Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Thursday, 17 June 2021
Scott Emerson: Minister, before I get onto the AstraZeneca issues today, the news today, let's talk about the very good news regarding the economy and these latest unemployment figures. I mean, they are extraordinary. Both. Can I say extraordinary here in Queensland at the state level, but also federally as well. Could you ever believe we'd be down to 5.1 per cent?
Simon Birmingham: Scott, these employment figures are absolutely exceeding all expectations. We have continued to have faith that our policies were going to grow jobs and protect them during the depths of the pandemic and deliver the economic recovery for Australians coming out of the pandemic. But this data is proof that once again, the expectations exceeded unemployment rate falling from 5.5 per cent in April, down to 5.1 per cent in May, 150,000 new jobs being created, 85 per cent of which are full time. And that means that since May of last year, since those depths of the pandemic, some 987,000 jobs across Australia have been created and come back and have given us this really impressive and strong result that is so, so much the envy of the world. We look around the world, I think most Australians know that in health terms, and we are in a much better place than most other countries. We've escaped the worst of COVID thanks to the approach across our country of shutting our borders and having world class testing, tracing, isolating systems in place. And our economy is the envy of the world with the first and only major advanced economy to be bigger now in our latest GDP figures than we were at the start of the pandemic. And that just shows how effectively policy settings have worked to support Australian businesses and Australian workers to get through these tough times and grow our way, hopefully for the future.
Scott Emerson: Well, I do have to also acknowledge that here in Queensland, under the Palaszczuk Government, the unemployment rate has also had a big drop as well, zero point seven per cent dropped now down to 5.4 per cent from 6.1 per cent the previous month. So the numbers are coming back here in Queensland as well. And this is a this is a story across the whole of Australia, not just isolated pockets.
Simon Birmingham: It is a great nationwide story. And it's wonderful to see these results, especially in Queensland. You know, you and I had a number of conversations leading up to and around the end of JobKeeper and particularly the types of threats and devastation that parts of the Labor Party were suggesting would occur that the sky was going to fall in apparently when JobKeeper came to an end. And we said, though, that the time for such an expensive nationwide programme had come to an end and that we needed targeted support in different sectors, particularly to get people travelling across Australia again to support our tourism and hospitality sectors. And those policy settings, again, are showing that they're working and that we've seen a strong recovery in travel, in bookings. And I know just how important that has been to jobs recovery in many parts of Australia, but especially in Queensland.
Scott Emerson: Now, I was talking to Margy Osmond a little bit earlier, the CEO of the Tourism and Transport Forum, because obviously with this break out now in Sydney, we're still seeing the legacy of the break out in Melbourne. School holidays are coming up. The tourism sector is again worried because the impact of what's happening in Sydney and in Melbourne, she says, look I'd like to see the federal government, she did give you some praise, indeed she did, but she said she's like to see a bit more support coming from the federal government. Is that to be possible from the federal government for the tourism sector?
Simon Birmingham: We'll, as we have at every stage, continue to look really closely at different sectors and the impacts in those sectors. But the support is still flowing through, particularly for the airlines, both to give them viability support, but also, crucially, the discounted tickets that that many bookings have been made for and have delivered restored confidence across much of the country. Yes, indeed. The outbreaks that are occurring in localised ways I know caused people to hesitate and to wonder at times. But the more everybody can have confidence in the systems that are in place that the states like New South Wales have shown again and again they're testing their tracing, they're isolating systems work, and we don't need to see rushes to border closures that we can keep that confidence for people travelling. Then the more the type of support we've got flowing will work as its being shown to in terms of supporting that jobs recovery across the country.
Scott Emerson: Now, I'm talking to Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham. Minister, obviously today's news regarding the change in recommendations regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine. Now for those. Over the age of 16, I've have been flooded with calls today, text messages from people just confused, worried, concerned. Especially those who have had one jab already between the ages of 50 and 60. Where do I go now? Is it is there now an impact on this? Because the messages have changed so dramatically over the last couple of months?
Simon Birmingham: Scott, what's worked for Australia from the very first moment that we all started to hear about a coronavirus and heard the words COVID-19 has been following the health advice. That's kept us safe and compared to the rest of the world. And that's what we're doing in terms of the vaccine rollout as well. Of course, we would wish that this advice weren't necessary and we would wish that the earlier advice limiting the use of AstraZeneca hadn't been necessary. But health experts have taken a very, very cautious approach at every stage of the COVID-19 and vaccine rollout decisions. They've said that it's time for us to up this to 60 years. Of course, it's provoking lots of questions. I've got plenty of mates and colleagues and others who are in that 50 to 60 year old age group, many of whom are at the first vaccine stage and yet to have the second. My parents are a bit older. Similarly, they've had the first but are yet to have the second dose of AstraZeneca. In those cases. The advice is very, very clear from the medical authorities that people who've had the first dose and have not had any negative reactions in relation to these issues of blood clotting should proceed to have the second dose that the risks that they acknowledge exist, albeit are very small. But we're taking that really precautionary approach to keep Australians safe. Those risks are pronounced or more pronounced in terms of their existence, small as they are for the first dose. But not so when it comes to the second, if you've not had those effects on the first. So as the nation's chief health officer, I think today acknowledged that he similarly has had people close to him have had their first dose and he will definitely be encouraging them to proceed to have that second dose, including those in the 50 to 60 age range.
Scott Emerson: Simon Birmingham, thanks for being on 4BC Drive this afternoon.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks, Scott. My pleasure.