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: A central pillar in the Morrison Government’s economic plan is lower taxes. Lower taxes for hard working Australians, lower taxes for entrepreneurial Australian businesses. Our tax cuts, already being delivered across Australia are putting more than $2 billion a month extra into the pockets of hard-working Australian families. Our future tax cuts that are outlined are going to ensure that around 95% of hard-working Australians pay no more than 30 cents in the dollar.
Tax cuts are all about the reward for effort. They're all about ensuring we get growth across the Australian economy and indeed, our tax breaks for Australian businesses, particularly the full expensing measures at present, are seeing a surge in investment activity that is creating jobs for today and productivity and competitiveness for the future.
And yet there's a cloud that hangs over lower taxes for Australia and that cloud is Anthony Albanese and the Australian Labor Party.
Back at the AFR Summit earlier this year, Anthony Albanese said that he would be able to make his mind up about lower taxes for Australians after the Budget was handed down. Well, the Budget was handed down two days ago, yet Anthony Albanese is still unable to say whether he supports lower income taxes for Australians.
He's even ununable to say whether or not Labor will junk it's housing tax policy on negative geared properties or whether or not Labor has a position in relation to higher taxes and levies to fund aged care.
The Morrison Government's position is crystal clear. We always stand for lower taxes and we are delivering economic recovery through lower taxes for hard-working Australians.
This really is the come-clean moment for Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party. Come clean about whether they stand for higher taxes or lower taxes. Is Anthony Albanese on Bill Shorten's old ticket of higher taxes for hard-working Australians, or Scott Morrison's plan of lower taxes for hard-working Australians.
The Australian people had this choice at the last election. They voted for lower taxes then. Labor should heed that message and Anthony Albanese should come clean, whether he has a high-taxing agenda, or give confidence to the Australian economy and back lower taxes for the future.
JOURNALIST: The Daily Telegraph is reporting that the - Kurri Kurri gas power station will be funded through decisions taken but not announced in this budget. Is that correct? Is the decision taken? And is there money set aside for it in the Budget?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: What's in the Budget is clearly outlined. There are a number of issues that relate to matters of commercial sensitivity, sometimes to national security that have to be handled sensitively and are budgeted for as part of contingency arrangements. That's usual practice and when the Government has announcements further to what's released in the Budget to make, we’ll make those announcements.
JOURNALIST: There's a by-election in the upper Hunter. Don't voters deserve to know if you're funding this project? Especially seeing as it is splashed in the paper today.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Last I checked, that was a state by-election.
JOURNALIST: Why is it a come of clean moment. Isn't there going to be another Budget before the next election?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Anthony Albanese is the one who said he would be able to say where Labor stood in relation to lower taxes after the Federal Budget.
JOURNALIST: He may have said that... But does it matter?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: No, he did say that. He should come clean.
JOURNALIST: What's the rush? Unless there isn't any more budgets before the election.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Anthony Albanese is the one who set this time frame. He's the one who told people at the AFR Summit that he'd be able to actually make his mind up after the Budget was handed down. The Budget has been out there and it's time for Anthony Albanese to come clean and tell the Australian people whether he's for higher taxes or lower taxes.
JOURNALIST: Minister, can you come clean and tell the Australian public whether you will go to the election promising to continue with stage-3 tax cuts for 2024, which means tax cuts for higher income earners?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The Morrison Government's plan is absolutely crystal clear. And that is to deliver fully on tax cuts that are already Australian law. We legislated these tax cuts and, in fact, the Labor Party ultimately voted in favour of these tax cuts. So, Labor seem to be uncertain whether they're Arthur or Martha in relation to their position on these the tax cuts.
Let me also take you to task in relation to the beneficiaries of tax cuts. These tax cuts will ensure that people earning over $45,000 are getting a tax cut, seeing a reduction down to 30 cents in the dollar of the marginal tax rate. 95% of hard-working Australians. Paying no more than that 30 cents in the dollar as a marginal tax rate. A genuine delivery of benefit for families earning 60, 70, 80, $90,000 a year getting hundreds of dollars back in lower taxes that they would be paying.
JOURNALIST: So these stage 3 tax cuts were announced before the pandemic. Do you think it's irresponsible to continue with the stage 3 tax cuts given it will take so much money out of budgets for government services, which are clearly spending -- you're clearly spending a lot of money on?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: It's about confidence in the economy and capacity for Australians to be able to invest and to grow and to create through that investment more jobs across Australia. And we can see right now the benefit of lower taxes in delivering strong economic returns, by bringing forward the stage 2 tax cuts, we've delivered more than $2 billion extra per month into the pockets of hard-working Australian families and as a return, we're seeing strong economic growth, record levels of employment and job creation across the country and that is the type of growth and impetus we want to keep continuing.
