Weekend Today Show 01/05/22

01 May 2022

SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s cost of living crisis; Labor’s Economic Plan; Labor’s plan for cleaner and cheaper energy; Labor’s Help to Buy plan to tackle housing affordability; Scott Morrison always wants to take credit but never wants to take responsibility.



SUNDAY, 1 MAY 2022

SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s cost of living crisis; Labor’s Economic Plan; Labor’s plan for cleaner and cheaper energy; Labor’s Help to Buy plan to tackle housing affordability; Scott Morrison always wants to take credit but never wants to take responsibility.
CHRIS UHLMANN, HOST: Morning Charles. As you know, they say go hard or go home. Well have a look. We're in Optus Stadium now and we've got the Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers with us, Jim. You're hoping to fill it this morning? 
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Oh it will be full, full to the brim. 
UHLMANN: So you could be Treasurer in 21 days’ time. How will you make life easier for the people watching this morning?
CHALMERS: Well, there's no shortage of economic challenges at the moment. But the most important one is Scott Morrison's cost of living crisis, the worst possible combination of high and rising inflation, rising interest rates and falling real wages. So our economic plan, which we released during the course of last week, is all about growing the economy without adding to inflation, easing cost of living pressures on families, getting real wages growing again, as part of that, but also trying to get some economic value from this budget which is heaving with a trillion dollars in debt. 
UHLMANN: Okay, you talk about getting real wages up so that wages would grow faster than inflation. So you're promising that wages will grow faster than inflation under Labor? 
CHALMERS: We're promising that wages will grow faster under Labor than under the government, and that's because we have a plan to get real wages growing again. And our plan has a number of parts. First of all, train people for higher wage opportunities. Secondly, reform childcare, so that people can work more and earn more, if they'd like to. Support wage cases in areas like aged care and the care economy more broadly, but also invest in the right kind of growth that creates secure well paid jobs. 
UHLMANN: But it's not possible to push down inflation, is it and that's the problem, we're gonna have at the moment. For real wages to grow, wages have to grow faster than inflation, inflation is at 5.1% at the moment, so you can you really realistically pledge that people's wages will go up.
CHALMERS: We can pledge that people's wages outcomes will be stronger under Labor.
UHLMANN: Better than inflation? 
CHALMERS: Because the difference is, Chris, that the government's just thrown its hands in the air.  If something good happens in the economy, the government says it's because our economic plan is working. When ordinary working families are getting absolutely punished by falling real wages, the government says it's nothing to do with them and Scott Morrison says it's not my job. That's one of the key differences at this election. 
UHLMANN: So if in three years’ time people's wages have not grown faster than inflation, then that would be a fail for Labor.
CHALMERS: The test is whether we can make a meaningful difference to real wages growth in this country, and we've got a plan to do it, the government's washed its hands of this cost of living crisis.
UHLMANN: What about cost of living - you're talking about a basket of goods. I see Anthony Albanese the other day was saying a $5.50 lettuce, there's nothing you can do to bring down the price of a lettuce is there?
CHALMERS: There's lots that we can do to ease the cost of living pressures on families to make it easier to afford grocery prices, which are going through the roof, as you know. So we've got a plan for cheaper childcare, we've got a plan for...
UHLMANN: More money into people's pockets? 
CHALMERS: Exactly right. We've got a plan for cheaper, more accessible health care, we've got a plan that we're releasing today about cheaper mortgage repayments, we've got a plan to get real wages growing again. You know, all across right across the board, when families sit down, they don't get paid a certain proportion of their wage for groceries and another for mortgage repayments and childcare and health care and all the rest of it. And so we will take the pressure off during this cost of living crisis, which has...
UHLMANN: Tell us about the housing plan. How does that work? 
CHALMERS: So our housing plan is called Help to Buy. And what it does is it picks up the best ideas from around the states and around the world to make it easier for people to get a toehold in the housing market. That's because deposits will be smaller, mortgages will be smaller, and repayments will be smaller. And that's because the government takes a stake in the mortgage - up to 40% for a new home, up to 30% for an existing home. And what that means is, people who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford their own home will be able to afford their own home. 10,000 Australians each year and it will make a meaningful difference to their cost of living
UHLMANN: Around 350,000 Australians a year by our home. So it is a very small proportion of people who would be helped?
CHALMERS: We have to be responsible. Now we would be inheriting a trillion dollars in debt with almost nothing to show for it. And so we've got to do what we can responsibly, cautiously to make a meaningful difference. 10,000 people who wouldn't otherwise be in the housing market is a good place to start. 
UHLMANN: Didn't you once say that unless you tackled negative gearing and capital gains tax in a housing affordability public policy, then essentially, that was a joke, because you actually have to tackle those two things.
CHALMERS: We've made it really clear that we're not going down that path. We found a better way to deal with some of these issues, whether it's...
UHLMANN: Did you mean it when you said it, that you needed to attack those things to attack housing affordability, or have you changed your mind on that?
CHALMERS: We've changed our mind on that. We have said... 
UHLMANN: That's a pretty significant change. 
