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Transcript of interview with Peter Stefanovic: Sky News First Edition: 4 September 2019: the Liberals have no plan for the floundering economy; National Accounts; Biloela family

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SUBJECTS: The Liberals have no plan for the floundering economy; National Accounts; Biloela family.

PETER STEFANOVIC, SKY NEWS: Well joining me now, Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers. Jim good morning to you. Thanks very much for joining us today. A lot to discuss, not just the RBA holding rates yesterday but also the GDP figures that are going to be coming out in a couple of hours’ time. First of all I just want to talk to you about the surplus. Do you think the Government deserves a pat on the back for getting it into surplus for the first time in 45 years?

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: Well good morning Peter. They haven't done that quite yet. They've obviously budgeted for a surplus and that's no surprise given we've got high iron ore prices, high profits, the dollar's relatively low so they've got no excuse not to deliver the surpluses that they promised. What we're saying is that with the economy as weak as it is having that room to move means that they should do some responsible stimulus of the economy. They don't have a plan to turn things around and when you see numbers which have been weak for some time now and not just for the last quarter we think it's long past time for the Government to stop just playing politics all the time and shifting blame and pointing the finger and actually come up with a plan to turn the economy around.

STEFANOVIC: As a money man wouldn't you agree that monetary policy though works with a lag? So the rate cuts probably won't come into effect for another couple of months or so so things will probably look better then?`

CHALMERS: Well as you know interest rates are at record lows. They're only at 1 per cent now, they got down to 3 percent during the Global Financial Crisis. They're a third of what they were in the depths of the Crisis 10 years ago so

they are extraordinarily low and what the Reserve Bank Governor has said and what we've been saying as well repeatedly is that that's not enough to turn things around. Monetary policy on its own is not enough. Whether it comes in immediately or with a lag, it needs the Government to work hand in glove with that. That means budget policy, fiscal policy, that means doing something to get the economy moving again. Unfortunately the Government just wants to pretend that everything is hunky dory in the economy, that they've got everything right, they've got the policies right. But their approach so far, all that's delivered is the slowest growth in at least 10 years, stagnant wages, record household debt, declining living standards, declining productivity, the list goes on and on and on. So what we say to the Government is that numbers that we will see today and the numbers that we've been seeing for some time should be a wakeup call for the Government which doesn't have a plan to turn things around, and because of that Australians are struggling.

STEFANOVIC: Well to be fair though, I mean Australia has been caught up with you know international economic headwinds. You've got the problems with the US now which is starting to hit the skids economically. You've got Germany which is, you know, has the strongest economy in Europe, is starting to go into recession. So you know, wouldn't it be accurate to say that had you been in Government that you would face the same problems as well?

CHALMERS: There are concerning global conditions at the moment Peter, and we don't pretend those away, but what we say is that these home-grown challenges in our own domestic economy have been around much longer than some of the issues that you just talked about. The Government desperately wants to pretend that it's all because of global conditions that the economy has been weak, but the economy has been weak for some time now. The economy has been floundering for some time now, certainly before these issues emerged. So we can't blame our domestic economic weakness on global conditions or global turbulence or unpredictability. Those things are important. Those things are concerning, but they're not overwhelmingly the reason why we've got this floundering economy. We've got a floundering domestic economy because for too long the Government hasn't had a plan to turn things around.

STEFANOVIC: I just want to get you Jim Chalmers, I just want to get your thoughts on the Tamil family who are having their last throw of the dice in Melbourne today. What's your position on that, because there has been you know divisions in other parties when it comes to this? Labor's stance has been to show some kind of compassion. What's your view? What's your personal view on this?

CHALMERS: My personal view is that it's important that we stand with the community of Biloela who've done a very Australian thing here. They've gotten

around this Tamil family, they've gotten around these two little girls and they've said we want these two little girls to grow up in a community which is nurturing them and supporting them.

I support calls to let the family stay in Australia.

All we're asking Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison to do is to use the same intervention powers that they've used in other cases including to let some au pairs stay in Australia. That's not too much to ask. That's why there are these exceptions made from time to time. That's why we have these intervention powers. But I want to pay tribute to the community in Biloela in regional Queensland in the best state in Australia, they've really gotten around this family and they're not asking for too much. They're supporting the family, they're nurturing the family, and they want this family of four including these two little girls to grow up in a community which desperately wants to support them and that's a good thing and we should get behind them.

STEFANOVIC: But - I see your point - but according to the Australian today which has released some official figures, when Labor was in Government some 2500 Sri Lankan asylum seekers were sent back. This is when Labor was is in Government, so aren't you or is Labor being hypocritical today when you're saying: 'let them in, let them stay'?

CHALMERS: Not at all. I mean there are intervention powers and powers of exception for very specific cases like this one. I think what makes this case important and different is that that Biloela community has gotten around them in such numbers and in such an encouraging way. The Government has made exceptions before. They want to pretend now that there's no way that they can make exceptions or intervene in cases. Peter Dutton has famously intervened in cases before. We're saying that an exception should be made here and the intervention powers should be used here. We're not saying they should be used in a broad way. We're saying that they should be used in this specific case and that's because it's important that we get behind and we get around the community of Biloela which have done a wonderful thing here and are supporting the family to stay, and we stand with them.

STEFANOVIC: All right. Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers, appreciate your time this morning. Thank you very much for joining us.

CHALMERS: Thank you Peter.