JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
TUESDAY, 17 MAY 2022
SUBJECTS: Costings; Coalition rorts and waste; Scott Morrison’s desperate distractions from cost of living crisis and trillion dollars of debt; New numbers expected to show real wages falling again.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: This Liberal Government has borrowed more, spent more, and taxed more than the last Labor Government, but delivered much less. Josh Frydenberg and Simon Birmingham want to talk about delivery today. All this Government has delivered is a full-blown cost of living crisis, real wages going backwards, and a trillion dollars of debt that they had already doubled before the pandemic. You can't take this Government seriously on the economy or the Budget given their record. This Morrison Government has become a laughing stock on the Budget and the economy, given their failures over almost a decade in office now. What we see in the Budget, and what we see in the Government's costings today, is a Budget which is absolutely heaving with rorts and waste and a trillion dollars in Liberal debt.
Josh Frydenberg and Scott Morrison want to bang on about Labor's costings as a desperate attempt to distract from their own failures on the economy and on the Budget. They are trying desperately to distract from the fact that they racked up a trillion dollars in debt and had doubled the debt before the pandemic. They are trying desperately to distract from this full-blown cost of living crisis on their watch, which is seeing real wages go backwards.
Tomorrow, we'll get new numbers, which show that the cost of living crisis is set to get worse in this country, as real wages fall further and further behind. Economists expect the wages data tomorrow to show that Australian working families are falling even further behind on Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg's watch. This is why they're trying so desperately to distract from their own failures - of real wages falling, skyrocketing costs of living, a trillion dollars in debt with not enough to show for it, and today we saw consumer confidence fall as well. This is the legacy of the Liberals and Nationals after almost a decade of waste, rorts and economic mismanagement. This is the legacy that they would be leaving an incoming government. They want to talk about delivery when all they’ve delivered is a costs of living crisis, real wages going backwards, and a trillion dollars in debt with nowhere near enough to show for it.
We will release our costings on Thursday, consistent with the practice established by the Coalition. The Coalition released their costings on Thursday of the final week at the last election and the last two times that they were in Opposition. We will release our costings at the usual time in the usual way, consistent with the practice which has been established by the Coalition. So all of this bleating and banging on about Labor's costings can only be seen as a desperate distraction from the Government's own substantial economic and Budget failures.
The difference between our Budget and the Coalition’s Budget will be really important investments in cleaner and cheaper energy, cheaper child care, and skills and opportunities for more Australians. Because what Labor would be inheriting from the Coalition is not just a trillion dollars in debt, but no plan whatsoever to get the economy growing in the right way without adding to inflation, and to get real wages moving again. The Government doesn't have a plan. Labor has a plan. We've seen that through the course of this election campaign. When Katy Gallagher and I released our Economic Plan and Budget Strategy some weeks ago, we said that we will release the tally of our costings towards the end of the campaign and that's what people should expect to see.
We have been working closely with the Parliamentary Budget Office. We've sent costings to the Parliamentary Budget Office, some of our commitments are capped, some of them come at no cost, and some of them are matching the Coalition. So, what you'll see on Thursday, is a tallying of the commitments that we've made.
Our responsible investments in a better future will cost the Budget a fraction of what the Coalition has rorted and wasted over almost a decade in office. Our responsible investments are all about growing the economy the right way without adding to inflation, getting real wages moving again, and making sure that Australians actually have something to show for this trillion dollars in Liberal debt.
So the choice at the election is pretty clear. It is becoming clearer by the day as we head towards the election on Saturday. You can have a better future and a stronger Budget, a better quality Budget under Anthony Albanese and Labor, or you can have three more years of the same under Scott Morrison - the same rorts, waste and economic mismanagement, which is seeing Australians fall further and further and further behind.
JOURNALIST: Mr Chalmers, why wait until 48 hours before the election to release your costings?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: That's consistent with the practice that's been established. It’s entirely unsurprising and entirely consistent with the practice that the Government themselves set a precedent for that we will tally up and release costings towards the end of the campaign. What we have done is, we've released an Economic Plan and a Budget Strategy some weeks ago, so people can understand where we're coming from when it comes to the economy.
The Government's only just released most of their costings today in the final week of the campaign. In the 2019 election they did it on the Thursday, in 2013 and 2010 they did it on the Thursday. They desperately want Australians focused on the minutiae of costings being released, so that Australians aren't focusing on the cost of living crisis that this Government has delivered them courtesy of a decade of attacks on their real wages, which has seen real wages go backwards. The big issue in the economy is not the day that Labor releases its costings, it's the cost of living crisis on Scott Morrison's watch. It's the fact that real wages are going backwards, and are expected to go backwards further this week. It's falling consumer confidence, and it's the fact that there's a trillion dollars of Liberal debt in this Budget, which is heaving with rorts, waste and mismanagement.
JOURNALIST: What's your assessment Mr Chalmers, on the approximate number of young people who would have enough super on lower wages to draw down for deposit? Is it a moot point in other words?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Younger Australians typically don't have big superannuation balances, that's self-evident. I think one of the reasons why the Government's housing policy has collapsed all around them is because after more than ten minutes of scrutiny, people realise that this policy is really about two things - it's about Scott Morrison bulldozing superannuation, and it's about pushing up house prices. That will make it harder, not easier, for people, including young people, to get a toehold in the market. Liberals have been lining up to smash this policy for the best part of a decade for good reason. If this Government really thought it was a good idea to smash people's super and push up house prices by implementing this policy, they would have done it in any of their nine Budgets. This Government's been in office now for almost a decade, neglecting this key challenge in our economy. Now, six days before the election, they've come out with this brain explosion, which people are working out. This policy is collapsing all around Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg. This is yet another reason to turf out this desperate, dysfunctional government, so that we don't have to have another three years of the drift, rorts and waste which has characterised their economic management the last nine years or so.
