JIM CHALMERS MP
MEMBER FOR RANKIN
SKY NEWS FIRST EDITION
MONDAY, 23 MAY 2022
SUBJECTS: 2022 Election, Swearing in of the Albanese Labor Ministry, Labor’s Economic Plan
PETER STEFANOVIC, HOST: It is also a big day for the incoming Treasurer, Jim Chalmers. He joins us live from Canberra now. He's already there, Jim, good morning to you. First of all, congratulations, you will be the next Treasurer of Australia. Has it sunk in yet?
JIM CHALMERS, TREASURER ELECT: Thanks very much Pete, and for the opportunity to have a chat with you this morning. I don't think it has sunk in quite yet. But we've already begun the hard work in our portfolio. I had a briefing yesterday from the Treasury Secretary and there'll be more of that today. It's an exciting opportunity to work with Anthony Albanese and our really terrific Labor team, to try and address some of the big challenges that we would inherit. In my case, when it comes to the economy, we've got skyrocketing inflation and falling real wages, and we've got a trillion dollars in debt. So there's not really any time to celebrate. The hard work has already begun. Today will be an exciting opportunity to really join with some of the colleagues with Anthony, Richard, Katy and Penny to be sworn in. But the week ahead will be lots of work.
STEFANOVIC: Which other portfolios are you likely to have by the end of the day, Jim?
CHALMERS: My understanding is I'll have a couple of other portfolios. I'll leave that to Anthony to release that at the appropriate time. As you would expect, when only five of us have been sworn in there will be a sharing of portfolios, but my main focus will be the Treasury, of course.
STEFANOVIC: Do you think, or will Labor get, the numbers to form majority government?
CHALMERS: It's looking possible. I'm not prepared to kind of predict that outcome just yet. There's a handful of seats where we are ahead, or we expect to be ahead, which could get us to perhaps 76 seats. But it still could go either way. Of course, we want there to be a decent majority government, that's our first preference. But we'll play the cards that were dealt. At the moment, there's probably three or four where we are relatively confident, but not yet assured.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. You mentioned some of those economic headwinds that you now face. So you're not going to get any type of honeymoon period. You've got the massive debt, cost of living crisis, which you just referred to. What's the first thing that you want done?
CHALMERS: I think you're right Pete, in the sense that this is probably the trickiest set of economic conditions that a new government and a new Treasurer has inherited. We've got inflation, which is going through the roof. Real wages which are the worst in more than 20 years. We do have that trillion dollars in debt and not enough to show for it. So the work that we've begun already, is to go through the budget line by line. We will be having an audit of the former Government's rorts, waste and economic mismanagement. We will start the work this week towards the budget that I want to hand down towards the end of October. So that's really the highest priority in the first instance - to implement our commitments in a way to make sure that we are addressing these serious economic challenges that we are inheriting.
STEFANOVIC: Are you going to have another look at stage three tax cuts, given the size of the debt that we've got now that you've won office?
CHALMERS: No, we've indicated that those tax cuts are already legislated. Our priorities lie elsewhere. We've got a multinational tax agenda that we outlined during the course of the campaign. We've got a substantial program of savings already, and I pay tribute to my friend Katy Gallagher who will be sworn in today as well, as the Finance Minister. We've done a lot of work already when it comes to savings. But there will be much more work to be done. Because what we want to see in the budget, we've got this trillion dollars of debt that we are inheriting but we don't have enough to show for it because it is heaving with rorts, waste and mismanagement. So we want to start to address that so that we can invest that money more wisely in places that will actually grow the economy - like child care, cleaner and cheaper energy, skills and training and TAFE so that we can address the skill shortages which are holding our economy back. Those are our priorities.
STEFANOVIC: We just spoke about the numbers in the Lower House. It looks as though the Greens will at least be on track to hold the balance of power in the Senate. So will you now need to strengthen Labor's climate policies and go harder than 43 per cent?
CHALMERS: I think our climate policies are ambitious as they stand. And clearly there's an appetite in the Australian community for responsible action on climate change so that we can get that cleaner and cheaper energy into the system and boost investment and create jobs, particularly in the regions. So our policy I think is a big reason why we got over the line on Saturday night because of that appetite for some meaningful action on climate change. We will obviously talk with anybody who's been elected to the Parliament on the weekend, but our policy is strong as it stands. I look forward to working with Chris Bowen and with the Cabinet to implement it.
STEFANOVIC: No deals with the teals?
CHALMERS: No deals. We said that before and we've said that subsequently.
STEFANOVIC: And the Greens? No deals, that still stands?
CHALMERS: That still stands. We still hope to govern in our own right. We won't be doing deals for Government. It's very, very clear that the other side cannot get anywhere near a majority. That's why Anthony's being sworn in this morning. So we will govern, we will implement our priorities and our policies. We want to work with anyone around Australia - not just in the parliament - who wants a better future like we do. We've got a serious set of economic policies, and policies more broadly, and we'll look to implement them.
STEFANOVIC: Just on the numbers on the weekend more broadly speaking now and just to wrap up here, Jim. As you know, the government was decimated, but Labor's primary vote was also down. So the two party system seems to be fraying as things stand at the moment. So how are you going to address that? And what kind of concerns might you have in three years’ time if that teal movement becomes emboldened and looks to take on more inner city seats?
CHALMERS: I think we would be mad to ignore the lessons from the election, or from any election, but particularly on Saturday. The best way that we can put our best foot forward electorally is to govern for the whole country and that's what Anthony intends to do. He wants to bring together everybody, whether they voted teal, orange, yellow, green, blue or red. He wants to bring the whole country together to start to address some of these big challenges that we will be inheriting. The electoral politics will take care of themselves if we govern well, and that's our priority.
STEFANOVIC: Okay. Well, Jim Chalmers, thank you very much.