Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Thursday, 1 July 2021
Simon Birmingham: Thanks very much for coming along. It's the 1st of July, which means the start of a new financial year and it's wonderful to be here at ikonix Technology. It's a wonderful South Australian based technology company. That is a great example of businesses who are going to benefit from our changes to help continue Australia's economic recovery into this financial year and long into the future.
This is the type of business that would benefit from lower company tax rates is benefiting from the ability to invest more into its business through new production, machinery and equipment technology. It's the type of business that will benefit from our reforms to ensure big companies pay the bills of smaller businesses faster. These along cuts and tax breaks for more Australians and tax breaks and some 10 million low- and middle-income Australians are all designed to make sure that Australians world leading economic recovery continues to stand tall in the rest world. That we keep ensuring the jobs of Australians are secure, safe and strong as possible.
That's what all of these measures are about job security, business growth, Australia's economic prosperity for the future driven by a mixture of lower taxes and policies to ensure that Australian businesses have the confidence to invest in their growth, their potential and their staff.
Journalist: On another couple of matters. How would you describe Queensland's chief health officer comments about the AstraZeneca vaccine?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I thought they were very unhelpful comments, I note the other leaders around the country have called them out, as scaremongering. And I think that everyone particularly health officials should adopt an approach of calm, sensible advice to the Australian people. I think on the whole, Premier Daniel Andrews has got it right when he says that people should listen to their doctors, not their politicians and indeed Premier Palascak should probably listen to Dan Andrews.
Journalist: Is this a win for anti-vaccers?
Simon Birmingham: Certainly, the type of scare mongering we've seen coming from Queensland Premier and Queensland Chief Medical Officer don't help confidence they do go help anti-vaccers and that's why they ought to take a calmer, more rational approach, listen to the many calm, thoughtful voices of the health profession across Australia, but also as I say listen to her Labor Party colleague in Victoria who suggested that we ought to take the time to listen to our doctors when it comes to vaccines, not everybody else.
Journalist: Should under 40s wait for the Pfizer vaccine?
Simon Birmingham: The health advice is, as it always has been since the last ATAGI update. And that is that Pfizer is recommended for those under 60 as preferred option, whilst AstraZeneca is recommended as preferred option for those over 60. However, for those under 60, ATAGI has also been clear that if circumstances warranted following a discussion with their doctor, then they should be able to receive that vaccine, the AstraZeneca one. So it really is a matter for individuals to talk to their GPs who will be best placed to understand their individual circumstances and to interpret the health advice available.
Journalist: Simon, some states say they will be asking national cabinet tomorrow to reduce international arrival caps. Is this likely to happen?
Simon Birmingham: We've seen around 680,000 Australians return during the COVID pandemic. And overwhelmingly they have returned safely through hotel quarantine systems, vast majority in a manner that has protected Australians. But there's no perfect model or approach we're dealing with a global pandemic that has wreaked havoc around the rest of the world. Which we have broadly managed to avoid thanks to the good work of governments working together, businesses and Australians working together. That's how we intend to keep it. We've shown as a government, a willingness to firstly close Australia's international borders to allow only a tiny proportion of regular travel back into the country, overwhelmingly only Australians and their direct relatives coming back in. Now, we've also shown a willingness to tighten it even further, such as during the Indian outbreak if the risk factors are greater. And we'll always continue to look at that evidence and work through it with the states to territories.
Journalist: Do you think they should reduce numbers though given the recent outbreaks in Australia?
Simon Birmingham: I think it's about looking at the evidence in relation to the risk factors, as we did, for example with India and whether they're changing entering into the country. That's the type of evidence that we follow to date. Australia has some of the tightest border controls in the world that have been managed as successfully as anywhere else in the world to keep Australians safe and secure and we're going to continue to do that.
Journalist: So have you been vaccinated yourself, and if so, what vaccination did you get?
Simon Birmingham: So I've had my first shot and I did so as soon as I was able to register, I did it within the first 24 hours as somebody in the 40 to 50 age group. And at that time, the only option I had in South Australia was to receive the Pfizer shot through the public health clinic.
Journalist: How would you describe Australia's place in the world when it comes to accessing vaccines, are we at the back of the queue?
Simon Birmingham: So Australia has seen now more than 7.8 million doses administered. And as a country, we have managed to be able to adapt to changing circumstances and health advice. It's clear that global vaccine companies like Pfizer have prioritised countries that have wider outbreaks of COVID than for example, New Zealand or Australia who have COVID largely under control. We had identified that AstraZeneca service the initial workforce because of Australia's domestic production capability of that vaccine. But the health advice has changed, which is why we always had the backups in place, further contracts of Pfizer, of Moderna, and in fact, 195 million doses overall. We're seeing that step up now with the delivery of the Pfizer vaccine, and that's going to enable us to continue to scale up the vaccine programme, which just yesterday hit a record number of Australians receiving the vaccine in excess of 160,000 people did. So that's where the real confidence equation lies, the fact that a record number of Australians, more than 160,000 had a jab yesterday shows Australians have the confidence. And we want them to keep backing themselves to do so.
Journalist: On that confidence though do you acknowledge that the prime minister's remarks about AstraZeneca this week, may have caused a lot of confusion?
Simon Birmingham: The Prime Minister is simply speaking about the fact that we're doing what's necessary to back Australian doctors to provide the advice and support to their patients, to give them indemnities and supports that are necessary, whether they're talking to a younger Australian about their wishes and choices or whether it's talking to an older Australian about theirs.
Journalist: Why did the government change its mind on the funding for the National Archives?
Simon Birmingham: The Government has always indicated we'd be responding to the Tune Review into the National Archives and respond we have now with significant funding to enable them to digitise their records. And providing that funding even faster than was recommended in the Tune Review.
Journalist: Is it regrettable that the National Archives hand a campaign for public donations before the Government stepped in?
Simon Birmingham: I'd always encourage people to support our national collecting institutions and other national agencies in terms of their work. The government though has responded to the Tune Review into the National Archives, providing funding faster than was actually recommended by that review.
Journalist: And just finally, David Ridgway is the new agent general for South Australia in London. Steven Marshall took away the tourism portfolio from him. Do you think he's the right man to get this gig on an even bigger scale, on an international level if he didn't, you know, stay with the portfolio here in South Australia?
Simon Birmingham: I served as Australia's trade minister while, David Ridgway was South Australia's trade minister, I saw how hard he worked in terms of driving export opportunities for South Australian businesses. I have full confidence that he continued to show such strong passion and drive in creating new business, new export opportunities for South Australia as the agent general to London. And I particularly note that his a unique set of contacts and connections in the UK through his son-in-law, will provide I'm sure, even additional opportunities for South Australia business to be able to flourish in the U.K., especially under the new Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement.
Journalist: So did he get the job because his son-in-lay plays cricket for England?
Simon Birmingham: He got the job because he was a good trade minister who understands what it's like for businesses to operate, to export and to help drive new market opportunities for businesses to export and it's added bonus that his has those connections that I think would be very helpful when it comes to South Australian businesses profiling themselves and accessing the UK market.