ABC News Breakfast 18/05/22

18 May 2022

SUBJECTS: Federal election; Coalition rorts and waste; Scott Morrison’s desperate distractions from cost of living crisis; Real wages expected to fall even further today; Coalition’s trillion dollars of debt with not enough to show for it; Costings; Quad meeting; Queensland seats. 





SUBJECTS: Federal election; Coalition rorts and waste; Scott Morrison’s desperate distractions from cost of living crisis; Real wages expected to fall even further today; Coalition’s trillion dollars of debt with not enough to show for it; Costings; Quad meeting; Queensland seats. 


MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Let's bring in Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers, he's in Brisbane. Mr Chalmers, good morning to you. 


ROWLAND: Let's start with this opinion poll in the Nine papers by Resolve showing the Labor Party's primary vote has dropped three points and you'd win according to this poll, but it's going to be very, very close. So do you reckon the Prime Minister's attempt to recast his image is starting to pay dividends?

CHALMERS: All along, Michael, we've thought this will be a very close, very tight election. We expect it to be incredibly close on Saturday when the votes are counted. And that's why we take no votes and no outcome for granted. We'll be working our butts off all the way up to the close of polls to make sure that Australians understand the choice at this election between a better future under Anthony Albanese and Labor, or three more years of Scott Morrison and all of the same rorts and waste and blame shifting and buck passing. 

I saw that interview last night with the Prime Minister, I think Tracy Grimshaw was just channelling the frustration that Australians feel with a Prime Minister who doesn't hold a hose, who goes to Hawaii when the country is burning, who says that it isn't his job when things are tough, who has got an excuse for everything, a plan for nothing. And I think Australians are working him out and no amount of last minute desperate spin pretending that he can somehow change the habits of a lifetime will change that reality.

ROWLAND: The Prime Minister did tell Tracy last night, in hindsight, he would have done things differently. I mean, we'd all do things differently in our lives, in hindsight. Should he be given some credit for that?

CHALMERS: Well, he shouldn't need hindsight to know that he shouldn't have gone to Hawaii while the country was burning. You shouldn't need hindsight to know that he was warned about ordering enough rapid tests or ordering enough vaccines and didn't do his job. In fact, he said, in lots of cases, when things were going badly, he said it's not his job. 

That's really the choice at the election: Anthony Albanese is a type of leader who shows up, who takes responsibility, who works hard every day to bring the country together, versus Scott Morrison who has spent his duration as Prime Minister dividing us intentionally, going missing when we really needed him, and buck passing and blame shifting. I think Australians are tired of that.

ROWLAND: Australians are looking forward to seeing the costings by the Labor Party. They're released tomorrow. Will they show, Jim Chalmers, bigger Budget deficits under a Labor Government than a Coalition one?

CHALMERS: Well, what they'll show is that our responsible investments in important policies which will grow the economy like cleaner and cheaper energy and childcare reform, and better training, fee-free TAFE, where we've got skill shortages, will cost a fraction of what this government has wasted and rorted over almost a decade in office. When we release our costings, we won't be taking lectures from the most wasteful government since Federation. 

All of this confected outrage from the government about Labor's costing is designed to distract from the fact that we've got a full blown cost of living crisis in this country. Real wages are going backwards and are expected to go backwards even further today, when the new numbers for wages are released. And there's a trillion dollars of debt in the Budget with not enough to show for it. So the government wants you focussed on the political minutiae of whether or not costings are released on a Tuesday or a Thursday when what really matters is whether people can feed their families in this cost of living crisis when their real wages are going backwards as a deliberate outcome from a government which has spent the best part of a decade undermining wages and job security.

ROWLAND: Putting the government to one side, don't you reckon voters will be concerned Jim Chalmers about just how big the credit card bill is going to amount up to under a Labor government?

CHALMERS: I think voters are concerned that we've got a trillion dollars of debt and not enough to show for it under this Liberal government. The Budget is absolutely heaving with rorts and waste and a trillion dollars in Liberal debt. What we've said all along, is that we will manage the Budget in the interests of ordinary people. Part of that means investing in the drivers of growth, because we wouldn't just be inheriting that trillion dollars in debt. We'd also be inheriting no plan whatsoever to grow the economy in the context of this high and rising inflation that a new government would inherit. And so we've got to weigh up all of those considerations. 

We will always be more responsible than the Government. Our commitments - even some of our bigger commitments, like child care - cost less than what the government has wasted on submarines that won't be built, they cost far less than the $20 billion in JobKeeper they gave to companies whose profits were already rising. So we won't be taking lectures when we release our costings, they will be responsible, they will be all about growing the economy, providing genuine relief to families and trying to get real wages going again, so that we actually have something to show for this mountain of debt that we would inherit from the Coalition Government. 

ROWLAND: Anthony Albanese in an interview with The Australian this morning said that if he wins on Saturday he'd seek to be sworn in as early as Sunday, so he and Penny Wong could attend this very important international meeting with the Quad on Tuesday. Is that putting the cart before the horse a bit?

CHALMERS: No, I read that interview, and Anthony was very clear and very careful to say that we take no outcome for granted - because we don't take any outcome for granted. He's making the obvious point, I think, that if the government is clear in either direction, it's in Australia's national interest to be represented at the Quad, whether Scott Morrison is the Prime Minister or Anthony Albanese. The Quad's an important opportunity for Australia that shouldn't be missed. If the election result is known quickly, then whoever the Prime Minister is should be on that plane.

ROWLAND: And finally, Queensland, of course, always a key election battleground. The Government seems fairly confident of holding the line there. What's your view on Labor's prospects in key Queensland seats as we head towards Saturday?

CHALMERS: I'm a Queenslander, born and bred, as you know Michael. And I know how difficult it has been historically for Labor here. We have to work twice as hard for every vote. We're up to that challenge. I've personally done more than 60 visits now to 29 different regional Queensland cities and towns. We're up to this challenge and Anthony Albanese has a genuine affinity with Queenslanders, but it's always hard here. Again, we don't take any votes or any outcomes for granted - particularly in difficult seats around Queensland - so we'll see what happens on Saturday, but we certainly put the work in.

ROWLAND: Jim Chalmers in Queensland, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

CHALMERS: Thanks for your time, Michael.