Sky News AM Agenda (33)

21 September 2017


SUBJECT/S: Energy crisis; Clean Energy Target; new book Changing Jobs: The Fair Go in the New Machine Age; OECD and global economic growth


KIERAN GILBERT: Let's go to Jim Chalmers now, the Shadow Finance Minister. Jim, thanks for your time. What did you think of Rod Sims' speech yesterday, basically saying there's no silver bullet in relation to energy policy, but not entirely critical of the government's approach to all of this stuff?


JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCE: There's no silver bullet, but the Clean Energy Target is the most effective way to get prices down and get the investment into the system that we need to get pollution down as well and to create those jobs. That doesn't prevent you from doing some of the other things that have been spoken about yesterday by Rod and others - things like the gas market controls that Bill Shorten was talking about yesterday. There are a whole range of things you can do, but the Clean Energy Target is the most important thing according to the experts. It's how you get the prices down and the pollution down and create the jobs, and it was the key recommendation of the chief scientist as well. And the reason that that key recommendation to have a Clean Energy Target hasn't been implemented is because we've got a Prime Minister who hasn't been able to lead and we've got a party room on the Liberal side which is plagued by division.


GILBERT: Their argument is as well - from Josh Frydenberg and from the Prime Minister - there is an element here that was exposed by the regulator, the AEMO report, of that base load energy gap, which doesn't seem to be addressed as effectively as the Government would like in terms of that Clean Energy Target. Is that not a decent defence?


CHALMERS: One of the issues that we've got going on in the market, Kieran, is we've got these old assets, many of them built in the '60s and '70s, that are getting to the end of their lives, and that's been the subject of some conjecture and debate in national politics over the last couple of weeks. The only way to get people to invest in new sources of energy is to give investors that certainty that they crave. We won't get that certainty until we sit down, Labor and Liberal, and agree on a Clean Energy Target so that people know what the rules of the game are and once we do that we will get that investment, and when we get that investment we have the chance to get prices and pollution down.


GILBERT: I want to ask you about a book that you've written with the former NBN chief Mike Quigley about changing jobs amid changing technology. Can you give our viewers a sense of what your view is on this? Because obviously with automation and so on, there's a huge structural shift underway in our economy.


CHALMERS: Spot on, Kieran. I think technology can be a force for good in our economy and in our society, but we have to make sure that bursts of new technology aren't accompanied by bursts of new inequality. Technology in the workplace and in the community does have the capacity to accelerate some of those trends in the workplace which are making our society less equal. So that's why I wrote the book with Mike Quigley. It's out on Monday. People can pre-order it now. I think this is really one of the defining anxieties of our time. People are very worried about what kind of jobs will exist in the future. They're worried about the fact that jobs will turn over and churn more frequently, so we need to think about the arrangements to facilitate that. All of these things are crucial issues. Ed Husic gave a very good speech about this at the Fin Review forum as well. These are the sorts of things we should be thinking about as a country.


GILBERT: It doesn't have to be negative though, does it? That's the point that you've made, I think that others have made as well including Andrew Charlton, the former adviser to Kevin Rudd when he was Prime Minister.


CHALMERS: Exactly right. And Andrew Charlton's piece - Alpha Beta's piece - on this is worth a read as well. There's a lot of good thinking going on about how we ensure that all the upsides of technology - and there are considerable upsides to technology, which can improve lives and lift living standards - we have to make sure that the opportunities in the new machine age are distributed fairly, so that technology can be a force for good for more people and work for them, not against them.


GILBERT: Let's turn our attention now to the economy more broadly. Internationally, the OECD is quite positive in terms of the outlook. Do you share that positivity in terms of the global outlook and the implications for our economy as a result.


CHALMERS: There are some encouraging signs in the global economy and, like everyone, like every Australian, we should welcome that marginal improvement in the OECD's forecast for the global economy, because that is good news obviously for our own economy. The OECD had some caveats around that of course as they generally do. But the headline upgrade to that forecast is good news. They also made an important point which said that as we do get growth in the global economy and in our own domestic economies, we need to make sure that that growth is inclusive, that people have a stake in it, that people have been rewarded for their work so that there's demand in the economy and people are spending and saving and investing in the economy. As for Australia's performance, we've gone from being a leader really in terms of growth during the Global Financial Crisis and its immediate aftermath to now being a bit of a laggard. We've got annual growth with a one in front of it, which is poor by Australian standards. We've had annual growth with a one in front of it for three of the last four quarters, which is the worst performance since the Global Financial Crisis. We're now behind New Zealand and the US and Canada and the OECD average, which isn't good enough. And with the global economy improving as the OECD has said, Scott Morrison is really running out of excuses now for growth with a one in front of it, underemployment at record highs, wages growth at record lows, living standards declining in the last National Accounts figures. We need to get our act together in Australia and we need to create that inclusive growth.


GILBERT: Jim Chalmers, as always appreciate your time. Shadow Finance Minister Jim Chalmers there joining us.