Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Monday, 31 January 2022
David Bevan: Simon Birmingham is the Federal Minister for Finance. He joins us now. Good morning, Senator Birmingham.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning, David, good morning, everybody.
David Bevan: What assistance is available from the federal government for these people who find themselves so isolated?
Simon Birmingham: Well, David, obviously we are assisting through the Royal Australian Air Force with the air drops of these critical supplies into Coober Pedy and Prominent Hill over the next few days, with what's anticipated to be two flights a day landing at Coober Pedy, I gather through pretty much the rest of this week using the Spartan aircraft that are ordinarily based in Queensland, but are being repositioned here to be able to provide those emergency supplies in. And they're a size of aircraft that enables us to do that, there a little bit smaller than the big Globemaster or Hercules that people are used to seeing, so they can service what's required for these smaller locations and smaller airstrips that are involved. We're working through a number of other issues there. If the requests are made as I expect they will be, there is some emergency financial assistance that can provide as disaster recovery payments to individuals who were affected. Although as you just heard there, that in the case of Coober Pedy, it's right now the challenge is being shut off from supplies rather than the actual damage caused by the floods. So it's a different problem there as to what people usually think of a flooding of households and loss of property that's obviously occurred in a small number of cases. But the real challenge here is the disruption to those freight routes. And we've also got the Australian Rail Track Corporation working very hard to try to re-establish rail connections that have been disrupted both north and west we've got freight disruptions occurring.
David Bevan: Is your government in need of some emergency support? The latest Newspoll shows two party preferred the coalition sitting on 44 per cent. That would, you would be wiped from office for a very long time if that was translated into an election held today. Is winning, to put the question another way, is winning a greater challenge this time around than what the Coalition faced in 2019?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I don't know, David, you asked me some very similar questions three years ago about bad polls that were there in the run up to the election three years ago. And obviously the result was the opposite of what those polls indicate. So we're going to get on with the challenge of governing. And of course, when it comes to campaign framing the choice for Australians. So the challenge of governing right now is to make sure that Australia's world leading rates in child vaccination continue and we grow that and that our world leading rates overall in the vaccination program continue to be maintained through the booster program to respond to these sorts of challenges we face and to keep the economy strong, we've got 1.7 million more jobs-
David Bevan: If you have managed the pandemic so well, shouldn't that be self-evident and reflected in the polls?
Simon Birmingham: I think there's lots of frustration, David, with COVID and how that manifests itself in polls and at the ballot box we'll see. But I'm not going to spend much time worrying about the polls themselves. The polls don't determine election outcomes, and the polls don't drive the governing of the country. My job is to work on the governing of the country right now and as we get closer to that election campaign to frame the choice and you know, we'll frame that choice. 1.7 million more jobs created under our government since we were elected. One million more women in work, since we were elected across Australia. And a Labor Party who, as Anthony Albanese on Insiders was exposed yesterday at the same time said budget repair should have started, but also said more should be spent in aged care and hospitals. Those two sentences just don't actually compute together, and it shows that he's all over the shop on so many issues.
David Bevan: Simon Birmingham, thanks for your time.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks, David. My pleasure.