Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Sunday, 20 March 2022
Matt Doran: Well Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham is the Government's most senior politician from South Australia and joins us now. Minister, thank you for your time. What are we glean here from the size of Labor's victory in South Australia? Has it been a shock as it seems to have been, to Steven Marshall?
Simon Birmingham: Look, it is a deeply disappointing result. I think that history will judge the policy achievements and the management of Steven Marshall's government more kindly than the voter judgement did yesterday. Ultimately, his was a government that did successfully manage its way through COVID-19, that brought new life and energy back to South Australia and particularly investment businesses, job creation opportunities that will have legacy impacts in a positive way for years to come. They reformed our schooling system, they invested significantly in infrastructure, particularly in our hospitals. And so I trust that time will be kinder than the voters were yesterday. But obviously there's a new government and I congratulate Peter Malinauskas and his team and as a senior South Australian Federal Liberal, I want to make sure that our Federal Government has as constructive a working relationship as we can with the incoming Labor administration.
Monique Wright: What's the message here for the Federal Government?
Simon Birmingham: Peter Malinauskas himself on Friday when quizzed about federal implications, said very clearly that it was a campaign fought almost exclusively on state matters. In fact, his campaign was almost singular in its focus, and that was a singular focus about ambulances, ambulance ramping and hospital processes and systems in South Australia. So I think it's hard in terms of the issues-
Monique Wright: He's talking about COVID though.
Simon Birmingham: No, he wasn't really in those matters, to be honest. But in terms of COVID, I think in fairness, Stephen Marshall was terribly, terribly unlucky in that regard. He reopened South Australia's borders to the rest of the nation the day before Omicron was reported as a new variant of concern to the World Health Organisation. You couldn't be much unlucky in terms of timing than that, and so of course that disrupted very much the carefully calibrated plans he had for reopening at that time.
Matt Doran: Minister, could we look ahead to the Federal Budget on Tuesday week? A lot of talk, particularly amongst families doing it tough right now in terms of cost of living, about whether the fuel excise, otherwise known as the tax on petrol should be cut. Can you give us a clear answer here? Yes. No, maybe?
Simon Birmingham: I wish that I could for the ease of this interview, but the federal budget's handed down one week on Tuesday. And in terms of precise measures and reforms that will be in the Budget-
Matt Doran: But do you acknowledge something major needs to be done with regards to, you know, how much people are paying for fuel in this country at the moment. It's not sustainable.
Simon Birmingham: I do acknowledge that Scott Morrison, Josh Frydenberg, myself and other senior members of the government have been talking very much about the fact that the oil price spikes from the Russian invasion of Ukraine have been having an impact on inflation around the world and an impact on cost of living pressures for Australians. And so we are carefully looking at those impacts, how we can help in particular low and middle income families and will respond with a carefully calibrated budget that doesn't put any additional inflationary impacts on the Australian economy, because we don't want to see interest rates go up any more than is necessary in a global context. We want to make sure that job creation in Australia keeps going strongly with 1.7 million jobs created since our government was elected and 375,000 more than we had pre-COVID. So we don't want to do anything that disrupts those things, but we will carefully look at those and are carefully looking at look at those cost of living pressures.
Monique Wright: I know that you're not going to you're not going to give us really clear answers about what is in that that budget. We know that there's been a lot of talk about this assistance payment for working Australians, a lot of Australians are just doing it really, really tough at the moment and they're anxious about what this budget's going to hold. What hope can you give them that they're going to be looked after?
Simon Birmingham: Want to reassure them that we're a government that has always sought to put more money back in their pockets where we can. It's why we have delivered record tax reforms and tax cuts to Australians that are putting around one and a half billion dollars extra a month into the pockets of hard working Australians. One and a half billion dollars more than the Labor Party would have because we've cut income taxes and that's providing more disposable income, for example, around $50 a week for somebody earning about $90,000 a year. We've made sure that we've driven down electricity prices by around 8% over the last two years as a result of our reforms. All of these things are about trying to help Australia.
Matt Doran: So will there be a meaningful assistance payment in the budget?
Simon Birmingham: As we framed this budget, we build on that legacy of helping Australians with their cost of living pressures with more disposable income and we are absolutely working through those pressures. I give that commitment to Australians and to your viewers. And of course, the details will be revealed when the Budget is released.
Monique Wright: Okay. Federal Finance Minister Simon Birmingham, thank you for your time.