Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Tuesday, 23 February 2021
Oli Peterson: Minister, welcome to Perth Live.
Simon Birmingham: Hello, Oli. It's, great to be with you.
Oli Peterson: Facebook deal is done and dusted. That must be a relief?
Simon Birmingham: This is very good news for Australian journalists, Australian news media and all Australians who care about having Australian media and Australian journalists tell Australian stories. Because if we're going to have that in the future, clearly news media organisations need to be viable and to be viable. They need people to pay for the content that is being used. And increasingly, Australian eyes turn to tech platforms like Google and Facebook to consume news and information. And this deal settled will now we trust see Facebook, follow Google's lead, negotiate with the Australian news media companies and make sure that they are actually paying for and contributing to the content that is being viewed and used by their technology platforms.
Oli Peterson: What changes did you have to make to get Facebook on board with the code?
Simon Birmingham: The legislative changes are pretty modest. They include some technical changes around the definition to clarify that if they can reach a commercial agreement an undertaking between the tech giants and the media companies will, then we won't mandate the code upon those individual companies because clearly everybody's satisfied if it's a commercial outcome that where they can't reach those sorts of commercial, mutually agreeable outcomes, there will be a two month mediation process in good faith before we get to the point of any sort of compulsory final offer, arbitration. So these are fairly technical things that don't change the intent or we don't think the outcome at all of the code. But it's very pleasing that they seem to have got Facebook to agree that they will desist from the inappropriate action of blocking some Australian content from their sites. And we trust it will get them to sit down at the table with Australian news media companies to negotiate appropriate outcomes.
Oli Peterson: The news content should be restored in the coming days as that agreement has obviously been reached between the government and Facebook. So for punters, Minister, that means nothing should change on Facebook once all of this has been restored and those arrangements will be made between Facebook and the various media organisations.
Simon Birmingham: That's right. For punters, for viewers, for readers. They should expect to see that information restored and ultimately for it to continue to be provided on Facebook. But Facebook and Google, who, of course, charge people to advertise on them and raise significant revenue out of Australia, will have to sit down with the owners of those news media companies and negotiate to pay for the content that is shared on those new sites. And so it's a very positive step forward there. World leading in its approach and much of the rest of the world is looking at what Australia and the Morrison government has managed to achieve in this type of reform.
Oli Peterson: And do you believe other governments will follow with similar reforms?
Simon Birmingham: Look, I expect there will be others having watched this closely around the rest of the world. Clearly, other news media companies from overseas will do so. We've done it to make sure that Australians can have confidence that our news organisations will stay viable in the future and that we will have Australian voices to tell Australian stories. I'm sure other nations will want the same for their citizens.
Oli Peterson: Minister, how did you arrive at increasing JobSeeker by fifty dollars a fortnight ago after a lot of careful thought and consideration?
Simon Birmingham: This has been a long standing debate about the adequacy of the JobSeeker payment or previously known as Newstart. Equally, there's been a lot of commentary in recent times about the difficulties some businesses have in filling job vacancies and in getting people particularly to sometimes move to regional areas or to do different jobs that are vacant. So we've sought to strike the right balance by having an increase to JobSeeker. There is a significant cost to the overall budget bottom line, this is a nine billion dollar decision over the next four years. The fifty dollars per fortnight will provide additional baseline support to many people who overwhelmingly receive other allowances and top up payments in addition to that base JobSeeker payment. But we have also strengthened the mutual obligation that goes with receiving that support. So if you are receiving the social safety net support of JobSeeker from the Australian taxpayer, there are tightened expectations about you looking for work, tighten audits to ensure that people are out there looking for work and that they're taking jobs when they're available, as well as some changes to really try to make people who are in a position to move to where jobs are to think about doing so.
Oli Peterson: The Brotherhood of St Laurence describes $3.60 a day increase as inhumane in the Western Australian Council of Social Service as insulting, could have gone up even more Minister?
Simon Birmingham: As I say, this is a nine billion dollar decision that that has been taken by our government over the next four years, I think all your listeners would agree that is a very significant undertaking. And in fact, the fifty dollar per fortnight increase is the largest increase in JobSeeker or the previous Newstart payment or the dole people used to call it the largest increase since 1986. So we have acted. I appreciate that there are those who will call for more, but we think we have got a balanced approach that that provides some additional financial support, but it doesn't create any disincentive for people to genuinely look for work. In fact, our mutual obligation requirements should increase the incentive for people to really look for work, knowing that there are jobs available in parts of Australia and that our focus is, of course, on continuing to grow jobs and to support the economic recovery that has gone so well since the since the depths of COVID, but still has a little way to go.
Oli Peterson: You don't think anybody would say, I'm not going to work anymore because JobSeeker is going up by 50 dollars a fortnight, but by the same turn? Do you think it will get anybody out of poverty?
Simon Birmingham: Well, as I say, for 99 per cent of recipients of this payment, they receive additional supplements and allowances of various descriptions. So there is rental assistance for those who need it. For those who may have dependent children, there are family tax benefit payments that supplement it. There are different levels, indeed, of JobSeeker, with many sitting on the slightly higher level depending on their circumstances. So whilst much is always put around the base rate, that that applies essentially to single individuals in circumstances without any of those other considering factors. And even there, many will still receive an electricity allowance, a telephone allowance or other sorts of support.
Oli Peterson: Appreciate your time, Minister. Thank you very much.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks, Oli. My pleasure.