JOURNALIST: What about the [indistinct] LAW tax cuts?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: These tax cuts have been legislated. The Morrison Government's position in delivering fully on our tax cuts is 110% guaranteed. The only doubt that hangs over lower taxes for hard working Australians is Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party.
JOURNALIST: Health Minister Greg Hunt said within 10 days the Government will go public looking for a company to produce mRNA manufacturing facility onshore in Australia. That's just months after the Government put a billion on the table for CSL to produce a different type of facility that wouldn't be capable of this more advanced technology. Was it premature to commit funding to a project that's already been outdated by technology? That company has said they might switch the kind of vaccines they can produce to meet that mRNA capacity. Would that mean we wouldn't need a new facility as well?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: There are many uncertainties when it comes to the evolution of technology and in in relation to mRNA vaccine technology this is breakthrough that has only occurred around the world in the last 12 months. We made what were prudent decisions to try to give Australia the best manufacturing capability of vaccines for the future off the basis of the capability Australia already had in terms of delivery of those vaccines.
We've now got new technology and new breakthroughs with mRNA and that's why we're pursuing capability for Australia to be able to deliver and manufacture those vaccines of the future too. It's thrilling to see and pleasing to see, of course, further progress in relation to getting vaccines from Moderna and also especially the interest of that company in being able to work with Australia potentially for the technology transfer elements and the like that are necessary to be able to stand up vaccine manufacturing capability of this new technology into the future.
JOURNALIST: Is that factored into the future? That new facility? Is that factored into Tuesday's budget?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I got asked a question before about measures in the budget where we haven't put a bottom line figure on them and that's a strong example of that because there are two parts of sensitive commercial negotiations that have to be undertaken to successfully get mRNA vaccine production in Australia. The first is technology transfer from global patent holders like Moderna or Pfizer and the second is local manufacturing capability and negotiation. In both of those cases, we want to drive the best possible bargain for taxpayers and that means not showing our hand too much but we have certainly provided the contingencies in the Budget to keep dealing with COVID uncertainties such as how we get that type of vaccine capability here.
JOURNALIST: So stage 3 tax cuts won't be repealed?
JOURNALIST: Do you think the argument for stage 3 is as strong now as it was before COVID? And all of the costs of COVID? Is the argument in favour of stage 3 as strong now as it was before COVID?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The argument to provide economic strength for Australia through lower taxes that can drive that growth is even stronger as we see the necessity of growing our economy, creating jobs, pushing unemployment below 5% and, in doing so, creating an environment where we get the type of revenue boost from more people in jobs that can pay for the essential services of the future. We've already seen through the course of this last financial year that we've seen an uplift in relation to government receipts in income taxes even while we've brought forward the stage 2 tax cuts. How have we achieved that growth in relation to expected income taxes even with tax cuts? Because we've got more people in jobs paying more taxes themselves. They're paying a lower tax rate, but they're making a bigger contribution because we've got more Australians in those jobs.
JOURNALIST: Can you guarantee stage 3 won't be repealed? Can you guarantee that?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Stage 3 won't be repealed under a Morrison Government. It may well be under an Albanese Labor government and that's what Anthony Albanese needs to clarify.
JOURNALIST: What's your response to Victoria's claim that $93 million in health funding has been taken out of their budget and that doctors and nurses' numbers will reduce as a result?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Complete rubbish. This is another budget that demonstrates record investment in relation to Australia's health system, in relation to Medicare, disability services, mental health and aged care. Thanks, everybody. OK, last one.
JOURNALIST: Two of your Coalition colleagues voted for a Labor motion in the Senate calling on the Government to fix our quarantine system. What would you say to colleagues who voted for that motion? And when might we hear a decision on the Victorian quarantine proposal?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Australia's system in relation to returning Australians safely into the country has worked well in terms of 99.99% of cases passing through our medi-hotel and our quarantine system. We have to be ever vigilant. We will be ever-vigilant. We're going to respond carefully to Victoria's proposal to expand their quarantine capability and if other states have similarly detailed proposals, we'll give them consideration.
JOURNALIST: Can you clarify Australia's position on Taiwan? There's confusion, given the PM's recent comments?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Australia’s position on Taiwan has not changed in relation to our approaches. I'm not going to run foreign policy commentary right now though.
JOURNALIST: Labor has accused Scott Morrison of lying and failing to correct his mistake. Are you worried that is going to create confusion?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: There's been no change in relation to Australia's formal foreign policy positions there. Thanks, everyone.