Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Saturday, 9 October 2021
Simon Birmingham: Great to be here with our new candidate Alan Howard-Jones the new Liberal candidate for Makin. Alan is an exceptionally hard working individual in the community with his family and so well-connected in terms of the drive that he is going to bring to our campaign here in Makin.
Alan works in the printing industry. He's a father of three. He's on his local school board. He's active in his local rotary club. He is the type of candidate who embodies the people of Makin. Makin is a family based electorate full of hard working Australians who value their jobs and value the opportunity to get ahead. It's an electorate that was at the centre of many of John Howard's election wins, where Trish Draper held this seat time and again through the Howard government.
We want to see it return to the Liberal fold state. Liberal MPs who won at the last state election in Paula Luethen and Richard Harvey demonstrate that we can absolutely win votes back here in Makin. And so this is the type of seat where we're confident that Scott Morrison's story of securing the lives and livelihoods of Australians through the pandemic, of protecting Australians in terms of their jobs, their lives, their businesses, their families and of course, our long term plans that are focussed very much on ensuring we keep Australia's economic strength. That we grow jobs in the future to the type of continuous record levels that we've achieved in the past, that we keep taxes as low as possible and that we keep the opportunity for more and more Australians to get a home to get their first home.
These are the things that resonate in a community like Makin, as well as the importance of having a government that can put Australia's interests first. That can make the difficult decisions in terms of ensuring we protect our national security and give Australia the safety, security as well as prosperity required for the future. And Alan will be a great candidate to campaign alongside with many other candidates we've selected here in South Australia for the next federal election and increasingly right around the country who really do embody the liberal principles and are so effectively well placed to represent their local communities.
On a couple of other matters. Can I welcome the progress made overnight in relation to the global tax agreement. This work with the OECD and indeed so many countries around the world, is building on Australia's leadership to crack down on multinational tax evasion to ensure that everyone pays their fair share of tax around the world. And it is crucial that we continue to drive that work forward, and we are so pleased as a government to see more and more countries coming on board, working with Australia and other partners in terms of this global tax agreement. And the Treasurer Josh Frydenberg looks forward to taking the next steps forward in that to see the agreement and steps around it successfully implemented in the timeline, the ambitious timeline of 2023 that has been outlined overnight.
I also want to welcome the very exciting news that Australia has now seen more than 30 million doses of vaccine administered across the country. We have had yet another record weak record few days, seeing close to 1.4 million doses administered across the country over the last week. It's a phenomenal result as Australians continue to turn out in record numbers. We can see now that Australians are heeding the message, and what I would urge is that those, particularly in states or regions where they haven't yet got around to making a booking or where they're booking might be a few weeks or a month or so out. Is act to bring it forward, and we have thousands and thousands of locations and pharmacies, GP's, state health clinics that people can go and get vaccinated. Don't wait, don't delay. Get it done as quickly as possible. In the states that currently don't have COVID. Nobody can predict when it will strike and your best protection from COVID-19, the Delta variant, or any other thing that may strike is to get vaccinated. I'm going to invite Alan to say a few quick words, and then we'll happily take some questions.
Alan Howard-Jones: Thanks, Simon. Look, I'm deeply honoured and humbled to be the federal candidate for Makin. Really looking forward to and quite excited to get out into the community and continue to hear the issues that are most important to you and supporting Simon and the government in the messages that we're delivering that for more jobs and improvements in the economy and continue just to build back a great platform for families in the area to be able to prosper. So thank you very much. Very excited to be here with Simon today.
Journalist: And tell us a bit more about yourself, you know?
Alan Howard-Jones: Sure, sure. So look, I've lived in the electorate almost all my life. I went to all the local primary schools and high schools and am a resident still now. I'm a father of three as Simon has said, and I've been married and widowed and then married again. So we're a blended family and our kids are all of various ages, from young to older. And it's, yeah, I work in the print industry and just hard working all my life, always worked hard and just wanting to make a difference for the community now.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks, Alan. Ok, questions here, and then we'll take them on the phone.
Journalist: So the Business Council has released a report overnight saying that they want net zero by 2050 and more ambitious targets for 2030. If the Business Council could commit to these sorts of, you know, changes. Why can't government?
