TUESDAY, 20 AUGUST 2019
SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s comments on the trade war; the Liberals’ denial about home-grown economic weaknesses.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: The Prime Minister was given 25 minutes to outline a plan for the future and he couldn't do it. He was specifically asked about bumps in our own Australian economy and whether they keep him up at night and not a word about the slowest growth in 10 years, or stagnant wages, or record high household debt, or the fact that living standards are going backwards and that consumer confidence fell again today. The Prime Minister is in dangerous denial about the problems in our own domestic economy. He shouldn't pretend that all of the challenges in our economy which have emerged under his watch are imposed on us by tensions in the global economy. So many of our economic challenges, so much of our economic weakness, is home-grown and a consequence of a Prime Minister and a Liberal Party which has no plan to turn the floundering economy around.
He should stop pretending that the weakness in our economy has only just emerged as a consequence of tensions between China and the United States. The weakness in our economy has been emerging for some years now. This is a third-term Liberal Government. They need a plan to turn the floundering economy around. They should stop pointing the finger at others, or making excuses, or banging on about Labor and actually come up with a plan.
For 25 minutes in this long interview with the Prime Minister he was repeatedly asked about his plan for the future and he couldn't come up with one. That's because he's focussed on Labor and playing politics and making excuses and pointing the finger, and not on dealing with a substantial economic challenges which have emerged on his watch.
He says rightly that the management of our relationship with China and with other countries, with the Americans and the like, is a very important thing for him to focus on, and we agree with that. If he was genuine about managing the complex relationship with China in particular, then he wouldn't cop his own MPs making such intemperate remarks about China like we have seen in recent days and weeks.
The Prime Minister needs to come up with a plan. Twenty five minutes of an interview; he couldn't come up with one. There are substantial weaknesses in our own economy. His denial of our own economic weaknesses closer to home. His failure to come up with a plan leaves us dangerously exposed to global shocks. His failure to come up with a plan leaves us dangerously exposed to volatility in the global economy.
It is complacency at best, economic irresponsibility at worst. Over to you.
JOURNALIST: The Prime Minister says that Australians are going to have to get used to tensions between the US and China. Do you agree?
CHALMERS: Well that's a very pessimistic way to look at things in terms of managing our key relationships around the world. It is true that there have been some concerning developments in the disagreements between China and the United States; the two biggest economies and obviously the most important players in our own region. They are concerning developments but the Prime Minister shouldn't pretend that all of the weakness that has emerged in our economy on his watch is somehow the fault of tensions between the Americans and the Chinese. So many of our economic challenges are home-grown. They have emerged on his watch and he doesn't have a plan to deal with them. If he wanted to deal with the Chinese effectively, the best way to do that is with calm level-headed language and not the sort of intemperate remarks that we've seen from his colleagues in recent days and weeks.
JOURNALIST: How does Australia best navigate the rivalry of China and the United States?
CHALMERS: Australia should join with the leaders of all nations who have skin in the game here, and encourage the Americans and the Chinese to resolve their differences. Scott Morrison has a welcome and important opportunity at the G7 meeting, and in other international engagements. We hope he makes the most of those opportunities to work with leaders of other countries to encourage the Americans and Chinese to resolve those differences in the interests of the global economy.
Nobody wins in the long-term from the sort of trade conflict and currency conflict that we're seeing between the Americans and the Chinese. We've all got skin in the game here - every country of our region and countries around the world - and so it's incumbent on leaders - ours and other leaders from around the world - to encourage President Trump and President Xi to resolve their differences so that the global economy can work as it should free of this sort of tension.
JOURNALIST: Scott Morrison says managing relationships with the biggest world powers keeps him awake at night. Is the challenge that serious?
CHALMERS: Clearly developments in the global economy are concerning and clearly these are big challenges that need to be managed and dealt with. For our part in the Labor Party, we want to play a constructive role in that effort. It is an important effort for the leader of Australia to engage in and we agree that those issues are serious and they are concerning. The Prime Minister was also asked whether there were any bumps in the domestic economy and whether they keep him up at night, and he couldn't name any of the challenges which are concerning so many Australians in ordinary communities. The Prime Minister's in denial about the slowest growth in the economy for 10 years, stagnant wages, declining living standards, record household debt and the fact that consumer confidence went down again today.
The Prime Minister needs to stop being in denial about this domestic economic weakness, stop pretending it is entirely a function of global volatility, and actually come up with a plan to deal with slow growth and stagnant wages and all of the other challenges which have emerged under his watch while he has been in denial and dangerously complacent, leaving us more exposed than we should be to global economic shocks.
Thanks very much.