Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Wednesday, 12 May 2021
Dean Clairs: With Clairsy and Lisa, its just gone six to seven, if you want to call it the pandemic Budget, whatever you want to call it, last night the Federal Budget was handed down and the Federal Finance Minister, Simon Birmingham, is on the line. Good morning, Simon.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, guys.
Lisa Shaw: Hey Simon, thank you for joining us. Look, well I guess it is a pandemic Budget. Just how much is it affected by Covid?
Simon Birmingham: Hugely. Yeah, sort of, obviously. But the impacts from last year's Budget and all of the huge programs that have been very successful, like JobKeeper, but still enormously expensive programs you put in place that leave a legacy debt as a result of those programs. And even in this year's Budget, there's around $40 billion of further temporary measures to keep Australians safe, to keep our economy strong through what are incredibly uncertain times. You need only look at the tragic cases in India or indeed the fact that Europe is dipping back into recession again. To know just how challenging it is.
Lisa Shaw: In terms of it being a pandemic Budget, is one thing that's different from last year is now there is perhaps a little bit of a clearer vision of what is ahead.
Simon Birmingham: There’s good cause for confidence and optimism as Australians, because we've navigated it so well, we've been able to keep each other safe to date. And the first priority is to continue to do that because that's how we manage to not only save lives, but save jobs right across the country too. However, we are seeing some hope that we can plan through what is a challenging vaccine rollout and a reopening of the economy over a period of time. But right now, just making sure we continue to suppress Covid is the priority. We've made no decisions about throwing borders reopen. It's simply the case that we will follow the health advice and evidence because to save the most number of jobs and to keep our country as strong as possible, we have to just keep Covid suppressed foremost.
Dean Clairs: Hey, Simon, what about someone driving to work in Perth right now, they are either driving to work through the rain, or they're planning to take the kids in an hour or so and they want something to smile about? In layman's terms, can you give us some stuff from this Budget that will make people to give them a bit more hope right now as we head into winter?
Simon Birmingham: Let me firstly reassure them that that net debt in this year's Budget is running at lower rates over the next ten years than had been forecast previously. And that's because we've got stronger economic outcomes, we've got more people in jobs now across Australia than we had pre-Covid, nobody else in the world has managed to achieve that in developed countries but Australia has. And our forecasts are for a further 250,000 jobs to be generated over the next couple of years. So we're really growing employment very strongly, funding for 100,000 extra apprenticeships to give more opportunities, particularly to young Australians and all of that helping us to invest, particularly in fixing our aged care system, guaranteeing quality and safety in that, as well as some really important targeted investments in areas like mental health support that are so important to many Australians.
Lisa Shaw: Because of the time that we're living in. It feels like there's a real priorities focused Budget. I mean, I guess they always are. But this one particularly, what do you do you think that the job related things are the most important right now?
Simon Birmingham: Well, driving that job creation is what enables everything else. Australians are able to support their own families and themselves when they've got a job. And they're also able to support the delivery of those services in aged care, disability services, mental health or the like. You know, when we got more than 200,000 people off of JobSeeker and into jobs ahead of expectations over the last year, that's made a $5 billion difference to the Budget bottom line, because there's $3 billion less in payments that are going out to individuals from Government and $2 billion more in income taxes and other contributions that people are making. And that's how we pay for a National Disability Insurance Scheme that we're putting an extra $13 billion into over the next few years, aged care an extra $17 billion, mental health an extra $2 billion. And you've got to fund these, we need people in jobs, and that's why it's at the centre of our economic plan.
Dean Clairs: Yeah, I take it Simon that that injection of $2.3 billion into mental health probably wouldn't have been quite as big a number had we not have the last 18 months that we've had?
Simon Birmingham: But look, I think I think certainly that gave real priority to some of the mental health services across the country. But the Prime Minister you know way before Covid, in fact, before the last election, promised a commitment around suicide prevention. And these mental health services we're rolling out will build on the Headspace centres established by the Howard Government for youth mental health services, but will also now establish an adult equivalent, the new Head to Health adult mental health centres. There will be 40 centres and satellite centres in total across the country. Really providing those types of supports for adult Australians, as the country has built over the last couple of decades for young Australians.
Lisa Shaw: All right, well traditionally now you head out and you sell it. Good luck with that. Do you feel what's what sort of feedback, very early feedback are you getting about the feel of how the Budget's gone down?
Simon Birmingham: Oh, you get the typical stuff. Some who say you're spending too much. Some who say you're spending too little…
Lisa Shaw: Can’t please all the people all the time.
Simon Birmingham: Exactly. But I think I think most Australians see that there's a plan. The plan is about job creation, economic growth. It's why we're investing in the digital economy and manufacturing capabilities in our agricultural sector. These are all the sectors that enable us to grow wealth for the country and create the jobs that then pay, as I say, for those services.
Lisa Shaw: I think that's what people want at the moment is a logical plan, something they can see how it's designed.
Dean Clairs: Yeah, sensible decisions.
Lisa Shaw: All right.
Simon Birmingham: That's certainly our intention, and done carefully so that we are able to keep a control on debt. Yes, it's bigger than we would have ever hoped for as a government. But we're dealing with a once in a century pandemic, the biggest shock to the global economy since World War Two.
Dean Clairs: Busy time for you, Simon. All the best. And thanks for yours this morning.
Lisa Shaw: Thanks Simon, thanks for your time.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks so much guys, my pleasure.
Dean Clairs: There is the Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham joining us this morning.