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Transcript of doorstop interview: Canberra, Airport: 8 September 2019: Liberals distracting from floundering economy; welfare recipient drug testing; cashless welfare card; mandatory sentencing for child sex abuse; election review

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SUBJECTS: Liberals distracting from floundering economy; Welfare recipient drug testing; Cashless welfare card; Mandatory sentencing for child sex abuse; Election review.

JOURNALIST: Do you support drug testing of politicians, not just welfare recipients?

JIM CHALMERS, SHADOW TREASURER: I'm happy to do that, obviously. But this is just another distraction from the Government's failures on the economy. Time and time again they bowl up these distractions because they are embarrassed about their performance on the economy. The economy is growing at the slowest pace for a decade, so that's why we get all of these [INAUDIBLE]. They spend all their time trying to wedge Labor, all their time talking about Labor, banging on about the Labor Party so it's no surprise that [INAUDIBLE].

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Prime Minister yesterday saying that he wants to have a series of tests for Labor on welfare measures, child sex abuse offences? What do you make of that?

CHALMERS: He's making the point that we've been making for some time. 100 per cent of the Prime Minister's focus is on the Labor Party, and setting tests for the Labor Party. 100 per cent of his time should be spent on trying to turn around an economy which is floundering on his watch.

JOURNALIST: On the cashless welfare card, can you explicitly rule out supporting a national roll out of it?

CHALMERS: Those are matters for the Caucus to determine after we see the legislation. We work through that usual way. Our relevant spokespeople have made points about that. I'll make my contribution at the relevant time.

JOURNALIST: What do you make of the Government today waiving the debt for Tasmania? Do you think this opens the door for other states and what would that do for the budget position?

CHALMERS: Obviously other states will be watching very carefully, very closely, what the Tasmanians have been able to do here. Our highest priority is making sure that all of that money is spent on homelessness in Tasmania and on housing in Tasmania. Tasmania has got the highest level of rental stress in the whole country so there's a big problem there that needs to be addressed. Other states will obviously have their hands out and that's a matter for the Commonwealth to negotiate with them or to explain to them why their case is different than what the Tasmanians have done.

JOURNALIST: Do you think it is the wrong decision to waive the debt?

CHALMERS: It's a matter for the Government, for both governments State and Federal. Clearly there's a big challenge there in Tasmania that needs to be addressed. We've been saying that for some time - Jason Clare has been down there making the same point for some time - so it's good to see some extra money flowing into housing in Tasmania, a state that desperately needs it.

JOURNALIST: Just quickly on the child sex abuse and the stricter jail terms; Anthony Albanese today has sort of suggested that Labor might be considering supporting mandatory sentencing. Is that the case?

CHALMERS: I'm not going to pre-empt a decision of the Shadow Cabinet or the Caucus. That's not my style to do that. I'll make a contribution on those issues. But I make the point again, the Prime Minister spends all of his time bowling up wedges for Labor and none of his time trying to work out how to turn around the floundering economy. We've got the slowest growth in a decade on his watch. Wages are stagnant. Household debt is at record highs. Productivity and living standards are going backwards and we have a Prime Minister who boasts about spending all of his time focussed on the Labor Party.

No wonder the economy is in such strife when the Prime Minister spends all of his time cooking up political games and political challenges for the Labor Party. The Australian people, the Australian economy, Australia itself would be much better off if we had a Prime Minister focussed on people and their economy and not just always so obsessively and childishly focussed on Labor.

JOURNALIST: Quickly, what did you make of Wayne Swan's comments yesterday in the Australian? One of your mentors, he's pretty keen to see the tax and spend agenda stay. What did you make of his contribution?

CHALMERS: People will have views about what went right and what went wrong in the election campaign. The point that I've made repeatedly, including in response to that article yesterday, is clearly we didn't get everything right otherwise we wouldn't still be in Opposition. We need to listen to the message that people sent us on election day. We need to learn the lessons from the result of that election. We will review our policies. We're not in a rush to do that. It's only been three months since the last election, it's almost three years until the next election. So we'll go through, we'll consult with a wide range of people about our tax policies but also about our other policies as well. People will have a range of views about them. So long as we listen and we learn, we give ourselves every chance of putting together a policy agenda for the next election which people can support. Clearly we won't take an identical set of policies to the 2022 election that we took to the 2019 election.

Thank you.