Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Tuesday, 11 May 2021
Karl Stefanovic: Minister for Finance, Simon Birmingham joins us from Canberra. Good morning to you, Simon.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, good to be with you.
Karl Stefanovic: Or should I say. Hey, big spender.
Simon Birmingham: Well, Australia is doing well, and that enables us to invest and you look across the world. In Europe, they're going back into recession, a double dip recession induced by COVID. In India we can see the health catastrophe that's happening there. And so in Australia, we want to make sure that we keep people safe, which is why we've been so cautious in things like international borders. We want to keep their jobs safe, which is why tonight there will be investment to make sure we keep the economy strong against that backdrop of huge global uncertainty, but also investing in the essential services Australians expect, like aged care and disability care.
Karl Stefanovic: It's a very big pivot for a budget, though I can't remember one in recent memory where you're relying on us spending more rather than cutbacks to drive the economy back.
Simon Birmingham: Look, we have seen throughout this pandemic that Australia's economy has shown great resilience. We've got more people in work today than at any time in Australia's history. Twelve months ago, nobody would have really thought that was possible as we were dealing with the depths of the crisis. And Australians during that time have saved significantly, as well as a couple of hundred billion dollars worth of stored savings during the course of the crisis, that people have been cautious. And so we want to make sure that tonight we deliver the confidence for people to invest and to keep our economy growing and to keep jobs growth going. Because it's through jobs growth that we do get more revenue, reduced payments out of government and we're able to fund the other essential services people need. And we can say that by the fact that even earlier this year when we saw some 200,000 people off of JobSeeker compared with what had been forecast that delivered a five billion dollar benefit to the budget bottom line, through reduced payments, increased revenue. And that's the type of virtuous cycle this budget focuses on continuing.
Karl Stefanovic: But here's the thing. You're relying on us spending and we've become a frugal bunch. What if we save it and don't spend it?
Simon Birmingham: Well we are relying on the fact that right across this budget people will see there's investment. Investment in terms of the way we encourage, not only households to continue to invest and we have got consumer confidence at record highs, but also businesses. Last year in the budget we outlined a modern manufacturing strategy, a very significant investment. We continue to back that in terms of support for businesses to invest which is about growing their productivity, growing their business and that again creates more of the jobs that provide the consumer confidence. But also investment in skills and training in the care sector and so that we actually have the workforce for disability services and aged care services that people need.
Karl Stefanovic: But then again, what if we save it for a rainy day?
Simon Birmingham: We'll Karl, you can you can say what if. But right now, Australia is the envy of much of the world, not just because we've saved lives, but because our economy is so strong. And so, yes, Australians have stashed a bit away and we'd encourage them to plan a proper holiday to support our tourism industry and sector through these times. But equally, we've seen Australians respond in other ways, investing and growing, and particularly Australian businesses creating jobs at levels unforeseen in terms of the scale of recovery and growth that we had and that is firmly what should give people confidence. Record numbers of jobs and unemployment forecasts continue to improve.
Karl Stefanovic: A couple of quick ones before we get to the news at half past the hour. The budget deficit has been slashed by fifty three billion. Is that number right?
Simon Birmingham: Well, the budget deficit is profoundly better for this financial year than it was previously the case. Well, it's profoundly better and that would be a profound figure. So people will see the exact details tonight. But and that's driven, again, by a stronger economy and more people in jobs, as I say.
Karl Stefanovic: And if it looks like and it smells like an election budget, then it is an election budget. Is it not Simon?
Simon Birmingham: The election is due next year. I expect it to be held next year. This is a budget to keep people safe, to keep their jobs safe and to invest in the services they and their families rely on.
Karl Stefanovic: November sound about right?
Simon Birmingham: The election is due next year.
Karl Stefanovic: All right. Good to talk to. It's a big day for you. All the very best. Appreciate your time here.
Simon Birmingham: Thank you, Karl.