JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
TUESDAY, 20 JULY 2021
SUBJECTS: Central Queensland; Russell Robertson and Shane Hamilton fighting for same pay for same work; Mining and resources industry; Climate change; Income tax cuts; Scott Morrison’s Sydney and Victoria lockdown; Support for fellow Australians doing it tough.
PAUL CULLIVER, HOST: We are in a federal election year, when that is we're not quite sure. There'll be one man that will be vying to become responsible for the federal budget and that is the Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers. He's in Rockhampton today. Good morning to you.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Good morning, Paul. It's always good to start the day with some INXS.
CULLIVER: That's not a bad way to do things. Let's go to issues in Central Queensland. We know that the ALP is going to focus very heavily on construction, and mining, and casual labour hire in the region. What role does federal government have to limit the way, or change the way, that an organisation such as a manufacturer or a mine operate and how they employ people?
CHALMERS: There is an important federal responsibility for industrial relations. And one of the things that our candidate here - Russell Robertson, who's a miner himself, and our candidate in Dawson, Shane Hamilton, the issues that they've been raising with us in industrial relations and in mining in particular, is there is this issue with two people who are doing the same job not getting the same pay. That's an issue and there are other issues around precarious work, casualisation, there are issues around safety, not just at mines, but also getting to and from work. All of these sorts of things are really important issues.
One of the reasons why I'm here again with Senator Anthony Chisholm, and why we're here so frequently - you've had a heap of us in the last little while and you'll have a heap of us for the foreseeable future - is to really get our head around those sorts of issues because there is an important federal role there.
CULLIVER: How do you actually stop it though? And like what's that mechanism?
CHALMERS: Well there's obviously legislative ways you can you can change the laws around labour hire. You can change the laws around employment arrangements. It's happened many times in both directions under governments of both persuasions. If you believe in the principle of same job, same pay, as we do, as we've said repeatedly, then there are ways you can go about implementing that.
CULLIVER: Have you figured those ways out though?
CHALMERS: What you do in Opposition, is you announce a policy, you announce your intention, you announce the way that you intend to go about it, and if there are finer details to be worked out you can work those out in government.
CULLIVER: Are you going to visit a coal mine while you're here?
CHALMERS: Have already, yeah. I was in the Peabody mine at Coppabella yesterday, near Moranbah. That was actually the first thing we did. This trip is a three day trip through Central Queensland: mining industry, agriculture, transport and logistics, advanced manufacturing, construction, and tourism. We're going to try and touch all of the key industries. But our first stop was the Peabody mine at Coppabella. When we went into the mine there, we had a briefing, we had a tour of the mine, to understand some of the issues there, some of the issues that we've already mentioned and also to understand the global market for coal and where the various mines sit in that.
CULLIVER: Obviously, Anthony Albanese was here just a couple weeks ago. There's a lot of criticism from the LNP and then some media reporting on that about the fact that there was no TV camera, no heads-up to the media, that Anthony Albanese was visiting a coal mine. As such, we have no visual proof of that happening. Do you think that's a problem? Is Anthony Albanese ducking cameras?
CHALMERS: You know why I think that's rubbish Paul, just to be really brutal about it? He sent out a media alert saying that he was in the town. He went to the pub the night before and spoke to the workers. He alerted the Canberra press gallery, alerted people that he would be going to a mine, so I think this is one of those issues that the LNP like to latch on to as a distraction from their own failures on vaccines, quarantine, and all the rest of it. I know that he was here, he was speaking to the workers, as we were yesterday, and that's an important part of understanding mining is a crucial part of the economy. And the national economy's in two speeds right now. Part of it is in second or third gear and part of it's in reverse in some of our big cities. So we need to understand some of those industries that are making such a crucial contribution to the economy and mining is one of those.
CULLIVER: Do you think you need to do a better job to voters down south that mining is an important part of the economy?
CHALMERS: We can always do a better job across the board. But, you know, one of the reasons why I want to be the Treasurer of Australia, is because I want to make sure that Queensland, including regional Queensland, has a far more prominent voice in Canberra, in the way that we go about setting policy and leading the nation. Part of that is making sure that we are through the regions in Queensland so frequently, talking to people, listening to people, making sure that we can represent them adequately. I feel like the LNP takes all of these voters, and communities, and regions for granted, and we don't want to do that. One of the reasons why I want to do this job is because I think that if the national economy is to recover really strongly we need regional economies like this one to be a bigger part of the story.
CULLIVER: Alright. Jim Chalmers, the Shadow Treasurer, is your guest this morning here on ABC Capricornia. Paul Culliver is my name. The ALP has committed to net zero emissions by 2050. Now on Sunday the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce was asked about the National Party's position on it, on the Insider's program. He wanted to know how much it would cost before he could even consider backing it. So, what does it cost?
CHALMERS: First of all, he was insisting that David Speers, bizarrely, provide him with the cost of David Speers' policy for Barnaby to choose from. He's the Deputy Prime Minister now if you can believe it. They're in government. If the National Farmers Federation has a policy for net-zero, the big mining organisations net-zero by mid-century, all the States and Territories - including Liberal ones, most of the countries around the world - it's really quite strange, frankly, that the Government hasn't signed up to that. And that's because Scott Morrison's got to deal with the Barnaby Joyces of the world.
We've said for some time we should be able to get to net zero by mid-century. That's been our policy. And I think it's pretty clear from all of the work that's been carried out in this area, that it will be more costly if we do nothing then if we act sensibly on climate change.
