SARAH ABO: Welcome back. Well, after years of tension and diplomatic unease, there appears to be a relationship reset between Australia and China, with Anthony Albanese and Xi Jinping coming face to face in an historic meeting. Joining us to discuss today's headlines is Acting Shadow Treasurer Jane Hume and commentator Neil Breen. Good to see you both this morning. Jane, let's start with you. The PM has achieved something his predecessor, Scott Morrison, couldn't. President Xi says this meeting marks a new starting point for Australia.
JANE HUME: Well, we would hope so. We want to see as strong a relationship with China as possible, but we also need to make sure that this is not just ceremonial symbolism. It has to be a test of strength and of substance for the Prime minister here, because a normal relationship also has to be an honest one. It has to be a forthright one. And we have to be very clear about what our expectations are. The economic sanctions that were imposed on Australia were illegal. Had they been taken to the World Trade Centre, they would have been in clear breach of the free trade agreement that we have with China. We want to see those sanctions removed and a resumption of our previously good trading relationship with China.
SARAH ABO: Yeah, I mean Anthony Albanese has stopped short of saying he trusts the Chinese President, but President Xi has described this relationship as healthy. Would you agree, Jane?
JANE HUME: Well, we still have economic sanctions which are being imposing billions of dollars worth of losses on Australian businesses. We still have Australians that are being unjustly detained in China and we should have the right to act in our national interest and to speak out when we see breaches of human rights and that should be part of the deal. Of course we want a good relationship with China. There are important trading partner, but they're also a strategic player in our region. We want to make sure that we stand up for Australia's interests.
SARAH ABO: Yeah, there is a lot to discuss, Neil. Perhaps they could continue the conversation if President Xi comes to Australia as the PM has now invited him to do?
NEIL BREEN: You would think the President would have to do that now that Australia has sort of extended this olive branch by being the first ones to make the move? But what we're dealing with here, it's extremely complex. You know, China has this coming out to the World Party in 2008 when it hosts the Beijing Olympics, and then China went on and shut the world out. And over the past decade, we saw the coalition government in Australia grappling, with its relationship with China. The public was never really given the full story. We'd heard, we'd hear from ASIO about China was up to this and China was up to that. Then there was all that strong language from Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton, and then China shut the door on Australia and we were the ones who muscled up during Covid and accused them of this and that and all of this stuff just deteriorated to nowhere. I think the Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is doing a good job to try and heal the relationships, but there's an undercurrent of something going on that we don't truly understand in the public. Like why is the Federal Government spending $600 million wanting to sponsor a rugby league team to join the NRL out of Papua New Guinea? It's because it doesn't want China to go into Papua New Guinea and China's not stupid they see it.
SARAH ABO: Yeah, there's a lot of global tensions, right, that they need to quell as well. All right, let's move on.
SARAH ABO: Right that they need to quell as well. All right, let's move on. Aussie mortgage holders are today bracing for a budget blow. Economists predicting a cash rate rise of 25 basis points that decision expected minutes before the race that stops the nation. Neil, it's already so tough for so many this isn't gonna help.
JANE HUME: No, it's not going to help and you would think that they'll definitely rise today. It is interesting now, Sarah, Jane because the government said when it installed the new Governor of the RBA and the new board that it wanted that board to not just consider the inflation rate in Australia as its main thing when it's setting interest rates, it also wants it to consider employment. So putting up interest rates is going to hurt employment. So it'll be interesting to see what plays out today. It'll really hurt. But this is where the government needs a big reset. Put the Voice behind them, all these international trips and China in the US, that's all well and good. But Australia's want to be spoken to by the government about what they're doing about cost of living. It needs a serious reset, not just words.
SARAH ABO: And Jane it all comes at a time Westpac unveils an annual profit of $7.2 billion dollars. It doesn't really wash does it?
JANE HUME: Well, I'm going to say I think that that would probably raise the hackles of a lot of customers that are feeling the pain right now. We know that there is a direct correlation between interest rate rises and people on hardship programs. Hardship programs at banks, but also, at energy companies for instance. Food Bank have told us there's a direct correlation between interest rate rises, and the queues out the door for assistance with with feeding with feeding families, and they're now seeing people come through their door that have dual incomes, people with mortgages. This is a new phenomenon, which is why the government needs to do its fair share of the heavy lifting in tackling inflation. In the last 16 months we've seen 11 interest rate rises and that's because the RBA has been left to do all the heavy lifting in tackling inflation. But the government doesn't seem to have a plan to do with it itself. That's why we're calling on the government to have a plan to tackle inflation specifically so that we don't have to have any more of these interest rate rises.
SARAH ABO: This has been a problem for years straight, including when your government was in fact, when your party was in power.
JANE HUME: What actually inflation wasn't a problem when the Coalition was in power and interest rates went down over the period of the Coalition. This is the problem that this government faces today and it doesn't seem to have a plan to tackle it. In fact, it does seem that Anthony Albanese, as Neil said, is distracted by almost everything else, whether it be the Voice, whether it be a trip to China, all of those things might be important, but the cost of living is the number one issue for Australians right now. At the beginning of the year, Anthony Albanese said that his New Year's resolution was to get down the cost of living. It's November and it's only gotten worse.
SARAH ABO: All right, we're gonna pause today for the running of the Melbourne Cup Jane, you're stuck in Canberra sadly. Breeny, tell me you're not wearing shorts today, please.
NEIL BREEN: There is no way I'm wearing tailored shorts in a million years.
SARAH ABO: Good to hear.
NEIL BREEN: What was all that about, you can leave me out of that. I've come prepared though. I've got the form guide.
SARAH ABO: Are you gonna back a winner?
NEIL BREEN: Well, there's 10 races in Flemington today. There's 10 winners in here somewhere. We just have to find them. you're gonna
SARAH ABO: You're gonna weed them out you are . Alright guys, we've got to go. Thank you both for joining us this morning.