Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Thursday, 13 May 2021
Simon Birmingham: Well this is a budget reply speech that is barely worth commenting on.
The emptiness of tonight's speech stands in stark contrast to the detailed plan the Liberal and National parties outlined for Australia's future on Tuesday night. Anthony Albanese has resorted simply to slogans stolen from Jeremy Corbyn to rehashed policy thought bubbles borrowed from Bill Shorten and to personal attacks and name calling.
There's nothing really of substance in tonight's address by Anthony Albanese. What we've seen is that in relation to some of the big issues of our time, like aged care, Anthony Albanese once again rolls out the slogans but offers no solutions. The Labor Party wins the last election promising not one additional dollar or investment in aged care. And tonight yet again, we get slogans. But not one additional dollar or commitment or solution. Whilst the coalition has outlined a $17.7 billion plan in that sector. Where we do get a policy thought bubble, it's on housing and it's poorly considered. Labor's proposal will generate one sixth of the number of houses that the Coalition's Home Builder program is building and delivering across Australia, but at many more times the cost. So once again, the same old Labor Party is showing they just can't manage Australian money.
But perhaps the biggest alarm bells should ring in what Anthony Albanese didn't talk about tonight. There was not a single mention of tax policy commitments from Anthony Albanese when it comes to Australia's future. And that should sound alarm bells for many Australians. Just a few months ago, Anthony Albanese said that once he'd seen the budget, he'd be able to clarify Labor's position on income tax for the future, whether or not Labor would jack up income tax relative to what the Coalition is going to deliver under our legislated tax plans for the future.
We can see tonight that Labor is keeping the door open to higher taxes on Australian wages, higher taxes on Australian houses, higher taxes on Australian investments. They're keeping Australians in the dark, but keeping the door open to get another higher Labor taxing plan.
Only the Liberal and National parties can guarantee Australians lower taxes, especially when compared to the high taxing approach of Labor. Ultimately, what we saw tonight was simply a lot of personal name calling, vindictiveness and cheap grabs from Anthony Albanese. It's disappointing. Australians deserve better. Our government has been focussed on fighting COVID-19 while Anthony Albanese is focussed on his old hobby of fighting Tories. We're going to continue to focus on our plan. A plan for Australia's future, growing Australia's economy. We have a plan for that economy. What's clear tonight is Labor has none.
Journalist: You had a go at him for borrowin a Jeremy Corbyn line, which I think is on your side. But didn't Scott Morrison used that exact same line in 2018?
Simon Birmingham: We've seen tonight a very vacuous, empty approach from Anthony Albanese and whether it's Corbyn slogans or Shorten's policy thought bubbles. All up, it's a pretty empty agenda that offers Australians little idea of what a Labor government would actually do. Plenty to worry about in terms of the potential of higher taxes and ultimately an absolute lack of plan.
Journalist: The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute estimates that really is going to need 730,000 social housing dwellings in 20 years are [indistinct] Obviously, Labor has outlined their plan to address that sort of thing. What's your government doing to address that?
Simon Birmingham: We are addressing demand for social housing our National Housing Finance Corporation is working to deliver. Thousands of houses already again far more cost effectively than what Labor's thought bubble comes up with. Indeed, if you do the sums on Labor's thought bubble, it's not just that they're failing to deliver houses in a cost effective way. The sums in terms of how they propose to establish this investment fund won't generate the type of returns that Labor proposed in terms of building those houses.
Journalist: Labor justifies giving apprentices $10,000 over the course of their apprenticeship in these renewable areas by saying that the government is currently too focussed on only giving subsidies to the employer, which never flows through to the apprentice, given how low apprentice wages remain in Australia. Would you consider looking at how they could be better paid for the duration of their apprenticeship?
Simon Birmingham: It actually takes employers to create apprenticeships. You've got to have employers offering the places to apprentices for those places to exist in the first instance. And that's why our policy approach, which is delivering 170,000 additional apprenticeships, is, of course, 17 times better at least than Anthony Albanese's 10,000 place idea. But more importantly, ours will be far more effective at actually creating those apprenticeship places because we are supporting employers to take the decision to bring on a new young Australian as an apprentice, Albanese has got an idea in which he's proposing to hand out somehow money to apprentices. But he's not actually creating any new apprenticeships.
Simon Birmingham: I just don't believe that Labor's sums stack up for that promise, and unless these are ridiculously cheap, low cost houses in terms of their design, they're not going to be able to fund the numbers they promise under the funds that they say they're creating.
Journalist: Would you be able to meet that target at all? Do you have any intention to make such a target?
Simon Birmingham: The government is delivering already many new homes right across Australia under our Home Builder program, we're delivering a program that is creating an increase of supply housing stock right across the country and through the National Housing Investment Finance Corporation. We also have a supply of funding and investment, and that is creating social housing in a far more sensible way, working with partners to be able to deliver it across the country.
Journalist: Albo was quite critical about the government's childcare plan, saying it's going to only impact less families than Labor's plan. Why is the government childcare plan only targeting parents with just one kid?
Simon Birmingham: The Coalition's childcare plan is helping families who might currently hit the cap in relation to the childcare subsidy and families with two or more children who face obviously additional costs in their childcare in relation to the care of those extra children. We're very happy for Anthony Albanese, to campaigned on giving childcare subsidies to families earning 500,000 dollars a year. If he wants to go out there and say that's a good use of taxpayers money to provide childcare subsidy to the highest income earning Australians, to families who can already choose to re-enter the workforce, for whom the cost of childcare is not an impediment in making those decisions, he can go his hardest.
Journalist: Would you hope the government can revive its push to criminalise wage theft, which is up [indistinct] omnibus bill, was taken apart recently?
Simon Birmingham: Labor had the opportunity to be able to contribute in a constructive way during the passage of that legislation, and they just chose to be wreckers instead. And the Coalition will always be open to constructive improvements in relation to industrial relations. That's why we ultimately passed legislation to address the problems that Australians were facing and Australian businesses in particular are facing in relation to huge potential costs for small businesses related to a double entitlement pay if you like the casual employees we in doing so, then fixed and provided stronger definition around casual employment and clear pathways for casuals want to be able to convert to permanency. We're the ones who ultimately enacted those reforms. We'll look at all the sensible measures in due course when we can see clarity in the Parliament as to how they will get through in a way that delivers not just for employees, but delivers more jobs across the Australian economy.
That is the key thing. And the key ingredient missing from Anthony Albanese's so-called budget reply tonight, no economic plan, no plan for job creation across Australia. We've got jobs back above pre pandemic level, record numbers of jobs across Australia. Anthony Albanese will only put in place the types of policies that jeopardise that type of economic recovery.
Journalist: You've criticised Albanese's budget reply to being a kind of small target speech without a lot of detail of policy in it. Small target, worked for John Howard as opposition leader in his ultimately successful attempt are you sure that the opposition is not doing a better job of taking out Mr Howard's mantle than Josh Frydenberg and in some ways a typical liberal budget?
Simon Birmingham: I think the Australian people will see through the emptiness, the vacuousness of tonight's approach by Anthony Albanese. The fact that in contrast to a Coalition who outlined a detailed economic plan for the future, it is already working and getting record numbers of Australians into work will deliver some 250,000 additional jobs into the future, has outlined how we will fund and reform aged care, how we will invest in mental health, how we will fully fund the NDIS, how will we drive industry development across the digital economy in Australia, across advanced manufacturing, across the agriculture sector. We have detailed the plan for Australia's future. There was nothing like that tonight.