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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

New treasurer Jim Chalmers has been in multiple briefings since Sunday, and the message he sends in this podcast is that he is not going to try to gild the economic lily with the Australian community.

He intends to deliver a “pretty blunt, pretty frank” assessment of Australia’s challenges in an economic statement to parliament soon after it returns in June or July.

Chalmers highlights two particularly “spiky” bits of Australia’s inflation problem that are under “extreme pressure” at the moment – power prices and the building industry as the cost of materials rise.

Ahead of his first budget planned for October, Chalmers reaffirms he is “highly unlikely” to be able to renew the temporary six-month cut in petrol excise when it expires in September.

If there was “more we can responsibly do, we will”, but people shouldn’t assume that the cost of living relief in the March budget will continue forever.

Meanwhile Chalmers and finance minister Katy Gallagher are already combing through the numbers to get savings from areas they identify as wasteful spending.

He also speaks about the employment summit planned for early in Labor’s term – which he wants to have a “broad focus” – and cautions against assuming the unemployment rate (at present 3.9%) will be “on a kind of a permanent downward trajectory” given rising interest rates and international uncertainly.

He raises the prospect of changes to the Reserve Bank’s mandate which at present encompasses full employment and price stability, saying that would a matter for an inquiry he promised in opposition and will shortly set up.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

ref. Politics with Michelle Grattan: Treasurer Jim Chalmers on the ‘spiky’ parts of Australia’s inflation problem –