ABC Brisbane Breakfast 23/05/22

23 May 2022

SUBJECTS: 2022 Election, Swearing in of the Albanese Labor Ministry, Bringing the Biloela Family Home; Labor’s Economic Plan, Health Funding



MONDAY, 23 MAY 2022

SUBJECTS: 2022 Election, Swearing in of the Albanese Labor Ministry, Bringing the Biloela Family Home; Labor’s Economic Plan, Health Funding

LORETTA RYAN, HOST: Jim Chalmers is the Labor Federal Member for Rankin. Today he will be sworn in as Australia's Treasurer. Good morning, Jim.

JIM CHALMERS, TREASURER ELECT: Good morning guys. It warms the heart to hear you talk of Logan like that, it's terrific.

RYAN: How are you feeling as you prepare to be sworn in?

CHALMERS: I'm excited about the opportunity. I'm under no illusions about the scale of the challenge - we do have some very substantial economic challenges that we're inheriting from the former Government. But I'm raring to go. I began work already yesterday. I will be sworn in this morning, with Anthony Albanese and a handful of other colleagues and I'm excited about it.

RYAN:  And then you hit the ground running, what will be your first priority?

CHALMERS: First of all, we’ll get a whole bunch of briefings from Treasury and from the relevant regulators in my portfolio. That's because the big challenges that we are inheriting are largely skyrocketing costs of living. We're going to have more interest rate rises, unfortunately. We've got real wages going backwards. And we've got a trillion dollars of debt in the Budget. So that's the kind of inheritance. And so the priority in those early briefings, as we get ready for a Budget in October, is how do we responsibly begin to deal with those big challenges?

CRAIG ZONCA, HOST: In saying that Jim Chalmers, you are signing Australians up to even more debt, aren't you though?

CHALMERS: We're improving the quality of the Budget. There's two things that matter in the Budget, obviously, the amount of spending matters, but the quality of that spending matters as well. So the difference between us and our predecessors is we think there is a role for investing in things like cleaner and cheaper energy, cheaper childcare, more TAFE and training places, because we've got these skill shortages. If we do that right and responsibly which we intend to do, then you can grow the economy without adding to all of these inflationary pressures, you can get real wages moving again and then we'll have something to show for all of this debt that we are inheriting.

ZONCA So you're saying debt is okay, if it's good debt?

CHALMERS: There's a role for investing in some of those areas that I'm talking about. Inevitably, with the Budget in the shape that it's in, every dollar at the moment is a borrowed dollar. So you’ve got to make sure you're getting maximum bang for buck out of that. Those areas that I identified are the most important ones. But also at the same time we've identified billions of dollars of savings in the Budget. We'll have an audit of the rorts and the waste that we're inheriting in the Budget. We've got some plans for multinational tax reform so multinationals pay their fair share of tax. These are the sorts of ways that we responsibly begin to repair the Budget, and make sure that it's oriented towards better quality investments rather than just spraying money around for political purposes.

ZONCA: On that point, a text has just come through from someone saying, when can I expect my lower cost of living and a pay rise? Jim Chalmers, what's your response?

CHALMERS: So there's some cost of living in relief in the Budget at the moment, as people know, when it comes to petrol and some of that cash relief that our predecessors provided in the last Budget. Much of that relief will run out towards the end of this year. After that, we've got plans for child care relief. Our cleaner and cheaper energy policy is about getting energy bills down. We've got some relief next year from higher medicine costs so that we can get the cost of medicine on the PBS down. When it comes to real wages, we are supporting an increase in the minimum wage, which recognises the skyrocketing cost of living pressures. The Fair Work Commission will come out with that decision quite soon. But there are things we can do to to get real wages moving. We've got to train people for higher wage opportunities and make it easier in the child care system for people to work more and earn more if they want to. We've got to create more of those secure, well-paid jobs in areas like advanced manufacturing. So that's our economic agenda. The work on implementing that has begun already. There'll be a Budget in October, which will implement our commitments and start to deal with some of these big challenges that we're inheriting.

RYAN: Anthony Albanese made a point in his victory speech of saying we should be proud as a nation that a person who grew up in social Housing is our Prime Minister. Will you be able to fix the housing crisis?