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: We've got a better way to make the public service more efficient, which is to make billions of dollars of savings in labour hire, consultants and contractors, so that we can put some of that money back into building the capacity of the public service, but still return a saving to the Budget. This Government only ever has one or two answers for everything - go after wages and conditions, and cut jobs. That's their solution to everything. After a decade now of hollowing out of the public service, the best thing that we can do - and what Labor will do - is trim spending on outsourcing, put some of that money into building capacity in the public service. That is a far more effective, far more efficient, far more responsible way of making the public service better and more efficient and saving money.
JOURNALIST: Taking your lead from many of the states in terms of decentralising and acknowledging the exodus of people from cities to the regions is examining where the federal government departments can be set up in the bigger regional centres [inaudible].
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: We've had a bit to say in the past, particularly when it comes to call centres in regional areas. One of the reasons why we think we can deliver better services is because we are more in tune and more in touch with regional areas. This Government, from time to time, has a thought bubble about decentralisation. But I think there's a broader point to be made here about the regions and as someone who's done I think more than 60 visits now to 29 different Queensland regional cities and towns this term alone, one of the things that I appreciate is we need to make it easier for people to live and work in some of these amazing provincial cities and towns. We do that by modernising the NBN. We do that by training people in local areas. We do that by creating good secure well-paid jobs, through our Powering Australia Plan. These are the sorts of things that will boost our regions and diversify our economy more broadly than the public service, and that's what we're into.
JOURNALIST: Do the Budget deficits look larger under Labor than the Coalition?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: We'll release all of our costings on Thursday, in the usual way at the usual time. The most important thing here is not whether deficits are a couple of billion dollars each year better or worse than what the Government is proposing, what matters most is the quality of the investments. We'd be inheriting a trillion dollars in debt and no plan to grow the economy the right way. The difference between our approach to the Budget and the Government's approach to the Budget, is we want to crack down on all their rorts, waste and mismanagement. We've suggested a few ways that we'd begin that important task, but we would also be investing in growth, productivity and participation, in areas like child care, cleaner and cheaper energy, and training more people for more opportunities. So that will be the difference
JOURNALIST: Just in terms of managing that debt - 44 per cent of GDP roughly - what are your targets stabilising the debt? What are the milestones you see? Is it about productivity [inaudible]?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: First of all, we need to flick the switch to quality, that's the most important thing. We are realistic about this mountain of Liberal debt that we would inherit if we won the election. This problem has been accumulating for much of the last decade and it will take some time to turn around, but we've already suggested some ways that we would begin that task - whether it's trimming outsourcing, whether it's multinational tax reform, whether it's an audit of the Government's rorts, waste and mismanagement. That seems to be the best place to start, but we would be inheriting a debt trajectory at record levels. We take that challenge seriously and no government, whoever wins on Saturday, will be able to suddenly flick the switch and make that debt disappear.
JOURNALIST: The default counter argument [inaudible]. Can you tell Australians exactly what percentage of that debt is attributed to the pandemic? What is the truth around that statistic? Is it three quarters or over half?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: The best way to understand that is that this Government doubled the debt even before the pandemic. Now they want to pretend that all of this debt in the Budget is a consequence of the last couple of years, but they had doubled the debt before the pandemic and now they've multiplied the debt. They inherited debt a fraction of what they're now saying is manageable. These were the same characters going around Australia saying that net debt at $175 billion was a debt and deficit disaster. For the coming year it's $715 billion or so, so that gives you a sense of the change in debt levels under this Government. The debt in this Budget is not entirely a consequence of the pandemic. This Government has an excuse for everything and a plan for nothing. They take credit for things like commodity prices improving but they don't take responsibility for the fact that they wasted $5.5 billion on submarines that will never be built, $20 billion on pandemic support for companies that didn't need it because their profits were going up, and a billion dollars on marketing and advertising of the Government itself. As far as the eye can see, rorts, waste and mismanagement. That's why we don't have enough to show for this trillion dollars in debt.
JOURNALIST: How have you worked out Labor's costings?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: We've been working closely with the Parliamentary Budget Office in a combination of ways. Costings that we've sent to the Parliamentary Budget Office, some of our commitments are capped costs, some are no cost, and some are matching the Coalition's commitments. On Thursday, you'll see all of those commitments tallied up and released in the usual way at the usual time.
JOURNALIST: Labor is traditionally associated with a robust healthcare or public health care system. What offsets do you have in mind in terms of what seems to be the increasing demands on unaffordable private funds and the added pressure that will put on the public hospital system? What have you got in mind there to offset that?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: One of the big choices at this election is the Labor Party under Anthony Albanese that wants to strengthen Medicare, and the Liberals under Scott Morrison always looking to diminish it. The first, most important priority for us in health care, is to strengthen Medicare. That's why we've got these commitments around rebuilding GP practices in particular, and the policies that we announced in Darwin on the weekend. In order to pay for that, we've already sketched out some important savings measures that will help with that task, including multinational tax reform, including trimming spending on outsourcing, and we'll have an audit of the Government's rorts and waste.
JOURNALIST: What do you plan to do to increase the scrutiny on the way in which the states spend that health funding? We're seeing here in Queensland for example, ambulance ramping, overcrowded hospitals when funding is at a record level, apparently, what are your expectations getting bang for buck?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Obviously, we want to work closely with state government Premiers and Chief Ministers to make sure that we're getting maximum value from important public investments in the health system. We want to work closely with them to deal with some of these substantial challenges in the health system.
JOURNALIST: Do you see room for improvement from the states, without nominating any in particular?
JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: I'm not interested in taking shots at the states. I'm interested in working with the states to get maximum value for money so that we can try and address these challenges together. Thanks very much.