Interview on Radio National with Fran Kelly

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: Federal Budget.
05 April 2019

Fran Kelly: Cabinet Minister, Simon Birmingham, is the Coalition's official election campaign spokesperson but he's getting in ahead of time by a day or two or three we suspect, to give us some kind of reflection of the government's response to Bill Shorten's reply last night. Simon Birmingham welcome back to Breakfast.

Simon Birmingham: Good morning Fran, great to be with you.

Fran Kelly: So the Opposition leader has had the last word on the budget before the election is called and hasn't it just gone one better than the government on low income tax cuts, record spending for cancer care, one billion dollars for TAFE and apprenticeships. It's hard to argue with any of those isn't it?

Simon Birmingham: Well Fran this was classic Bill Shorten, he didn't mention any of the negatives. There was no mention of Labor's retiree tax, no mention of Labor's housing tax, no mention of Labor's taxes on small business or anywhere else across the economy. So, all of that was glossed over and ignored. There were yes lots of big spending promises that we come to expect from the Labor Party, but little detail exactly on exactly on the real costings that underpin them.

Fran Kelly: Well he says he will give those in the election that's fair enough isn't it? That's what oppositions do.

Simon Birmingham: Well look, we'll have to see during the election as to whether we ever get clear clarity around exactly what these policies are. But we do know and I give Labor credit for having gone out there with their big taxing policies earlier. But we do know that Australian retirees are going to face new taxes that people who are already worried about their house values in Sydney or Melbourne, are going to see real pressure on them from a new housing tax. That renters are going to face an increase in their rental, and that many people in small business and on farms are going to see that they're paying more tax as well. That's just no way to keep a strong economy, no way to create more jobs, no way to get wages growing, all of the things that our government is focused on.

Fran Kelly: Well what Labor's response to that and it was very clear in Bill Shorten's speech last night, he said it a couple of times, do we want the best healthcare system in the world or the biggest tax loopholes? Labor says they're closing some of these tax concessions and tax loopholes that just aren't fair and is dead. They're putting the money into health and they're putting the money into tax cuts bigger tax cuts for the lowest paid.

Simon Birmingham: Australia has the best healthcare system in the world and something we should all be very proud of…

Fran Kelly: Do you welcome 2.3 billion dollars for cancer treatments though?

Simon Birmingham: Well you've got to look at what Labor does as well as what they say here Fran and when they were last in office they failed to list lifesaving drugs on the PBS because they said of budgetary reasons. Whereas our government has accepted the advice each and every time to list every drug that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee recommends for listing and that's what makes a big difference, following the advice of the experts. Health policy should be about the best health outcome, not the quickest, cheapest, headline you can get in the newspaper. And really what we've got to do here is back in our government's approach which has been to listen to the experts, to invest where the experts say in life saving drugs. And you know we have done so to the tune of some 10 billion dollars' worth of investment in 2000 new life saving drugs, including 130 drugs specifically to help people with cancer treatments.

Fran Kelly: But the government is trying to turn and I'm sure we will hear it a lot through the election campaign, this campaign into a question of trust, you know who do you trust to run the economy, you can't risk the economy was Labor. Mathias Cormann says you can't trust anything Labor is saying, you can't trust Labor to come up with the money to pay for the tax cuts or the cancer plan, but then on the other hand you're saying Labor's got this 200 billion dollars of taxes, you tax changes, negative gearing, capital gains tax, you can't have it both ways can you? They are slugging the economy and they don't have the money to pay for their promises?

Simon Birmingham: Well Fran they do have over 200 billion dollars extra of taxes and indeed they're also saying that many Australians will still be paying more in income tax under the Labor Party as well.

Fran Kelly: Not low paid Australians, they will be paying less under you? Are you happy with that?

Simon Birmingham: Sorry Fran?

Fran Kelly: Lowest paid Australians will be paying less tax under Labor. Are you happy with that situation?

Simon Birmingham: Well in fact here we're talking about providing a tax payment back, that in many cases is above net tax that people pay that in any of those cases Australians are paying no net tax and getting more back through a range of different payments offsets and the like. And what we want to do is make sure there is also incentive for people to work hard, to get ahead. It shouldn't be the case that when you get a promotion as a teacher or you get a promotion as a police officer or as a tradie, you suddenly get pushed up into ever higher and higher tax bracket. Our reforms…

Fran Kelly: Would the government, is this the government…

Simon Birmingham: (indistinct) bracket creep whereas Bill Shorten wants to keep that bracket creep in place. We want to abolish the 37 cents in the dollar tax bracket, he wants to keep the 37 cents in the dollar tax bracket. High-income earners would still be on a separate top tax bracket under us but for those who are working hard in middle class Australia, they're going to still face that putative bracket creep under a Labor Party that would be abolished under Scott Morrison.

Fran Kelly: Simon Birmingham, just finally I know time is tight for you this morning; the Prime Minister will soon visit Yarralumla to call the election. Will you win?

Simon Birmingham: I believe we can win and of course the Australian people when it comes to Election Day will face a choice and that choice as always is between whether they want a government that can keep the economy strong, that can provide jobs growth for their children, their grandchildren, themselves, and can make sure that we can afford to keep record spending on schools and hospitals. And that's the track record of our government, the track record of the Labor Party is one who hasn't delivered a surplus budget since 1989 and obviously has got 200 billion dollars plus in new taxes.

Fran Kelly: And are we going to the polls this weekend?

Simon Birmingham: We'll see, Fran, we'll see. It will be soon though.

Fran Kelly: Simon Birmingham thank you very much for joining us.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you.

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