Treasurer Jim Chalmers doesn’t believe it’s “especially controversial” for unions to be considered for the board of the Reserve Bank.
The powerful CFMEU moved a successful motion at Labor’s national conference last week amending the party platform on the consideration of the central bank’s future board members.
Under the changes, Labor will now “consider” appointing board members to the Reserve Bank with a mix of skills and experiences, including worker representatives
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has blasted it as compromising the central bank’s independence.
Dr Chalmers said it wasn’t controversial for a government to consider a range of perspectives in the making of appointments.
“As always, Peter Dutton is looking for a fight where one doesn’t exist,” the treasurer told reporters in Canberra.
“He’s always looking to foment division … he’s always looking for an excuse to get angry about something.”
Dr Chalmers said the review of the RBA recognised the value of board members who were not professional economists.
“The three appointments I’ve made so far … I have weighed up a range of different experience and different perspectives and I would expect future treasures of either political persuasion to do that too,” he said.
Mr Dutton said the RBA needed protecting as an Australian institution.
“We want to retain the independence of the Reserve Bank of Australia,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB on Monday.
“Less than 10 per cent of the Australian working population outside the public service are members of the union, so the disproportionate influence of the unions within the Albanese government is quite remarkable.”
The opposition leader said having union members involved with the Reserve Bank would be a dangerous idea.
“When you go and buy a unit or if you’re building an aged care facility or road construction, whatever it is, the prices are inflated because of the CFMEU,” he said.
“Having them involved in one of the central economic policies in our country, I think, frankly, it says that this government’s gone off the rails.”
The push by the union follows an external review of the central bank, which was handed down earlier this year.
Under the changes, a specialist board would be solely focused on setting interest rates, with fewer meetings each year and a mandatory press conference following each meeting.
Dr Chalmers appointed Telstra non-executive director Elena Rubin and former Fair Work Commission president Iain Ross as part-time members of the RBA board earlier this year.
Maeve Bannister and Andrew Brown
(Australian Associated Press)