CHALMERS: We do have some big substantial plans when it comes to housing. We've got to housing Australia Future Fund, which will build tens of thousands of new social housing properties. We've also got a Help to Buy program so that people can get a smaller, more manageable mortgage. So we do have some detailed housing policies. But that point that you raise from Anthony's speech really made me so proud as a kid born and bred in Logan, to hear our new Prime Minister talk about his background. The reason we celebrate Anthony's background is not because we want to celebrate its uniqueness. It's because we want this to be the type of country where that kind of success is common. For most of us, that's why we got into politics - certainly Anthony and I are in that boat. We want people to have more opportunities, in more parts of Australia, and that's what our Government will be all about.

ZONCA: The incoming federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers, with you here on ABC Radio Brisbane. Looking at the numbers as the votes continue to be counted, Mr. Chalmers, do you believe Labor will reach majority Government?

CHALMERS: We're a good chance, but we're not there yet. There's a handful of seats, perhaps three or four seats where we are relatively confident, but not home yet. There'll be a lot of counting today and by the end of today we should have a really good sense of that because there'll be more counting. But we're on sort of 72 or 73. There's another three or four that we feel pretty confident about. But it can be unpredictable, some of this, like counting. Either way, Anthony will be sworn in as the Prime Minister today. And before long we'll know whether that's a majority or a minority Government.

ZONCA: Can I just ask about the primary vote because two in three Australians didn't vote for Labor as the first preference. Here in the southeast, we've seen a number of seats that could turn to the Greens. In regional parts of Queensland, that's Coalition heartland, and will remain so for the next term of Government as well. So what's your message to people who didn't vote for Labor, Jim Chalmers? Because there's a lot of them.

CHALMERS: My message to people, whether you voted teal, green, orange, yellow, blue, red, is that we want to govern for the whole country. If we do that, well, the electoral politics will take care of themselves. In an election, which was obviously a great outcome for us overall, we did lose an amazing colleague in Terri Butler in Griffith in Brisbane. As we reflect on that, we do need to learn the lessons of what happened, particularly closer to the city, but not just closer to the city in southeast, Queensland. So we need to govern for the whole place. We need to try and bring the country together. Anthony has said that's his highest priority as Prime Minister and it will be my highest priority as Treasurer as well. To make sure that we're not just governing for the Sydney-Melbourne-Canberra triangle. Or we're not just governing for people who voted for us. We're governing for the whole place, the whole country. That's what we intend to do.

RYAN: Anthony Albanese promised during the campaign that the Tamil asylum seeker family would finally return home to Biloela. When will that happen?

CHALMERS: Well, as soon as possible. I'm looking to get some briefing on that through the course of this week. We need to get that beautiful family home to Bilo. I've spent time in Biloela. I know how much that family means to them. I pay tribute to the whole community in Biloela. As a Queenslander born and bred, sometimes we get unnecessarily caricatured about our approach to some of these sorts of issues. But Biloela is a big hearted, warm, welcoming town and the sooner we can get that beautiful family home to Bilo the better.

ZONCA: Jim Chalmers, before you go, the Queensland Premier in the lead up to the election, was quite hopeful of a Labor win. Saying it could result in more funding for Queensland. One of the biggest points of that has been around health funding. Are you going to spend a bit more locally here in Queensland in that regard?

CHALMERS: We’ve got some health commitments that we made through the course of the election and before that.

ZONCA: But it wasn't the 50:50 split that the Premier had been asking for?

CHALMERS: No, but it's important still. There's some important investments that we intend to make in health. Beyond that obviously we're up for a conversation with all the Premiers. Annastacia Palaszczuk was a terrific force for good in our federal campaign, as were a number of the other Premiers around Australia. We want to work with the Premiers of both political persuasions to get great outcomes for people. No doubt there'll be lots of conversations about that in due course.

ZONCA: I'm sure if they haven't started ringing you yet, Jim Chalmers, they will be after you get sworn in today by the Governor General in Canberra. Thanks so much for your time this morning. Appreciate it.

CHALMERS: Thanks for your time. Have a great day.