ABC NEWS BREAKFAST
THURSDAY, 8 OCTOBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Federal budget; Childcare; Social housing; Queensland borders.
LISA MILLAR, HOST: Joining us now from Canberra is the Shadow Treasurer. Jim Chalmers, good morning and welcome to Breakfast.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Good morning Lisa. Thanks for having me back.
MILLAR: Now you’ve just heard from Anne Ruston there, the Government is wheeling out a sales pitch today adamant that women are not being left out of this budget. They are just not accepting any of the criticism that has come about in the last 24 hours,
what's your take on it?
CHALMERS: I think the facts tell a very different story Lisa. This is a budget that managed to rack up more than a trillion dollars in debt and still managed to leave Australian women behind. I think in childcare, I think for workforce participation in the budget and I think a lot of Australian women who would have tuned in on Tuesday night, expecting better would have been disappointed.
MILLAR: The Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made the point, he is saying that all of these benefits are available to women as well there's nothing in there with job wage subsidies that say, this is for blokes only.
CHALMERS: I think the best way to look at it, Lisa, is if we're going to make the economy stronger and more inclusive after COVID-19 than it was before then we need to recognise that Australian women are up against it when it comes to things like child care and when it comes to participating in the workforce. So if we want the recovery to be strong and if we want women to be able to grab the opportunities of that recovery, then we need to recognise that business as usual won’t cut it.
MILLAR: Alright, what are we going to hear tonight?
CHALMERS: Well, it would be career limiting, Lisa as you would expect, for me to read out the budget reply speech on the show. But I think Anthony Albanese has shown for some time now in his vision statements that he has been making over the last year or so that what he wants to see is a future which is stronger than the past. We want to make sure the economy is stronger, more inclusive and the recovery gets kick started, and that we have the right kind of economy after the crisis which is better than we had before. I think what you can expect to see tonight is Anthony Albanese outlining the vision for the future that was missing on Tuesday night.
MILLAR: Now there's a lot of talk about childcare. We’re expecting him to speak about it tonight. Labor’s not pushing for free childcare for everyone. I mean how do you think or who do you think should be getting at least a cheaper deal?
CHALMERS: We'll obviously have more to say about childcare in the coming days, weeks and months, and I don't want to pre-empt that but clearly there's an issue in the childcare system. Too many Australian women are having to choose between working and the cost of childcare and, in some cases, it's not worth people's while to go back to work. I know that from my own peers that that decision is a very difficult one. For some time there's been that cost of living pressure and that's been a handbrake on women's participation in the workforce, and a future Labor Government needs to address that.
MILLAR: So for low income earners you'd be looking at trying to make it more affordable?
CHALMERS: Look we're always trying to make life easier for people on low and middle incomes. That's why we supported the tax cuts in the budget. That's why we've proposed other measures. That's how we roll in lots of ways Lisa. We want to take the pressure off Australian families. We want to make sure that Australian women can grab the opportunities as we recover from this Morrison Recession.
MILLAR: There’s been a lot of businesses over the last 24 hours saying they like what they saw in this budget. They plan on hiring, they plan on buying new equipment and taking the ability to write it off. What's the argument from Labor when you've got business saying ‘yep we can do it we can drive this recovery’?
CHALMERS: That's what we want to see, Lisa, that's not contested. That's why for some time we've been saying there's a role for the tax system in encouraging business investment. Business investment was remarkably weak, even before COVID-19 we had a problem that businesses weren't investing enough, in our view, and so the tax system has a role to play there. That's why when the Government proposed these measures on Tuesday night we said we're inclined to support them. We're taking a little bit of time to go through all of the details to make sure that it's not another instance of a big announcement badly implemented but subject to that work that we're doing right now we expect to be able to support those measures.
MILLAR: Why aren't you putting more pressure on the states to come through on social housing?
CHALMERS: Well we want the states to come to the table on social housing. We've got a…
MILLAR: But you’ve been putting it on the federal government and saying it was a big miss in the budget.
CHALMERS: Well it was a big miss in the budget. I think it’s uncontested when you think about the best way to kickstart this recovery it's hard to go past social housing. It's labour intensive and it builds a lasting benefit particularly for the most vulnerable Australians. So it's a no brainer. I can't believe, frankly, that they racked up a trillion dollars in debt and didn't do anything for social housing. But when it comes to the states we said yesterday, Jason Clare and Anthony Albanese said yesterday, that there should be a federal component and a state component. The most labour intensive and fastest way to get that stimulus into the system is to do maintenance, and we think that we could and should be doing $500 million of maintenance. There’s 100,000 properties we think that need work and that work can begin almost immediately and that's crucial for an economy that's not very strong.
MILLAR: Jim Chalmers we’re running out of time. As a Queenslander I do want to ask you, this idea that the timeline for opening the border between Queensland and New South Wales may now be reset because of these three mystery cases, does the Queensland Government need to rethink how it's approaching this?
CHALMERS: Look, the Queensland Government, particularly Annastacia Palaszczuk, has been right and resolute throughout this -
MILLAR: So you're fine with this approach that it may go on and on?
CHALMERS: Well it needs to be based on the expert medical advice that I don't have access to. The point I'm making is Annastacia Palaszczuk has got these calls right. They've been difficult. She's got them right before, she will continue to do that because she's relying on expert medical advice.
MILLAR: All right, Jim Chalmers thanks for your time.
CHALMERS: Thank you, Lisa.