The Federal election hasn’t been announced yet, but the constant low-level campaigning is coalescing into some interesting suggestions. The latest comes from Labor Shadow Minister for Finance, Jim Chalmers.
On 18 January, Mr Chalmers wrote about a ‘new approach for finance’ in The Canberra Times.
While acknowledging that the Finance Department’s roles of Budget repair and fiscal sustainability would remain a top priority for a Labor government, Mr Chalmers also said that there was a ‘caricatured’ view of the department which ‘shrinks its roleeco and influence rather than enlarging it’.
Chalmers sees the Finance Department’s role expanding under Labor, going beyond what he sees as the limits of what the department is seen as capable of.
‘Australians should expect more than a reactive “no” to spending bids pitched up by other ministers. They should expect the custodian of the nation’s purse strings to create good; not just stop the bad,’ he says.
What’s this ‘good’ the shadow minister speaks of creating? Among the potential ‘fair go’ projects he thinks the department can collaborate in include: institutional investment in rental properties to tackle rent affordability; getting better value from information technology; ensuring apprenticeships are a significant part of big infrastructure projects; and creating new markets for superannuation investment in infrastructure.
Dr Chalmers also wants the Finance Department to get behind co-investment in green jobs and advanced manufacturing through the proposed Australian Manufacturing Future Fund as well as the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
Keynesian economic theory suggests that investment in infrastructure stimulates growth. With populations growing in the outer suburbs, all of which will need new or enhanced road and energy infrastructure, Dr Chalmers’ plans might lead to opportunities for investment in urban, green, transport and other infrastructure projects.
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