ABC News Breakfast 25/05/22

25 May 2022

SUBJECTS: Texas School Shooting; Economy; Australia-China Relations; Operation Sovereign Borders





SUBJECTS: Texas School Shooting; Economy; Australia-China Relations; Operation Sovereign Borders

MICHAEL ROWLAND, HOST: Now, the new Prime Minister may be overseas on his first foreign trip just days into the job, but he's committed to – he's seen, rather, to hit the ground running with Labor's agenda for Government. One of those with a very big job ahead of him is the newly installed federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers, who joins us now from Parliament House in Canberra. Treasurer, good morning to you.

JIM CHALMERS, TREASURER: Good morning, Michael.

ROWLAND: I've got to start – listen, you are now one of the most senior politicians in Australia - we heard a lot yesterday about America being our closest ally. We've got this dreadful school shooting in the States. Your thoughts on that?

CHALMERS: It's heart-breaking Michael, and it's horrific. You think about those little kids who are packed up and sent off to school and their teacher who've lost their life, and you can only imagine how horrible it is for the families of those impacted and that community. It's just hard to imagine, hard to fathom, how a great nation like the United States can go on like this, with these mass shootings and all of this gun violence. The rest of the world finds it really hard to understand. So I'm sure every Australian heart goes out to the families affected by this atrocity and the community impacted as well. There are going to be dark days ahead for a lot of people.

ROWLAND: Indeed. Incomprehensible. You nailed it there. Let's go to your portfolio. Today you’re sitting down with the RBA Governor Philip Lowe. The Labor Party did commit to a wide-ranging review of the Reserve Bank if it won office. So what will that review seek to achieve?

CHALMERS: I'm looking forward to meeting Governor Lowe today, someone I've worked with in the past, somebody I have a lot of respect for. We have had some discussions already about the review into the Reserve Bank and how we conduct monetary policy and how that fits into the broader economic architecture of this country, so I'm looking forward to seeing him. I'll also be meeting with the heads of the other major regulators and agencies today. The hard work has already begun in the Albanese Labor Government on the world stage, as you know, but also here at home. We want to make sure that in these very tricky economic conditions that we've inherited – high and rising inflation, rising interest rates, falling real wages, a trillion dollars in debt with not enough to show for it – we want to make sure that we're all working together effectively. The challenges are so serious that we will only meet them together. The whole country working together to get on top of these challenges that we've inherited from our predecessors.

ROWLAND: Looking now at Australia's relationship with China, so the Chinese Premier sent that congratulatory message to the new Government, but Anthony Albanese made it very clear at the Quad meeting that unless China scraps the sanctions against Australia really the relationship cannot move forward. So those sanctions are still a deal breaker, aren't they?

CHALMERS: We would certainly like to see those sanctions and those tariffs lifted. They are damaging our economy. They are making life harder for some of our employers and workers here in Australia, and so obviously we would like to see those measures lifted. That would be a really great start when it comes to how we manage what is a really complex relationship, a relationship that has become more complex over time. But more broadly, the reason why it's so important that the Albanese Labor Government, the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, had such a strong start on the world stage is because it's in every Australian's interest for our region to be secure and stable and prosperous. The stronger and more secure and prosperous our region is, the better it is for our national economy and for our people. Anthony Albanese, I think, has shown already how comfortable he is on the world stage, and Penny Wong similarly. It was a great start for the Government on the world stage, and we're looking forward to welcoming Anthony and Penny back later today.

ROWLAND: Are you confident things can improve with China, if those preconditions set down by the Prime Minister are met?

CHALMERS: We need to recognise that the complexities in the relationship with China are driven by China. The Chinese approach to the region and to Australia has changed. They have become more aggressive and more assertive. So our job, in that difficult context, is to try and manage the relationship in a considered, and sober, and non-partisan way. That's been our objective all along – in Opposition and in Government. We want to see it managed effectively. Because more broadly, as I said, the stronger the region is, the more cohesive the region is, the safer it is, the more prosperous it is. I think every Australian understands that if we want our economy to be strong, if we want growth to be broad and inclusive, and why want to create good and secure well-paid jobs, then our exporters are a big part of the story. That's why it is important that when we think about this relationship with China that those sanctions which have been imposed on us are lifted as soon as possible.

ROWLAND: Now, speaking of confidence, let's go to the political situation. How confident are you of Labor - as the vote counting continues - securing majority government?

CHALMERS: I'm a little more confident today than perhaps I was earlier in the week. I speak to people who follow this very closely, and it looks like we are a very strong chance of a majority. I really want to see Madonna Jarrett up in Brisbane, she's someone I have a lot of respect for. So ideally we can get to 76 or 77 and have Brisbane included in that pile, because Madonna Jarrett would be an outstanding contributor here. But there's counting going on in Lyons, of course. We're pretty confident about Macnamara. So we think that we will get a majority, but that's not yet entirely assured.

ROWLAND: Okay, so, listen, a big win for the Labor Party, a big loss for the Coalition. But the primary votes of both major parties hovering in the low to mid-30s after the election. Why do you think, Jim Chalmers, voters walked away from the major parties on mass?

CHALMERS: We need to learn from that. We shouldn't be - from a Labor point of view certainly, we won a national election against an entrenched incumbent - and so we need to recognise that first of all. But in every election you need to learn the lessons, and it's clear that there are a lot of challenges to the traditional two-party system. Our message to Australians - whether they voted teal or green or yellow or orange or blue or red - is we want to govern for every Australian. Our economic challenges that we've inherited from the Liberals and Nationals are so serious that we want to govern for everyone no matter how they voted, no matter where they live in Australia. Because we need to address these big challenges together, and the only way to sort out the politics of the situation is to govern well. If we govern well, the politics will take care of themselves.

ROWLAND: Just finally, we've got the former Home Affairs Minister, now Liberal MP, Karen Andrews coming up a bit later on. On that front, the Labor Party has asked for an investigation into that media release from Border Force on election day about the asylum seeker boat. Firstly, what were your thoughts on that, and what do you hope this investigation finds?

CHALMERS: We've communicated our displeasure at the publication and politicisation of that boat on Saturday, on election day. We've said publicly already that we thought it was incredibly disappointing to see the way that the Liberals and Nationals played politics with it. Ideally these tricky decisions, difficult decisions, are managed consistent with Operation Sovereign Borders in a non-partisan way. The former government breached that in an effort to try and change the election result on Saturday afternoon, and we shouldn't be dealing with border security in that fashion. We said that publicly and privately, we said that on Saturday and we've said it since.

ROWLAND: Jim Chalmers in Canberra, I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

CHALMERS: Appreciate your time, Michael.