MONDAY, 2 NOVEMBER 2020
SUBJECTS: Queensland state election; RBA rates decision tomorrow; Deloitte Access Economics’ climate change report; lobster exports; labour market.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: I want to congratulate Annastacia Palaszczuk and her team for what was a stunning victory on the weekend in the Queensland election. She really is the people's champion. Queenslanders rallied to her in big numbers because they understand that the best way to protect the Queensland economy is to limit the spread of the virus. Overwhelmingly it was a positive endorsement of Annastacia Palaszczuk, her team, her plan; the way that she's taken difficult decisions at difficult times for our state, its economy, its people, and its communities.
It's also a reflection on Scott Morrison. The outcome in the Queensland state election has Scott Morrison's fingerprints all over it. I agree with what LNP senator Amanda Stoker said on Saturday night. She said that there were federal factors at play and she pointed specifically to the Morrison Government's economic response to this pandemic as being a factor in how people voted.
In areas where Scott Morrison’s cuts to JobKeeper hurt the most, in Cairns and elsewhere, we saw swings to Labor. This means that Queenslanders have repudiated not just the fact that he came here and picked a fight with Annastacia Palaszczuk, a fight that she comprehensively won, but also these premature cuts to JobKeeper and other economic support which is doing such damage to the Queensland economy, including the economies of hard-hit areas like Cairns.
The Prime Minister's fingerprints are on this stunning victory for Labor here in Queensland. It was overwhelmingly an endorsement of Annastacia Palaszczuk but given the Prime Minister spent a week here, he can hardly pretend that he had absolutely nothing to do with it. I congratulate her again on the stunning victory for her and her Labor team, and for the Queensland Labor family.
The second issue I want to touch on is a new report out today about the cost of inaction on climate change. It points this out: Scott Morrison's inaction on climate change is costing jobs. Cleaner and cheaper energy means more jobs, higher wages and stronger economic growth. Continuing to do too little on climate change will smash the economy and smash jobs. This is something that so many countries understand, all the big employers in this country understand, and something that the states and territories have all signed up to when they signed up to net zero emissions by 2050, which is also Labor's policy. We're seeing dangerous inaction from the Morrison Government on climate change which will cost jobs and smash the economy. That's what this report is all about.
It also says that the economies of Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia will be hardest hit by Scott Morrison's inaction on climate change. Not just new industries, but areas of traditional strength in those states, especially here in Queensland, will be hard hit by a Prime Minister who has his head in the sand when it comes to action on cleaner and cheaper energy.
We want cleaner and cheaper energy in the system because it's good for jobs, will grow the economy, and will strengthen wages, all things which have been missing from the economy. That strong wages growth, that jobs growth that we desperately need, and the economic growth that we need will all be enhanced by doing something serious about climate change. That means net zero emissions by 2050.
The last issue I wanted to touch on is the Reserve Bank has flagged that they will be taking additional steps this week to bolster our economy in this deep and damaging recession. It makes no sense for the Reserve Bank and the Government to be operating at cross purposes here. The Reserve Bank is trying to do more at the same time as the Morrison Government is trying to withdraw support from the economy. When unemployment is high and rising, and we're in the teeth of this deep and damaging recession, it makes no sense for the Government to be cutting JobKeeper, while the Reserve Bank and others say that more, not less needs to be done.
We need to wait and see what the Reserve Bank announces tomorrow as the outcome of their board meeting, but we are incredibly concerned that at a time when the Reserve Bank likely says more needs to be done, that the Government is intent on following through on these cuts to JobKeeper and other economic support.
Decisions that the Government and the Prime Minister have taken means that this recession is deeper than it needed to be, will be longer than it needed to be, and unemployment queues will be longer than they need to be because the Prime Minister wants to snap this support out of the economy at the same time as others including the Reserve Bank say that more, not less, needs to be done.
JOURNALIST: We’re expecting to see the RBA cut interest rates tomorrow. Is that a sign that the Government's fiscal policies are insufficient to revive the economy?
CHALMERS: It's a sign that the Morrison Government is leaving too much of the heavy lifting to the Reserve Bank. That was actually a problem before this COVID-19 pandemic. It was a problem coming into this recession and it looks like being a problem coming out of this recession. One of the reasons why our economy and our people were so vulnerable coming into COVID-19 is because even before the pandemic we saw the Government not doing enough to support the economy. The Reserve Bank was cutting interest rates and doing what they could to support flagging growth even before COVID-19. The evidence is in; it's been quite clear for some time that the Morrison Government leaving all the heavy lifting to the Reserve Bank was damaging before this recession, damaging during it, and jeopardizes the recovery as well.
JOURNALIST: Do you anticipate a cut in the cash rate would have much stimulatory effect, given how low interest rates are already?
