April 03, 2019

ABC Adelaide

DAVID BEVAN: Let’s welcome to Super Wednesday Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Liberal Senator, good morning to you sir.


BEVAN: Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens Senator for South Australia, good morning to you.


BEVAN:  And Mark Butler, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Labor Member for Port Adelaide, good morning to you.

MARK BUTLER: Good morning.

BEVAN: Panellists, are the forgotten people the unemployed in this Budget? Now I know Simon Birmingham you’re going to say the best thing you can do for an unemployed person is get them a job but some people aren’t going to get a job. For those people, are they the forgotten people here because there is no increase in Newstart from the Government and only a promise to review it from Labor?  

BIRMINHAM: David, Newstart increases twice every year. We have created some 1.3 million jobs over the course of our time in office and our determination is to keep growing that, we’ve made a commitment to create another 2.5 million jobs over the next five years and we’ll do that by lowering taxes, encouraging small business to invest more. There are real growth elements in last night’s Budget that will see businesses continue to grow, to employ more Australians, and that is what creates the opportunity. 
BEVAN: And if you don’t get one of those jobs, if you remain on Newstart, it has been eroded in real terms? Even John Howard says there should be an increase in Newstart. I say even, he is a former Liberal Prime Minister.

BIRMINGHAM: There hasn’t been erosion in increases. It increases with inflation twice a year, every year. As it has throughout that time, as it will continue to do right into the future. The vast majority of people who are on Newstart receive additional payments in addition to the Newstart payment, in terms of rent support and other assistance. And the majority of people on Newstart are on it for a relatively short period of time because they do receive, ultimately employment. That’s what we are driving toward. Yes, there is additional support in terms of the energy supplements and those sort of things in this year’s Budget. We have tax support relief for many Australians who have been feeling the pressure in terms of their household budgets. We want to make sure that dividend of the surplus that we are delivering is returned to people where it possibly can be, in them paying less tax, in them receiving better services, such as our investments in mental health. In support for apprenticeships which will help create more job opportunities. 

BEVAN: Mark Butler?

BUTLER: Just to take up one point of Simon’s there, he said that the energy assistance payments are available to people on Newstart. That has not been the position since those payments were leaked to the newspapers over the last week or so. It was made very clear from the Prime Minister and the Treasurer that the energy assistance payments of $75/week would only go to pensioners, disability support pensioners, aged pensioners and carers, but would not go to people on the Newstart allowance. Now it appears over the last couple of hours that we have finally forced the Government into a back down on that and they are changing their Budget already. Only 12 hours after delivering the Budget they are changing it to allow Newstart recipients to save this very modest energy payment, which is nothing more than an abject apology I would hope, to the fact power bills have gone up and up under this Government.

More broadly, this Budget is a Budget which again fails to recognise that people on fixed payments like Newstart and low wages are doing it tough. Of all of the tax cuts that would be delivered by this Government over the next five years, someone on less than $40,000 and there is millions of workers on that wage, would not even get a $5 tax cut. While someone on $300,000 would get a $223 tax cut. I think that says everything about what you need to know about this Government’s priorities.   
BEVAN: And yet have we got anything from Labor in terms of Newstart other than a promise of a review?

BUTLER: We’ve said clearly from Bill Shorten down that Newstart is too low. We’ve also said that we want to go apart the process of lifting Newstart is a proper, evidence based way. Our record reflects that. That is exactly what we did when we were last in Government on the aged pension, going through the proper process, went through a proper review that looked at living costs. The living costs of people on fixed payments don’t reflect CPI, they don’t reflect inflation because the costs of energy, transport, health, food they are all going up by more than inflation. That is the problem people on fixed payments are facing at the moment. Particularly on a payment that is only indexed by inflation like Newstart.

BEVAN: Sarah Hanson-Young?

