legislation because while it's very important to make sure that those on Jobseeker are well looked after, that they don't fall below the poverty line. The most important thing is to try and get those people into work. You know, there are so many job vacancies right now. You don't have to go far. You walk down a main street. There's signs in the window saying help is wanted. So for those that want it to work, there is work available. How do we transition those people that are on Jobseeker into work and by reducing the income threshold? Well, that is an additional incentive to allow people into work in the same way as we said that we wanted to at the last Budget in reply with the pension work bonus to allow older Australians into work and the Government adopted that, although in a watered down way.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, so you will negotiate on that front, but legislation will come to the Parliament ticking off the $40 per fortnight increase in Jobseeker. Can you see a situation where the Coalition will actively oppose that increase to Jobseeker?
JANE HUME: Well, we'll negotiate those amendments though, and I actually think that the Government will see the light here. There is great benefit in giving people an incentive to work a little bit more, to remove them from that, you know, that welfare cycle and into work.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: But in the end, you won't vote against an increase in Jobseeker just to make that clear?
JANE HUME: Well we're hoping that the Government will see the light here and adopt our amendments so that that's exactly what we can do.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. But no, commitment either way. Would you see a situation in a political universe where the Coalition would vote against an increase in Jobseeker payment?
JANE HUME: We want to make sure that vulnerable Australians, that disadvantaged Australians, are looked after but we also want to see more Australians get into work.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. The Opposition Leader was concerned about the 1.5 million new migrants coming to Australia over the next five years. How would the Coalition cut the migration program?
JANE HUME: Actually, it's not the number that is the concern. It's the management of a system. You know, Australia is a great migrant nation. We've been built on the back of the migrant story and we want that to continue. We know it will, but if you don't manage your migration intake well, then it can actually do economic harm rather than good.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: How do you manage it?
JANE HUME: Well, this is a time that the Labor Government is actually cutting infrastructure that would support that large migration intake and look, 1.5 million new Australians, that's the size of Adelaide, more than nearly the size of Adelaide. So it is significant in just five years alone. So we would make sure that it was supported with infrastructure investment, that it was supported with opening new supply of housing. Because let's face it, there's already a housing shortage.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Speaking of which, you have a bill before the Senate that will create 30,000 new social and affordable homes. Why is the Coalition blocking that?
JANE HUME: Well, this is again, a band aid measure and these 1.5 million new migrants aren't looking for social and affordable housing.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: They're looking for 30,000 homes right there as a short term fix at the very least. Why is the Coalition opposing the Government's housing bill?
JANE HUME: The only way to sustainably bring down the cost of housing is to make sure that there's increased supply. Now, if you're in Government at a federal level, supply right there is it if you open if you're in government at a federal level as well as every State and Territory, well, surely this is Anthony Albanese's opportunity to bang the heads together of those Premiers and get them to open up supply, because, let's face it, supply of housing, supply of land, that's a state issue and if they don't do that, if Anthony Albanese doesn't do that, well, then what does that say about the respect for his leadership from his state?
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. Before we go, was one of the most senior members of the Victorian Liberal Party should renegade MP Moira Deeming be expelled from the Liberal Party?
JANE HUME: Well, don't sit in that party room. That's a discussion for you.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Are a senior member, one of the most senior members of the broader Victorian Liberal Party. I'll ask that question again. In your view, as a senior member of the party, should more redeeming be expelled from the State Liberal Party room?
JANE HUME: Well, I'm going to leave it to the State Parliamentary party room today and they'll be meeting in just a couple of hours.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Indeed, they will make their decision on the point of issuing defamation concern notices to John Pesutto, the Liberal leader in Victoria. What do you think of that?
JANE HUME: Well, I don't think it's the sort of thing that we would do in the parliamentary team at a federal level.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: So she's not a team player?
JANE HUME: I think that will be decided today in the parliamentary party room in Victoria.
MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, Jane Hume, really appreciate your time this morning after a busy week. Thanks for joining us.
JANE HUME: Thanks, Michael.