Interview with Ursula Heger, 10 News First Breakfast
11 November 2022
URSULA HEGER: Jane Hume joins me now. Thank you Jane, for being here. The integrity bill has received support from the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton, you consistently voted against establishing an anti corruption commission. Are you on board with it now?
JANE HUME: Actually, that's not true. The Coalition has always supported an anti corruption commission, but we wanted to make sure it was one that was fit for purpose. And this anti corruption commission model that has been presented to the Parliament now has been pushed into shape. There has been some negotiation behind the scenes between the leaders in particular to make sure that it works not just for parliamentarians, but also for staff and public officials right across the nation.
URSULA HEGER: What in particular about it, are e you concerned about? What's the issue? I mean, we have heard the ‘we don’t want it to turn into a New South Wales ICAC situation’, why not?
JANE HUME: Well, we wanted to make sure that the people that were subjected to an accusation of corruption received a fair trial, and a timely trial, we wanted to make sure that the rule of law and the rule of evidence applied fairly to everybody, and that there was unnecessary or inappropriate damage to people's reputations and professional standing, that could have far reaching implications. For instance, you might find that people wouldn't enter public life not just as politicians but as public officials, because of the potential risks of politicisation and a vexatious claim made against them.
URSULA HEGER: One upside of the way that New South Wales handles this, though is that it is very open, it is open to the public, that obviously can have its downsides. But in light of the concern in the community, do not think people need to see what will happen here?
JANE HUME: It's particularly important that all forms of corruption in public life are rooted out and dealt with, we agree with that entirely. But we don't want to see a situation where claims can be made against people for political or vexatious purposes that can have dire consequences. And you only have to look at South Australia, where people took their own lives because of those vexatious claims, and the implications against them.
URSULA HEGER: In relation to Labor's industrial relations bill and passing the lower house, what amendments do you need for it in order for you guys to vote for it?
JANE HUME: Well, how long have we got, were actually 150 amendments made in the house alone, because this bill has been so rushed and has dire consequences, particularly for small businesses. For instance, a small business is defined as a business that has 15 or fewer employees, but that includes casual employees. So you might find that say, a small burger joint in your strip shop has now the same enterprise bargaining situation as McDonald's. Now, that can be very unfair for small businesses who might never have had unions enter their premises before. And what this has really done, unfortunately, is stripped away out of enterprise bargaining, the powers of both the employers and the employees have given it to unions and the Fair Work Commission. So it's essentially taking the enterprise and the bargaining of enterprise bargaining.
URSULA HEGER: I have heard the claims that it'll sort of bring back this you know, strikes that we saw in the 70s and 80s, 90s, in Australia, but unions aren't what they were they're not as powerful as they were back then. What do you think? Do you think that that will actually happen?
JANE HUME: We'll see that certainly the unions have got everything that they wanted in this piece of legislation, and we will see more industrial action, there is no doubt about it. And it will affect businesses that have never been affected by industrial action before. Unfortunately, that is going to be a real dampener on productivity in this country. And unless that we can improve productivity, or we're going to remain in debt and in deficit.
URSULA HEGER: What's the highest on your agenda for the last few sitting weeks? What do you want?
JANE HUME: To say are the most important thing now as we can see scrutiny of the legislation that is before us in the parliament, whether it be the industrial relations legislation, or the anti corruption commission legislation. This week in the Senate, we've seen Senate estimates, that gives an opportunity for senators to question the government and public officials as to what it is that's behind going on behind the scenes, we make sure that we have transparency and accountability and integrity in government. But we've got two more weeks, there's an awful lot to do. We don't want to see legislation rushed, we want to make sure that it has the appropriate amount of scrutiny, and the crossbench will be so important in that.
URSULA HEGER: Just in relation to soaring energy prices, Treasury has backed market intervention to rein in those. Do you agree?
JANE HUME: A price cap, I think could be absolutely disastrous, the only way that we're going to see changes in energy prices and the forecasts for those energy price increases are extraordinary. In the budget, we saw a 50% more than 50% increase in electricity prices forecast and a more than 40% increase in gas prices. The only way you can improve gas prices is to make sure you bring in more supply into the system, a price cap actually interferes with market mechanism. And it stops new entrants into the system. We don't want to say that, but it's worked very poorly in places like Argentina and other jurisdictions. We want to make sure that more supply’s brought in and the obstacles of doing that are taken out of the way.
URSULA HEGER: Just in relation to the Medibank hack. We are seeing the consequences there. Do we need tighter laws surrounding what companies want information companies can actually hold and take off people and would you support that?
JANE HUME: Well, first and foremost, I think that the victims of this hack should do two things. One is to make sure that they protect themselves against identity theft. do everything that they possibly can make sure that they're looking at their bank statements to make sure that their identity hasn't been stolen. And most importantly, if they are individually contacted by somebody who was trying to extort them, or demanded an individual ransom ransom that they instantly go to the Australian Cyber Security Centre and report that there is more that can be done, it's going to be really important that government worked very closely with industry on this, make sure that laws are tightened. There's a ransomware bill that was put forward by the coalition in the previous government, and is now a private member's member's bill, we would like to see the government come and support that bill that would improve penalties around these ransomware attacks would help law enforcement agencies. So there's more that can be done. But it has to be individuals, businesses and government working together to get it done.
URSULA HEGER: Is it not closing to get it off? The horse bolted, though? I mean, your party was in power for a long time in this country? Why have we seen companies control this much personal information and ask for it and retain even customers that they don't have any more than people who have left, they still got their information. And now we're seeing hack after hack. And there's public very personal data out on the internet.
JANE HUME: Yeah, there's no doubt that more controls can be put into place and that the obligations do need to fall to businesses to make sure that they're managing their data in a very safe and secure way and that individuals know what data it is that they've given to these organisations. At the same time, cyber security is a very difficult space. It's one that is iterative. It keeps you know that the hackers seem to get ahead of businesses and ahead of government very quickly. And it's a very dangerous place to play, as unfortunately the call victims of this Medibank breach have discovered the most important thing that we can do individually is to protect our own data, know what's out there about us and know how to protect our identity.
URSULA HEGER: Senator Jane Hume. Thank you very much for joining me.