Simon Birmingham: We want to see net zero achieved as soon as possible, and we have always said that we want to not just meet our 2030 targets, but to exceed those 2030 targets. We welcome the ambition of business and the cooperation that means we can expect in terms of meeting, beating and exceeding the targets that have been set to date.
Journalist: So the report actually says we should get to between forty six and 50 percent by 2030. Is that within the range that you think the coalition will be considering?
Simon Birmingham: We will be updating as we always do the emissions projections for Australia. The thing that we have done, quite transparently as government and a nation over the years is to regularly report on our emissions and to show how they're tracking. That's why we know that Australia has reduced its emissions already by 20 per cent, more than 20 per cent since 2005. The fact that we are tracking so effectively towards our Paris targets for 2030 is simply following on the trend that we have met and beaten targets for the first Kyoto commitment period. The second Kyoto commitment period. And we will do that again, no doubt for Paris. We will update those targets in relation to the 2030 trajectory and of course, outline very clearly how we are tracking against them, as we've transparently done before. And that will provide, I'm sure, confidence to business and others about how we will track to the future in terms of exceeding those targets.
Journalist: And this report also says that transitioning to clean energy will actually be positive for regional jobs. That's been a big argument for the Liberal Party against, you know, decarbonising to protect regional jobs. So who's right, as the Business Council say, is that it will actually be positive to go to, you know, these higher targets?
Simon Birmingham: The key thing is, we've always said, is that you shouldn't just make promises without plans. You must have a plan to deliver on those promises. And that's all of the work that we've done to date to make sure that when we've made promises to reduce emissions, to reduce them by 2030, we've had plans to get there. And what Australians will increasingly see as we release updated trajectories around Australia's emissions is that the plans we've put in place are working to drive down Australia's emissions. But it's not just something that government does in isolation, it does require industry, business, others to help deliver it. And that's why we welcome these steps from the Business Council and others outlining further opportunities and plans that they see. And ultimately, everyone working together to give us the best, most cost effective way of achieving net zero as quickly as possible, whilst protecting the jobs of Australians and helping regional communities to transition.
Journalist: And will you have to offer financial incentives to the Nationals do you think to get them over the line?
Simon Birmingham: We will always work right across our government on the many competing priorities that exist. We recognise the need to support regional Australia as we always do. A coalition government that is invested in Inland Rail project, invested in critical regional infrastructure from small community halls to multi-billion dollar projects. And we do that because we know it's important to give regional Australians the same sorts of opportunities as people across our cities. And because it's important to back what is so often the economic powerhouse of Australia across regional Australia. So we'll continue to do that. We do that regardless of emissions promises and climate change issues. But of course, we want to make sure that where we are implementing plans and policies to track towards net zero, we are also mindful of communities who face transition issues and that we support those communities by generating new opportunities like we are striving to do the hydrogen sector and elsewhere.
Journalist: And obviously, Glasgow is in a couple of weeks. When will we see an agreement from, you know, a commitment from the government?
Simon Birmingham: The government will be taking a detailed plan and commitments to Glasgow as the Prime Minister has made clear, and we'll be making sure that our commitments aren't just hollow promises that we don't make promises like Labor does without plans, but we accompany our promises with detailed plans and that's precisely the work that's happening within government at present.
Journalist: But will you commit to, like, you know, within the next week? Will we find out? Or is it going to be like the day before?
Simon Birmingham: When the government is making commitments at the Glasgow Climate Change Conference we will have all our i's dotted and all our t's crossed by the time we're making those commitments. There's still some time to go before the conference and we are working inside government to make sure the detailed plans are in place.
Journalist: [Inaudible] the bottom line economically wise and make Australians $5000 better off per year. The regions will be the biggest to get the economic benefits. Do you think this will be ammunition to help convince the Nationals to sign up?
Simon Birmingham: There's no doubt that there are environmental reasons to pursue net zero, economic reasons to pursue net zero and strategic international relationship reasons to pursue net zero. Right across the board that's why we want to make sure we get there as quickly as possible, but we also take Australian communities with us on that journey. There are increasingly clearly opportunities to ensure that Australia, which has been an energy powerhouse feeding our region in the world for decades, continues to be so in the future. But to do so will have to make some transition to new fuel sectors like hydrogen. That's why we're already investing in those sectors, and we welcome the fact that Business Council of Australia recognises the types of opportunities that we've identified as a government and that we can work together to pursue them.
