JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
ABC NEWS BREAKFAST
THURSDAY, 2 DECEMBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Third-largest quarterly contraction since records began; The downturn we didn’t have to have; OECD downgrades Australian growth and calls for better quality spending and a proper plan for climate change; Government dumps American-style voter-suppression laws; Labor welcomes an election fought on costs of living, falling real wages and the economy.
LISA MILLAR, HOST: Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers joins us now from Parliament House. Good morning to you. I'd like to start on the GDP if I can Jim Chalmers, because that drop of 1.9% was definitely less than expected. You've got households and businesses with $400 billion that it sounds like they're itching to spend. This would have to indicate wouldn't it, as the experts suggest, that the economic bounce is underway?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Good morning Lisa, and we hope it is. We want the economy to recover strongly but what those numbers showed yesterday is that we had the worst performing economy in the OECD in the September quarter. Those are the costs and consequences of a Government that didn't get quarantine or vaccines right, so we had those lockdowns. This was, in lots of ways, the downturn that we didn't have to have. It didn't have to be that way. The Government said that the economy was recovering this time last year and in the May Budget. Instead, we've got the third-biggest contraction in the history of the National Accounts. We want the economy to recover from here, but we can't be complacent about it because the Government has crowed about a recovery before and instead delivered what were pretty horrific numbers yesterday in the National Accounts.
MILLAR: Yeah, but it's not just the Government. It was the OECD who overnight suggested that the Australian economy was going to grow by 4.1% next year. That's certainly the tick of approval, isn't it?
CHALMERS: We want the economy to recover strongly, and in lots of ways because we've had such a deep downturn in the September quarter economists expect there to be a correction in the next quarterly figures. But don't forget Lisa, those OECD numbers released overnight were actually a downgrade for the expectations of Australian growth, and they rightly pointed to a lot of uncertainty. There are a lot of issues in the Budget when it comes to the quality of the spend and we all know about the rorts, and waste, and mismanagement in the Budget. They also talked about how Australia needs a comprehensive plan for climate change, so we can grab those jobs, and that investment, and those opportunities, which have been going begging over the last decade of missed opportunities.
MILLAR: While you're talking about climate change, actually, because Labor is preparing to reveal how it's going to approach its climate policy. One of the things reported this week is that the fuel standards policy that you took to the election in 2019 has been dropped. Is that an indication that you're going to end up taking a weaker policy than you took to the voters in 2019?
CHALMERS: We'll take an ambitious policy on climate change and as you rightly point out, we'll announce that before too long and it'll be a comprehensive plan. I'd invite your viewers to judge it on all the components of the plan, not on on one report during the week. We are confident...
MILLAR: So is it being dropped? Is that report incorrect then?
CHALMERS: You have to wait and see what we announce, Lisa. Obviously, there's a Shadow Cabinet process led by Anthony Albanese and Chris Bowen, and I'll make my contribution there. The point I'm making is this - we will strike the right level of ambition when it comes to our climate policy, because we recognise that good climate policy is good economic policy. That's because getting cleaner and cheaper energy into the system, means more jobs, and more investment, and more opportunities, for more people, particularly in the regions. And our policy will reflect that.
MILLAR: Alright, the voter ID laws that Labor opposed have been dumped. Has there been some horse-trading going on for that to occur, was Labor agreeing to support other legislation?
CHALMERS: I haven't been involved in those discussions but I'm pleased to see the end of those ridiculous voter-suppression laws. That was American-style voter-suppression that was being proposed there, which would have disenfranchised some of our most vulnerable Australians. So it's good to see the back of them.
MILLAR: But you'd know, surely, what else Labor's agreed to pass?
CHALMERS: I know that there are other elements of electoral law, which have always made sense to us. There are some aspects of what the Government's proposed in the normal course of events that we would support, that happens regularly in the parliament. There's a lot of agreement on a lot of issues in the parliament. I'm not sure what the discussions were that led to the end of those voter-suppression laws, but I'm pleased to see the back of them.
MILLAR: And will you vote the religious discrimination laws through?
CHALMERS: I think there are discussions to be had today. Our preference all along has been to finalise our position after the Human Rights Committee's inquiry is finished, to get to some of these issues which have been raised, rightly, by people on all sides of the conversation. Our preference has been to wait for that before we vote on it. If there's movement on that today, obviously we will engage in those conversations. We've always said, for example, that kids shouldn't be discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality. We've always highlighted that as an issue. We see that there are reports about that in the media today, but let's see what's being proposed. As I said, our position all along was been let's have a proper look at this legislation via the committee process and finalise a position at the end of that.
MILLAR: Yeah. And Jim Chalmers ,one last one back on the economy, because economists do predict that by the time an election comes around the economy will be doing better, unemployment will be lower. That's not just the Government speaking, that's the economists and the experts. The Government is going to campaign on the economy. Are you ready for that kind of campaign?
CHALMERS: Absolutely. I would love a campaign on the economy. Yes, the economy should be recovering strongly by then, but if you speak to almost anyone in communities around Australia, they'll say it's not a recovery if they keep falling behind. They've got skyrocketing petrol prices, skyrocketing rent, the cost of essentials are going through the roof, at the same time as their real wages are going backwards. An election on the economy is an election about working families falling behind, and that's because costs of living are going through the roof at the same time as real wages are going backwards under this Government.
MILLAR: Alright, Jim Chalmers. Thanks for your time.
CHALMERS: Thank you, Lisa.