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Transcript of interview with Michael Rowland: ABC News Breakfast: 4 August 2019: the floundering Australian economy needs an economic plan; Biloela family

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SUBJECTS: The floundering Australian economy needs an economic plan; Biloela family.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Jim Chalmers, good morning to you. What are you expecting those figures to show?

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: The economy has been weak for some time and I think the quarterly figures again will show that kind of weakness. Annual growth has been slow for some time and most economists expect it to weaken even further. This is the inevitable consequence of a Government which has a political strategy but not an economic plan to turn things around. The economy's been weak for some time under the Liberals and not just when it comes to economic growth but also stagnant wages and high household debt and declining living standards and we'll see more of that today.

ROWLAND: Okay. Well the Government has been, I guess, managing expectations. The Prime Minister himself has said this quarter we're seeing today will be soft, but he's talking about the current three months where they argue the impact of the tax cuts, the impact of interest rate cuts, we'll see a boost to the economy. Have they got a point?

CHALMERS: Scott Morrison shouldn't pretend that this is just all about one weak quarter. The economy has been weak for some time. It was weak before the election and it's deteriorated further since the election and now into the Liberal Party's third term. It remains to be seen what the quarter after this one that we're talking about today will look like, but we already have quite bad retail sales figures for July which is in the next quarter.

So it remains to be seen but I think it's really important for your viewers that we don't let the Prime Minister pretend that this is some kind of aberration, that this is

some kind of unusual quarter that we'll see numbers for today. The economy has been weak for some time. That's an indication not just of the economy but it's a report card on the Morrison Government as well. It's the inevitable consequence when they go around pointing the finger and shifting blame and playing politics and banging on about the Labor Party these are the sorts of outcomes you get when you have a Government that doesn't have a plan.

ROWLAND: Okay speaking of plans, would you support the Government staying in deficit, pump priming the economy through more Government spending as a way of boosting economic growth?

CHALMERS: We think it's possible for the Government to responsibly stimulate the economy without jeopardising the surplus. As it stands right now the Government doesn't have to choose between a surplus or doing the right thing to get the floundering economy going again. There is some room there to move. So we've called on the Government to do any or all of five things, whether it's bring forward their tax cuts, review and responsibly increase Newstart, bring forward infrastructure investment, have an investment incentive for business or to come up with a genuine wages policy. Any or all of those things together are possible without jeopardising the surplus.

The surplus is not at risk. The Government has no excuse not to deliver it and it's not a choice between one or the other. What we need from the Government is for them to bring forward the budget update so that they can revise their forecasts and so they can responsibly fund some stimulus which the economy desperately needs if we're to get it going again.

ROWLAND: Okay. We'll see what those figures shows us later this morning. Before we go Jim Chalmers, to the other main story this morning: do you have any sympathy for this Tamil family poised to be deported back to Sri Lanka?

CHALMERS: Absolutely Michael. I think that we need to get around this family. I think they should be allowed to stay in Australia. The community in Biloela in regional Queensland desperately wants them to stay. They've done a very Australian thing here and they've gotten around this family and these two little girls who were born here. All we're asking Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison and David Coleman to do is to use the same intervention powers that Peter Dutton has used before, to let this family stay, let them live, and let these kids grow up in a community in regional Queensland which desperately wants them.

ROWLAND: What precedent would this set though? This case - as you know - has gone all the way to the High Court. The family to date has lost all legal avenues. If they were to stay in Australia what precedent with that set?

CHALMERS: There are intervention powers for Ministers and for Governments to

use for precisely this purpose: for special cases. And I think what makes this particularly important is because that community in Biloela has done a wonderful thing and gotten around this family and they should be allowed to stay in that community which is nurturing them and supporting them. And those two little girls should be allowed to grow up in Biloela, and to make a contribution to this country that they've chosen.

ROWLAND: Jim Chalmers, Shadow Treasurer, thank you so much for joining us from Sydney.

CHALMERS: Thank you Michael.