CHALMERS: The Reserve Bank itself has made the point, as have respected economic commentators, that there are some diminishing returns when it comes to further interest rate cuts. We'll wait to see what the bank announces tomorrow around some of the speculation around the further interest rate cut. There's also speculation around additional measures that the bank may take. I don't want to pre-empt that specifically, but we know that they think that more needs to be done in the economy at the same time as the Morrison Government is pulling support from the economy. Working at cross purposes is no good when it comes to protecting jobs and supporting growth in an economy when neither of those things are thick on the ground.
JOURNALIST: What lessons to you, as a senior Labor leader, take from the party's victory in the Queensland state election?
CHALMERS: Overwhelmingly, it was a stunning victory for the people's champion Annastacia Palaszczuk. It was an endorsement of her approach to keep the economy strong by limiting the spread of this virus. As LNP senator Amanda Stoker has said, there were federal issues at play as well. The Prime Minister's fingerprints were on this election result in Queensland. That's the point the LNP themselves are making. Cuts to JobKeeper and the like did no good for the LNP vote in places like Cairns, and elsewhere. There are important lessons to be drawn by all sides of politics from this outcome. I think that Annastacia’s inspired and inspiring leadership was a big part of what went down here on the weekend. I think the Queensland Labor family has a lot to be proud of and obviously in any election, there's always lessons to be learned.
JOURNALIST: Joel Fitzgibbon says Annastacia Palaszczuk's victory in large part is because of her vocal support for Queensland coal and manufacturing sectors. Is he right?
CHALMERS: The biggest reason for Annastacia Palaszczuk's stunning victory was that she took difficult decisions in difficult times, recognising the best way to protect the economy was to limit the spread of the virus. I think overwhelmingly, that explains the outcome. There were also some federal issues around Scott Morrison. He spent a week here as well. Coming to what Joel said this morning, I haven't seen the interview but I've seen reports on it, it is the case that Annastacia Palaszczuk's shown that you can make meaningful efforts at getting cleaner and cheaper energy into the system while recognising the reliance of some Queensland communities on sources of traditional economic strength. It is the case that Annastacia Palaszczuk showed you can be for cleaner and cheaper energy, without abandoning some of those communities which rely on traditional energy sources.
JOURNALIST: It appears that Australia's seafood export is being targeted for extra inspections by Chinese officials? Do you believe what's happening is within WTO rules?
CHALMERS: It's incredibly concerning what we're seeing, particularly as it relates to our lobster exporters. There are some reports, as you reference, that some of our lobster exports are being held up by customs in China. It’s incredibly concerning for those exporters but also for the broader economy. I'll leave it to the experts to determine whether or not that's consistent with WTO rules. I'd be surprised if it was. It's worth noting that this isn't the first industry which has been subjected to this kind of treatment. We support any efforts of the Government by the usual diplomatic channels to get to the bottom of what's happening here and to try and rectify it in the interests of our exporters and in the interests of jobs and economic growth here in Australia.
JOURNALIST: What approach should the federal government be taking to resolve this problem?
CHALMERS: We urge the Government to take diplomatic steps via the usual channels to get to the bottom of what's going on here and to represent the interests of those exporters whose livelihoods and jobs in their industry will be severely impacted if these kinds of decisions continue to be made, not just in this sector but in other sectors that we've seen in recent weeks and months.
JOURNALIST: Your colleague Clare O'Neil says men are now the biggest economic victims of the coronavirus pandemic and their struggles are being ignored. Do you agree, yes or no?
CHALMERS: Australian workers, both men and women are severely impacted by the deepest, most damaging recession in almost 100 years. We've got a million unemployed and 160,000 more are expected to join them between now and Christmas. Male and female workers are feeling this recession very deeply. The point that Clare is making today is that there are parts of our economy which have been in strife for some time now. Some of the issues that we're dealing with now, whether it's for women or men in the workforce, have been around for a really long time. Work has been too insecure for too long. The defining feature of the economy, under the Liberals and Nationals in Canberra in the last seven years has been people left out left behind, struggling with stagnant wages and insecure work, and that's the point that Clare's making today.
JOURNALIST: What should be done to help this?
CHALMERS: We've made a series of suggestions. One of the really disappointing things about the Commonwealth budget this time around is it racked up a trillion dollars in debt, spent $100 billion in new initiatives and still managed to leave workers behind, still managed to say unemployment will be too high for too long, still left out key areas like social housing, modernising the energy market, childcare, making sure that we get more benefit out of all the infrastructure, rail and defence projects that the Government invests in. If we did even those handful of things that Anthony Albanese articulated so well in his budget reply, then we would do a much better job than the Government is at addressing this substantial weakness in the labour market. We see here and risk here the Government not doing enough when it comes to jobs. We might see this spike in unemployment become long term unemployment. That's incredibly, incredibly damaging not just for our economy but for our society as well.
Thanks very much.