SATURDAY, 7 SEPTEMBER 2019
SUBJECTS: QLD/NSW bush fires; Six year anniversary of the Liberal Government; The floundering economy; Peter Dutton’s bizarre music video; Election review; Welfare recipient drug testing; Election review.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: First of all it's a very difficult day for a number of families in Queensland and also in northern New South Wales dealing with some quite serious bushfires which are impacting on people's homes - unfortunately I think already 17 homes lost overnight - and many people affected by these fires. I wanted to give a shout-out to the firies and to the first responders who are participating in what is really an ultimate act of selflessness, putting themselves in harm's way to protect other people and their property. We're thinking about them and we're thinking about the affected families throughout Queensland and throughout northern New South Wales as well.
Today is also the sixth anniversary of this Federal Liberal Government. After six years of the Liberals economic growth is slowing, Australians are struggling and the Morrison Government has absolutely no plan to turn things around. We've had six years, three Prime Ministers, three Treasurers, but nothing which resembles a plan to get this floundering economy going again. What we've had for the last six years is blame-shifting and finger-pointing and what we know now from the slowest growth since the GFC is that blame-shifting and finger-pointing won't turn the economy around.
The Government needs a genuine plan to deal with the substantial economic weakness which has sprung up on their watch. The slowest growth in a decade, stagnant wages, record household debt, productivity and living standards going backwards, the list goes on and on and on. We call on the Government to bring forward the budget update so that they can fix the forecasts which they got wrong, but also so they can responsibly fund and implement a genuine plan to turn around an economy which has been floundering on their watch for much of the last six years.
The Reserve Bank can't do all of the heavy lifting on its own. The Reserve Bank has already cut interest rates to record lows - one third of what they were during the GFC. The difficult job of the Reserve Bank is made that much harder by a Morrison Government which is barely lifting a finger to support growth in our economy. The Reserve Bank Governor is crying out for more infrastructure investment in our country and the Government is ignoring those calls.
Who do you trust on the economy? The Reserve Bank Governor or the man without a plan, Scott Morrison? The Reserve Bank Governor is entirely right to say that we need more infrastructure investment sooner. The Government should stop pretending there's nothing wrong with the economy. The Government needs a plan to deal with substantial economic weakness on their watch. For as long as they continue to play politics the economy will continue to flounder. A floundering economy is the inevitable consequence of a Morrison Government which has a political strategy but not an economic policy and we see that in the slowest economic growth in a decade.
And before I take your questions, I've been asked to comment on this bizarre Peter Dutton music video which has emerged. No wonder the economy is floundering under this Morrison Government, when you have Cabinet Ministers off shooting bizarre music videos. No wonder the economy is floundering and the Government doesn't have a plan when you've got Peter Dutton - a senior Cabinet Minister in the Government - off making these bizarre, laughable music videos.
Over to you.
JOURNALIST: The PM has said he likes setting tests for Labor because your Party is still trying to work out who you are and what you stand for, so what do you make of that?
CHALMERS: Well is it any wonder that after six years of the Liberals the economy is floundering, when they spend all of their time banging on about the Labor Party? It should come as no surprise to anybody that a Government which has a political strategy to always talk about the Labor Party but doesn't have an economic policy is overseeing the slowest growth we've had in this country for a decade now. Scott Morrison owes it to the Australian people to spend a bit less time focussed on Labor and a bit more time focussed on stagnant wages, high household debt, and the weakest growth in a decade. If only the Prime Minister spent as much time coming up with an economic plan as he spends banging on about us, the country would be better off.
JOURNALIST: Wayne Swan said overnight that Labor lost the election because it was too vocal about progressive social issues. Do you agree with him?
CHALMERS: There are a range of views being expressed as part of Labor's election review. Clearly we didn't get everything right in the election or we wouldn't still be in Opposition, so the task for us is to listen to the message that was sent to us on Election Day and to also learn from the election result, and as we go about reviewing our policies to hear those messages and to learn those lessons. People will have views about what we need to do differently. We are in no rush to revise and review our policies, we’ll take our time to do that properly and to properly consult with the broader community as well. Obviously we won't take an identical set of policies to the next election in 2022 that we took to the last election in 2019. We will review our policies as we've said all along, we won't be reviewing our values, and we'll take to the Australian people a set of policies which focus on turning around this floundering economy, which focus on stagnant wages and all the things which are being left unattended by a Morrison Government which hasn't had a plan now for the last six years.
JOURNALIST: Do you support the Government's plan to drug test welfare recipients to help people get off drugs [INAUDIBLE]?