HANSON-YOUNG: We don’t need another review what we need is a raise in the Newstart rate. There has been many experts who have sat around the table, debated this issue and looked at the fact that while these recipients, while people on Newstart continue to live in poverty, day in day out, it is bad for the economy and it is not helping those people get a job. When you’ve got the Business Council saying for heaven’s sake, to the Government, just lift Newstart by $75/week. Any Government or Opposition Party for that matter who sits there and says we’ll just put it in the basket for later, tomorrow’s in-tray, no it should have been in the Budget last night, it should be in the Opposition Leader’s Budget Reply tomorrow and if it is not it just goes to show, again, whether it is Labor or Liberal they just don’t care about the poorest of the poor. People in South Australia are doing it tough. There is 65,000 Newstart recipients in South Australia those people deserve not just weasel words that pretends indexation has happened and they should just suck it up and wait for a review to happen in the never-never. They deserve a lift in Newstart payment now. 

BEVAN: Mark Butler, Labor argues it will be in the better position to deliver a surplus but isn’t that because it will take more tax? And the assumption is that taking more tax won’t affect the economy?

BUTLER: What we are doing is over the last several years we have gone about the hard work of looking at tax arrangements in this country and we’ve said very openly to the Australian people there are a range of tax concessions arrangements that have existed in the past, that have been able to be funded in the past when we had all of the money coming in through the China boom for example, that simply aren’t affordable now. They are also creating a whole lot of disincentives and inequity, for example our changes to negative gearing will provide much needed assistance to first home buyers who are currently facing investors who have a tax advantage at auctions and are unable to get a foot hold in the housing market.

What is very clear after last night’s Budget is over the forward estimates, the four years of this Budget, not only will Labor be able to deliver a surplus in 2019-20. We will be able to deliver better surpluses over the course of the four years because we’ve done the hard work on tax reform, hard work that this Government isn’t able to do. 

BEVAN: Simon Birmingham?

BIRMINGHAM: It is very clear, crystal clear that the Labor Party are going to the election with $200 billion or more in higher taxes. Chris Bowen out on radio this morning has already once again confirmed that Labor doesn’t support the Government’s cap on taxes as it attends to GDP ratio. We put that in place as a limit to say frankly Government shouldn’t be taking more than 29.3 cents in every dollar out of the economy in taxation. Yet, Labor will blow that, collect more tax than that. What we have done is having brought the Budget back to a position of surplus we can now afford to give people more of their money back in tax relief. That tax relief is heavily targeted from hard working Australian, who are listening this morning - 

BUTLER: $5 for someone on $40,000 over five years.

BIRMINGHAM: A couple who is a teacher and a tradie, who both earn around $60,000 would see around $2,160 come back to them this year. An extra $2,000, I don’t think that’s something that most houses through your electorate or across Adelaide would sneeze at, Mark.

BUTLER: No because those are tax cuts we announced last year. We announced those tax cuts last year and you’ve just caught up, but you’ve let the $40,000 tax cohort out.

BIRMINGHAM: We welcome the fact that the Coalition Government has got to a position where we can deliver that tax relief and also still deliver on the infrastructure promises, delivering in terms of mental health support, delivering investment for jobs and new apprenticeships.

BEVAN: On another topic we were talking to Mathias Cormann, the Finance Minister, earlier this morning. Now he wasn’t willing to rule out shifting submarine maintenance work to Western Australia. Mark Butler?

BUTLER: This is a terrible turn of events by the Finance Minister this morning, in a Budget which is really a shocker of a Budget for South Australia. There is less than $100 million in infrastructure funding over the course of the forward estimates - less than $100 million over four years in infrastructure funding. We now can’t even have this Government confirm that the jobs that were promised under the naval shipbuilding program will be kept in South Australia. Simon Birmingham has the opportunity now to correct the record from the Finance Minister and I hope he does that.

BEVAN: Simon Birmingham?

BIRMINGHAM: This story has been peddled for ages, it has no validity. The Government has got no plans, contingents or otherwise. The shipbuilding work will all be done in South Australia that is completely clear cut. 

BEVAN: When I asked Cormann this morning he said I can’t pre-empt a decision? I said can you rule it out and he said I can’t pre-empt a decision?

HANSON-YOUNG: I think he’s waiting to see if there are any marginal seats that is how this Government works, it is pathetic.

