Chalmers off to Indonesia for G20 bankers meet

By Tom Ravlic

July 15, 2022

Jim Chalmers
Treasurer Jim Chalmers’ first ‘wellbeing budget’ will have more rigour than any of the budgets prepared by Frydenberg or any of his predecessors.(AAP Image/Jono Searle)

Treasurer Jim Chalmers is dusting off his passport and heading to Indonesia with Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe in tow, for a meeting of the G20 central bank governors taking place over the next two days.

Chalmers is the latest minister in the Albanese administration to be attending a high-level international meeting since Labor recently came to office. 

Prime minister Anthony Albanese has been attending the Pacific Islands Forum in Suva, which is the first time the meeting has been held face-to-face since 2019, during which the PM and Fijian counterpart Frank Bainimarama launched a new infrastructure project to build Fiji’s maritime capacity.

That project is a new Maritime Essential Services Centre to be built in Lami, which will house the Fijian Navy headquarters, Suva Radio Coastal Station, Fiji Maritime Surveillance Coordination Centre, and Fiji Hydrographic Office.

Chalmers said his meeting with the central bank government in Indonesia comes at a critical time for the region.

“As the recovery from the impacts of the pandemic continues, many countries are simultaneously dealing with rising inflation amid slowing economic growth, tightening financial conditions and geopolitical challenges,” Chalmers said.

“I will hold constructive discussions with our regional neighbours and G20 economies to discuss the global economic outlook and issues impacting our region, such as energy and food security, collective action on climate change, future pandemic preparedness, debt sustainability and the importance of ensuring multinationals pay their fair share of tax.”

Chalmers said he would be highlighting the features of the government’s Powering Australia plan, which he said is Labor’s attempt to realign Australia with like-minded jurisdictions when it comes to climate change.

“In addition to discussing these important issues, I will take the opportunity to strengthen bilateral relationships with key strategic partners,” Chalmers said.

The visit to Indonesia comes at the end of a week in which Chalmers has been subjected to scrutiny over the federal government’s winding back of pandemic payments and the free rapid antigen test scheme.

Chalmers told the Today show host Karl Stefanovic that the federal government was unable to extend various relief measures because of the debt the Albanese administration inherited from the Morrison government.

He said the government has given $800 million in assistance to the states and territories to help with the challenges the hospital system is facing with COVID.

“The Liberals were out there yesterday saying, “give us a reason why we can’t extend it.” Well, they left us with a trillion reasons, which is that trillion dollar debt. So, we’ve got to be responsible. We’ve got to be up‑front with people about what we can and can’t do,” Chalmers said.

“We’ll follow the health advice and we’ll do what we can but there’s no use pretending to anyone that we can continue all of these programs indefinitely given the pretty severe budget constraints that we’ve got.

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