CHALMERS: We have found better ways including what we're announcing today to make it easier for people. We've got a cost of living crisis, but as part of that is a housing crisis in this country. It's hard to buy a home as you know. And we found a better way to encourage more people into the market.
UHLMANN: If you put more money into the marketplace, won't that just drive up the cost of housing?
CHALMERS: This is a long term solution to a long term problem. We have had an issue with people finding it hard to get in the market for a really long time now. Interest rates are rising. And what this will do is make mortgages smaller in the context of rising interest rates. You know house prices have gone up something like 25% last year, and that is of concern to us. And what we need to do is make it easier for people to get a toehold in that market. Interest rate rises are about to be part of the pain. We factored that in. 
UHLMANN: You also say that you are going to lower people's electricity bills. What's the heart of that? How does that work?
CHALMERS: Well, by getting more cleaner and cheaper energy into the system, our modelling says that by 2025, power bills as part of the grid on the east coast of Australia will be $275 a year cheaper. And so that will make a meaningful difference. But I think everybody understands, certainly, the business community, the investor community, I think families right around Australia understand that new sources of energy are cheaper when they're renewable.
UHLMANN: Again, that's not the way the electricity market works. The newer, cheaper sources of energy aren't the only things in the energy market. And at the moment, coal's expensive. And the assumption I see in your modeling is that coal prices are flat. Well they've gone through the roof.
CHALMERS: Nobody is claiming that the energy market will be 100% renewable in the next year or two, there is a mix. And coal prices are part of the story as I've heard you point out a number of times in the last little while. The best way to get those wholesale prices down is to make it cheaper and more efficient to transmit energy and get more cleaner and cheaper energy into the system. That's what the modeling says, that's what everyone whose looked at this issue says.
UHLMANN: I've seen the modelling and again, will you commit to the fact that if electricity prices do not fall in the three years that you are in government, that will be another fail of the Labor party? You're making some big, big pledges.
CHALMERS: Well you have said yourself that there are a number of issues in the energy market. The part that we have an influence over is our plan, our Powering Australia plan, for cleaner and cheaper energy to get more renewables into the system. It is universally accepted around the world that that's the way to get power prices down.
UHLMANN: One of the things that Anthony Albanese has said through the course of this campaign is Labor does the big things -  Medicare, PBS, what's your big thing?
CHALMERS: Well, I think the energy transition is a big part of the story. You know, in my space, there are probably five big things, when it comes to making sure we can grow the economy the right way. So very, very briefly, you know, training more people for skill shortages, getting energy prices down with cleaner and cheaper energy, making it easier for more people to participate in work via the childcare system, modernising our infrastructure, including the NBN, the digital economy, but also investing in the care economy. And the future made in Australia, investing in advanced manufacturing, recognising that the pandemic taught us how vulnerable we are dangling at the end of supply chains. And so those are at least five big things in the economy. And that's part of the choice. And the choice of the election is between a stronger economy as part of a better future under Labor, or three more years of dysfunction and drift.
UHLMANN: Aren't you potentially setting yourself up for a very big fall here because you're setting the bar for government very high to do some things that it actually can't do. It cannot change the price of a basket of goods. It cannot be certain it can bring down the cost of electricity. It cannot be certain that you can make wages run faster than inflation. If you fail on all of those things, then you'll be marked very hard by this electorate. 
CHALMERS: This is the Scott Morrison view, right? That says that we shouldn't do anything. You look around Australia... 
UHLMANN: Not that you shouldn't do anything, that you shouldn't promise people things you cannot do. 
CHALMERS: We're being realistic about the commitments that we're making to the Australian people. We have been all along. We've been very careful about that. Australians are getting punished by Scott Morrison's cost of living crisis. His solution is to throw his hands up in the air and pretend he has nothing to do with it, and it's not his job. What you'll see at the launch today is Anthony Albanese will take responsibility for the pressures that Australian families are under. We've got responsible policies to deal in a range of ways with that cost of living crisis, and to try and get some value for money from this budget which is heaving with that trillion dollars in debt.
UHLMANN: The value that you're talking about - you're going to make some savings $5 billion you mentioned the other day over four years. I don't think that people would understand that Commonwealth spending is about $2.6 trillion over that time, but the savings you're going to make are not a rounding error.
CHALMERS: We are the only ones who are taking the budget position seriously, the government made $39 billion of commitments in their budget with no talk of offsets. And so we are attempting to improve the quality of the budget that begins with sensible measures like trimming spending on consultants and contractors and labor higher in the public service and making multinational taxes fairer.
UHLMANN: Well, Jim Chalmers, we must make an end shortly. We're in a big space. So now make a big pledge. What will Labor do to make people's lives better in the course of the next three years should you win in 20 days time?
CHALMERS: We will begin to deal with the cost of living crisis which has emerged on Scott Morrison's watch. We will take responsibility and we will work hard every day to work together to bring people together to deal with these big economic challenges that Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg will have left us. 
UHLMANN: Well Jim Chalmers, big venue, big job. Back to you Charles, and team.