My belief is that Australians, and Queenslanders, and people in regional Queensland, they are practical people. And they know if we don't fix this there'll be a cost to jobs. They know if we get it right there'll be more jobs and more opportunities.
I was speaking to Frank and Leonie at the Gracemere Hotel last night, they’re from Mount Morgan. We were talking about this very issue. And what they were saying, and I think it's right, is we need to be able to say to people right around Australia, there are more jobs and opportunities here, additional jobs and opportunities here. We'll be at Emerald on Wednesday talking about hydrogen buses for example, the jobs and opportunities there. So I think we can be sensible about it and practical about it.
We don't need to engage in this kind of weird, polarised conversation that the Barnaby Joyces of the world want to engage in - and, frankly, the Greens - at the other end of the spectrum. We can go about this sensibly and responsibly in a way that is good for the economy rather than bad.
CULLIVER: I suppose the point though, and regardless of what the Government's able do in terms of preparing their own policy, is Barnaby Joyce is making the point, well what is the proposition and what is the price tag? Do we actually have that price tag?
CHALMERS: That's my point, Paul. He's now the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.
CULLIVER: That's fine.
CHALMERS: And he's asking for you, and I, and David Speers, and bizarrely anyone else, to provide him with something that he can then decide on.
CULLIVER: Sure, but I'm saying though, the ALP has that policy. You've adopted that policy. So do you know the cost of your policy?
CHALMERS: We know from all of the work that's been carried out. We know, globally as well, that it will be more costly not to sign up to net-zero.
CULLIVER: But do you actually have modelling on that saying this is how much it'll cost if we don't act, this is how much if we do act?
CHALMERS: There are multiple studies by independent external experts and global institutions and all of the rest of it, multiple studies, that say that if we don't get this right the cost to the economy, the cost to the environment, will be more than the cost of acting. That's been evident for some time. That's why all the States and Territories including the Liberal ones. It's why all these other countries, it's why mining and agriculture and all the other industries, have signed up. Really, the only people that aren't signing up, is Scott Morrison because he's got a Barnaby Joyce problem. And they don't want to do anything meaningful about climate change. They come through regional Queensland, they lie to people about the future, frankly, and we don't want to do that. I really firmly believe that. And this belief is reinforced by spending so much time in regional Queensland. We get caricatured as Queenslanders, in my view, unfairly, that we don't want to do anything about climate change. I think that people do, but they want to do that without abandoning our traditional strengths. And that's why it's entirely reasonable for us to spend time in the mining sector, like we did yesterday, and like we will at other points on this trip and other trips. Because what we can do is, we can do something meaningful about cleaner and cheaper energy without abandoning our traditional strengths in the regions.
CULLIVER: All right, I'll just asked you on a few other quick issues, or perhaps not that that quick. Stage three tax cuts are due to come into effect 2024. What they would do is apply a standard 30% income tax rate to those that earn between $45,000 and $200,000 a year. Obviously, that is already legislated but there is the hanging question of whether the ALP would support it in Government. Reporting in the Australian Financial Review last week that indeed senior Labor figures, including yourself, do support that. Is that correct?
CHALMERS: Well, I don't think the story identified people.
CULLIVER: I'm just saying, in the sense that you are a senior ALP Labor figure, that's all.
CHALMERS: Look we haven't made a final decision on those tax cuts. It is important that they are already legislated. We've said all along that the priority should be people on modest incomes when it comes to tax relief. We said at the time, when they first announced those state three tax cuts a couple of years ago, that it seems strange to commit to such a big sum so far out. We're getting closer to that now. We'll make a decision before the election. People will know what our view is.
But I think for us, and for the whole country, our focus is in the near term, on trying to fix the mess that Morrison has made of vaccines and quarantine. That's the most immediate priority. The longer term priority is where the good, well-paid, secure jobs are going to come from. Opportunities for people right around Australia, that's our focus. But people will know what our view is on tax before we get to the election.
CULLIVER: And just finally, obviously we're seeing Sydney and Melbourne are locked-down. And we're seeing all sorts of financial payments going out from the federal government. I suppose people would generally expect that it's the right thing to do, to support those people through a very tough time. But I suppose at the same time you've got people in regional Queensland not living in lockdown seeing this money flowing out of the federal government coffers. Do you think there's a right to a certain amount of frustration about that?
CHALMERS: I think Australians are pretty compassionate people and I think they understand that when our brothers and sisters in Sydney and in Victoria are doing it tough, there's a role for the federal government to step in and help. I haven't heard anybody complain about that. People know that when the regions are doing it tough, there's a role for the federal government to step in there too.
I think the best way to understand what's going on right now, is that we owe two kinds of thanks to the Australian people.
To the people in places like Rocky and Central Queensland who are helping the wheels of the economy keep turning during this difficult period, we owe them our thanks. And we owe our thanks to the people in Sydney and Victoria doing the right thing by each other to try and limit the spread and get on top of this most recent outbreak.
We need this sense of we're all in this together not to be kind of like a cliche that people just mention. I think we actually have to live it. And I think in that respect people do understand when people are doing it tough we have a responsibility to each other as Australians to do what we can to help them.
CULLIVER: Alright, Jim Chalmers, thanks for your time today.
CHALMERS: Thanks very much, Paul.
CULLIVER: The Shadow Treasurer of Australia with the ALP, Jim Chalmers, visiting Central Queensland today.