Brisbane Doorstop - 24/08/19

August 24, 2019

SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg’s one year anniversary; US-China trade war; Chinese influence at Australian universities; Morrison at the G7; Nauru.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: This is a third-term government that's been around for six years, but today is the one year anniversary of Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg becoming the Prime Minister and Treasurer. After one year of Morrison and Frydenberg they get an 'F' for a floundering economy. The economy has been weakening for some time under the Liberals, but under Morrison and Frydenberg things have been getting worse. Growth has slowed and is now the slowest it's been in the 10 years since the Global Financial Crisis. Productivity has slowed, household debt is at record highs. These two have added $23 billion of net debt to public debt. Household debt is an extra $42 billion and an extra 55,000 people in Australia are looking for work or looking for more work under the past year of Morrison and Frydenberg.
So one year in since Malcolm Turnbull was knifed, the divisions are still there, the economy has gotten worse, and there is absolutely no plan to turn things around. While Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg are popping the champagne corks on this one year anniversary, Australians are paying more for electricity, more for childcare and more for healthcare. After one year of Morrison and Frydenberg, there is still absolutely no plan to turn around the floundering economy and that leaves Australia dangerously exposed to shocks in the global economy.
JOURNALIST: [INAUDIBLE] Why did you lose the election?
CHALMERS: There are a range of reasons why we weren't successful on the 18th of May, we need to be upfront about that. Clearly we couldn't build a big enough constituency for our policies, and clearly our language didn't strike the right chord in the community. We've been upfront about that in the three-or-so months since the election. Clearly we fell short. It's very disappointing, not just for us but for people who are counting on us around Australia to deliver the investment they need in health and education, but also people who are counting on a government with a plan to turn around this floundering economy.
CHALMERS: I wouldn't use exactly the same language to describe the situation but it's certainly true that the Australian economy is weak and getting weaker under the Liberal Party and they have absolutely no plan to turn things around. Just in the last year under Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg growth has slowed, productivity has slowed, household debt has hit record highs, 1.8 million Australians are looking for work or looking for more work, and they've added $23 billion of net debt to the budget. Right across the board there is substantial weakness in the Australian economy that we need to be upfront about.
This Prime Minister and his Treasurer have been in office for a year now in their current jobs - part of a six-year, third-term Liberal Government - and there is still absolutely no sign of a plan to turn things around. 
JOURNALIST: What sort of a threat does the US-China trade war pose to our economy?
CHALMERS: The issues at play between the Chinese and the Americans are very concerning. Nobody wins from a trade war and when issues like this escalate, that is cause for concern. The Prime Minister is off to the G7 meeting in France and we hope that he makes the most of that very welcome opportunity to work with other global leaders to encourage the leaders of China and the US to resolve their differences in the interests of the global economy. Nobody wins from the sort of conflict we're seeing between the Chinese and the Americans. We need to see these issues resolved so that the other countries of our region and around the world are not unnecessarily impacted. 
At the same time as we acknowledge the concerns in the global economy - not just between China and the US, but other issues at play around the world - it's very important that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer don't pretend that all of our challenges in the economy are a consequence of global volatility. We have home-grown economic challenges here around wages, and growth, and productivity, and household debt, and declining living standards. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer need to come up with a plan to deal with those home-grown weaknesses rather than just pretend they are imposed on us by weakness or volatility around the world. 
CHALMERS: I think it's really important when we're talking about the issues at play - the relationship with China and all the components of that - that we use measured, calm and sober language. There are very complex and multilayered issues at play here and we need to deal with them in a mature and calm way. As it relates to universities in particular, I think there are a number of issues at play there. Universities rely very heavily on international students because the Morrison and Turnbull and Abbott Governments have cut so deeply into higher education funding which forces universities to do more with international students than they might otherwise do.  
The other issue at play is, higher education exports are a massive opportunity for Australia. 130,000 jobs and billions of dollars are associated with that industry and we need to make sure that we get that right. Our universities have a well-earned reputation for academic independence and we need to make sure that all of us -governments, universities, everyone with an interest in getting this right - work together to make sure that that reputation is enhanced.
JOURNALIST: Just at the G7, the Australian's reporting that Australia will be the first to strike a full comprehensive deal post-Brexit, a full comprehensive deal with Britain. Do you support that?
CHALMERS: We think that Scott Morrison's opportunity to spend time at the G7 meeting with the leaders of the big global economies is a very, very welcome opportunity and we hope that he makes the most of it. When leaders on either side of politics go overseas to advance the interests of Australia we think it's important that we are on the same team as he goes about trying to advance our interests and we wish him well. When it comes to trade, obviously Australian businesses rely very heavily on overseas markets, we want to see good arrangements struck with countries right around the world which recognize our own domestic needs, and most of all, which give our businesses the opportunity to grow. So to the extent that he will be advancing that agenda and that cause we wish him well. 
JOURNALIST: The Department of Home Affairs says it's aware of self-harm incidents at Nauru. Have you been briefed on these?
CHALMERS: Very concerning reports. I haven't been briefed on those. It may be that my colleagues have been briefed on some of those incidents. I'll leave commentary up to them. Thank you.