Journalist: Senator, Reece from nine if I could go next, Australia will be allowing 2,000 overseas nurses and doctors to enter the country to work. Do you think that'll be enough helping hands to ease the health crisis here? And do you think it's too late perhaps?
Simon Birmingham: We've seen a very effective response to COVID-19 by all of Australia's health systems throughout the course of this pandemic. As a government, we've made enormous commitments some additional $6 billion in terms of health and hospital related funding. We've put in place plans to make sure that private hospital facilities are available to respond to COVID type situations and emergencies. So we've increased the capability right across the board, these 2,000 extra nurses and doctors will be a very welcome additional supplement to resourcing across Australia.
We would ordinarily expect to see international nurses and doctors seeking to migrate to Australia to work in Australia, and that is the ordinary course of events. Of course, closed borders have made that a little harder during the course of COVID-19. So it's very welcome we're now in a position to be able to prioritise these skilled individuals to come to our country, and we will look forward to them working in our health system and alongside our health professionals, as we have so often welcomed international doctors and nurses in the past.
Journalist: [Inaudible] will the federal government back out of its agreement to jointly fund the Brisbane Olympics in 2032?
Simon Birmingham: Our partnership in relation to the Brisbane Olympics has already delivered so much in terms of securing the commitment for the Olympic Games to come to Australia. We've ensured to date that it has been genuine 50:50 partnership between the Federal government and the Queensland government, and all we ask for for the future is a continued 50:50 partnership. We're willing to put up 50 per cent of the costs from across Australia to support Queensland in hosting the games, but we want 50 per cent of the say in terms of how those funds are spent. That's only reasonable and I'm sure we will get to the right agreements with Queensland in delivering that.
Journalist: Do you think the prime minister's special envoy for the Olympics Ted O'Brien overstepped the mark at all?
Simon Birmingham: It's important that at these very early stages that we get all of the systems in place in the right way to avoid difficulties further on. We want to be genuine 50:50 partners in terms of the Olympic Games. That means, yes, we're putting up 50 per cent of the cash, but we also want 50 per cent of the say and we're going to work closely with Queensland to deliver that. I know that Ted O'Brien is right on board. He has done an exceptional, amazing job as the special envoy for the Olympics. From taking a simple grain of an idea as to whether Australia and Queensland could host the Olympics to now ensuring that we have the rights to do so. But now we need to make sure we get it right. At these early stages, after the decision to host the games were taken, it's appropriate that we make sure the architecture around how the games will be run, how the infrastructure will be built, what plans are put in place as done in a way that is a genuine 50:50 partnership. That's what the Prime Minister made clear when he told the Queensland Premier that we would pick up half the costs. But it does mean that we want to have a fair say to ensure taxpayers money is spent wisely and that we all get the best dividend out of the games.
Journalist: Minister, will Scott Morrison be going to Glasgow?
Simon Birmingham: Again as the Prime Minister has made clear it will. We will have strong, serious representation at Glasgow. It is the case that only on three occasions since 2007 has Australia's Prime Minister attended the leaders level climate change talks or the annual climate change talks of ministers and leaders, I should say. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is not attending this year. Many others around the world won't be. Whether Scott Morrison is able to be there. He'll make that call based on the different pressures we're juggling right now.
Journalist: So he's basically not going to go?
Simon Birmingham: We'll see. He'll make that call. Obviously, what matters most is that we will be taking detailed plans and commitments to Glasgow, and we will have very senior representation there at ministerial or prime ministerial level.
Journalist: [Inaudible] Anthony Albanese, pitched today Labour's Buy Australia plan?
Simon Birmingham: It seems a pretty hollow plan from what I can see a promised to set up a bureaucracy, but not actually any details in terms of what they're proposing to change. And what we've done as a government is to change procurement laws to make it easier for government departments across the country to prioritise contracts to small and medium businesses right around the nation. We've made changes so that it's easier for those smaller contracts under $200,000 for decisions to be made to quickly award them with prioritised faster payments to small and medium businesses. The Defence Force, which is one of our biggest procurement agencies, has taken enormous steps to ensure that we have more Australian businesses contracting on defence projects where the government that put in place procurement targets have met and exceeded for indigenous owned Australian businesses. I don't see any of that level of detail in Anthony Albanese's plan today. It simply looks like a plan to hire more public servants rather than to give more work to Australian businesses. Thank you.