CHALMERS: Obviously when we see the legislation that the Government is proposing about these drug trials we'll take them through our usual processes. The Government's just bowling up this drug testing trial again as a distraction from their failures on the economy. They want to pretend that they're interested in getting vulnerable people the help that they need and deserve, but really what they're interested in is chasing cheap headlines, in my opinion. This is not about helping people, it’s about demonising people. This is one of the communities which would be affected by the trial, here in Logan. The Government has always had a sneering and snobby disdain for this community in Logan City. We have said all along that we will listen to the experts, whether it be the health experts, mental health as well, experts in drug treatment and rehabilitation, law and order experts. They have said that this won't work. It's been trialled overseas and hasn't worked overseas as well. And remember too, that we're talking about drug testing in this community for all recipients. Nobody will be spared it. Something like 1 in 4 of Newstart recipients are over 55 years of age - they'll be asked to participate in these demeaning drug trials as well.
So we have a range of concerns, but primarily I'm concerned that the Government's not coming at this for the right reasons. The Government is all about demonising people and not about helping people. We need to see people get the help that they need and deserve and we will look at the legislation but the Government's got form in prioritising cheap political headlines and not actually helping people off drugs.
CHALMERS: Well again, people will have a range of views about what went wrong in the election. Clearly we didn't get everything right because the result didn't go our way. We need to take the views of the community very seriously. We need to listen to the message that was sent on Election Day and we need to learn the lessons from the outcome of that election. We are taking the time to review all of our policies, including our tax policies. We will do so with an eye to coming up with the best set of policies for the next election which is almost three years away. Clearly we won't have an identical set of policies at the 2022 election that we had at the 2019 election. We will take the time to put together an agenda which the Australian people will support, which will deal with the challenges which have been left unattended for so long, which are slowing growth, stagnant wages, all of these other issues which the Government should have a plan for but doesn't.
JOURNALIST: Do you believe the policies lost you the election or Bill Shorten?
CHALMERS: We will take the time to learn all the lessons from the election campaign and the outcome from the election campaign. It's my view that it's never one thing or another that determines elections and we shouldn't rush to oversimplify things. Clearly there are a range of things that we didn't get right and we need to learn from that and we need to listen to people when they express their opinions about that. In my portfolio, which has the tax policies in it, I will take the time just as my colleagues will, to properly consult on those policies to work out which ones we want to keep, which ones we want to discard, and which ones that we think can be improved. We've already begun that process. That process will continue for some time. Clearly we won't take an identical set of policies to the next election that we took to the last one and we will announce in due course a set of policies that we think the Australian people can get around.
JOURNALIST: Just moving onto the RBA. Are you concerned that a split has emerged between the Federal Government and the Reserve Bank over what should be done to boost the economy? Do you agree with the RBA Governor that more money needs to be spent on infrastructure?
CHALMERS: It's a very troubling split between the Reserve Bank and the Government. Ideally fiscal and monetary policy would be operating in concert and not in conflict. It's very troubling that the Governor of the Reserve Bank feels the need to call for this kind of infrastructure spending from the Government with increasing urgency because the Government doesn't have a plan to act on what is very sensible advice. Clearly the Australian economy needs a boost. Clearly bringing forward infrastructure spending could be part of a responsible plan to stimulate the economy which is floundering right now on the Morrison Government's watch. For too long now, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have been in denial about the weakness in the Australian economy. The Reserve Bank Governor understands, as does the Labor Party, that the economy is floundering and it needs a boost. An important part of dealing with that is to bring forward some infrastructure investment so that we can boost jobs, boost growth, and try to get the place moving again.
JOURNALIST: Will you keep the franking credits, and negative gearing capital gains tax changes?
CHALMERS: We're reviewing all of the policies that we took to the last election and we'll take our time to consult properly on them. Clearly as I've said a couple of times now, we won't take an identical set of policies to the next election that we took to the last election. We'll take our time to go through all of our policies, not just the tax ones but right across the board, to make sure that the set of policies - the policy agenda that we take to the 2022 agenda - is something that the Australian people can support, something which can get this floundering economy moving again, and which is something that can make the country fairer and stronger as well. That is our task for this parliamentary term. The election was only three and a half months ago. We've got almost three months to go until the next election. I don't think people expect us to have a final view on all of our policies almost three years from the election. People will have views about how we go about revising our policies. Those views are welcome from all quarters and we'll go about doing the work that is necessary to put together a policy agenda for the next time around.
Thanks very much.