BIRMINGHAM: Let’s be clear, the only reason this issue, the questioning and so on through Senate Estimates process, is that at one point Defence had at some point done some contingency planning about what if there ends up being so much shipbuilding work at Osbourne that you actually can’t fit in some of the sustainment exercises that are required in the future. Now if that were actually to transpire it would be a long way down the track and it would be a very happy point because it would be at the point where the Osbourne shipyard was so hustling and bustling with work. Now we’ve got a pickup of work, we’ve come out of the valley of death created by the fact the Labor Party didn’t commission one ship the last time they were in office. We’ve now commissioned more than 50 and there is a steady pipeline of add-ons. I’m more than happy if the entire election campaign in South Australia to be fought on defence investment and procurement in South Australia because our track record is – vs zero from the Labor Party.

BEVAN: We asked Mathias Cormann if he could point to a page in the Budget for the South Rd upgrade. He said he would get back to us. We are still waiting. Have you heard and can you point to a line in the Budget that says that $2.7 billion is there Simon Birmingham?

BIRMINGHAM: I don’t have my hundreds of pages of Budget documents attached to me David. The commitment is there in terms of $2.6 billion over the decade for the project in South Australia. $1.5 million for the north-south corridor, $21 million for South Australian rural roads, including $74 million for Victor Harbour roads - 

BEVAN: It shouldn’t be too hard it is the big ticket item here in South Australia - $2.7 billion we just asked for a page number and we are having trouble getting it. Its 12 minutes to 9. Before the three of you leave us on another issue, will there be a censure motion against Frasier Anning today and will you support it if there is, Sarah Hanson-Young?

HANSON-YOUNG: Yes there is going to be a cenure motion against Anning, as there should be because his comments are obviously appalling and his behaviour sine has been appalling. Frankly, I don’t think he deserves to be in the Parliament. He came in yesterday -

BEVAN: Well you don’t get to decide that.

HANSON-YOUNG: The Senate needs to take a really strong stand against this guy. He doesn’t represent Australian views and values and frankly I don’t think he should have the privilege to stand in the Senate today and argue his case. He’s got no right to be there.
BEVAN: Mark Butler, you won’t be in the Senate.

BUTLER: But our Party will be, absolutely the Senate should do that. I thought Simon’s speech was a fine speech but I think what this requires is not only the Senate to censure Frasier Anning but also for the Liberal Party to take a very strong position about where people like Frasier Anning and One Nation sit on their how to vote cards. I  hope that following on from what was a good, fine lead by Simon in the speech he gave to the Senate yesterday that the Liberal Party does think very carefully, as John Howard did, about where parties like this sit on their how to vote cards.

BEAVAN: Simon Birmingham, you are being applauded for the comments you made in the Senate yesterday regarding Frasier Anning. That is putting to, that is flagging that you will be supporting a censure motion against him?

BIRMINGHAM: The censure motion will be jointly moved by Mathias Cormann, Leader of the Government in the Senate, and Penny Wong, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, so it is a bipartisan step taken to give the strongest possible message in terms of the condemnation of Frasier Anning’s appalling words and actions in the time since this tragedy occurred in Christchurch, and he deserves that. As I said in the Senate yesterday, I also trust that in a couple of months’ time the Queensland voters give him what he deserves, which is to boot him out of Parliament.

BEVAN: And in half a minute, it looks like Wang Wang and Funi don’t have any more money from the Federal Government to stay on in the Adelaide Zoo. What about the Vickers Vimy, Simon Birmingham that is going to the Adelaide Airport, isn’t it, with federal money?

BIRMINGHAM: It is going to go to Adelaide Airport? Isn’t it already there?

BEVAN: As in properly displayed at Adelaide Airport?

BIRMINGHAM: I know there is various proposals and there is still an election campaign to come David on a range of these issues.
BEVAN: I reckon that’s got Georgina Downer and Nicole Flint written all over it.
BIRMINGHAM: It is a long way from Mayo. On all of these issues there is an election campaign to come and we haven’t seen the last word in an election campaign. We said some very important things last night to show what we have delivered over the last six years and what our plan is for the next decade.