David Bevan: Let's welcome to Super Wednesday Simon Birmingham Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment and a Liberal Senator. Good morning to you Sir.

Simon Birmingham: Good morning.

David Bevan: Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens Senator good morning to you.

Sarah Hanson-Young: Good morning.

David Bevan: And Mark Butler Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Labor Member for Port Adelaide, good morning to you.

Mark Butler: Good morning.

David Bevan: Well panellists are the forgotten people the unemployed in this budget? Now I know Simon Birmingham, you're going to say the best thing you can do for an unemployed person is get them a job but some people aren't going to get a job. For those people are they the forgotten people here because there's no increase in Newstart from the government and only a promise to review it from Labor.

Simon Birmingham: David, Newstart increases twice every year in accordance with the way that it's set up. We have created some one point three million jobs over the course of our time in office and our determination is to keep growing that. We've made a commitment to create another one point to five million jobs over the next five years and we'll do that by lowering taxes and encouraging small business to invest more. I mean there are real growth elements to last night's budget that will see our businesses continue to grow, continue to employ more Australians and that's what creates the opportunities for individuals.

David Bevan: And if you don't get one of those jobs, if you remain on Newstart, it hasn't effectively, it's been eroded in real terms over the last what 30 years? Even John Howard says there should be an increase in Newstart, I say even, he is a former Liberal Prime Minister.

Simon Birmingham: It hasn't been eroded in real terms, it increases, being indexed against inflation twice a year every year, as it has throughout that time as it will continue to do right into the future. The vast majority of people who are on Newstart receive additional payments in addition to the Newstart payment, in terms of rent support and other assistance. And the majority of people on Newstart are only on there for a relatively short period of time, because they do receive ultimately employment and that's what we want. That's what we are driving towards there. And yes, additional support in terms of energy supplements and those sorts of things in this year's budget, and there is tax relief for many Australians who have seen that they've been feeling the pressure in terms of their household budgets. We want to make sure that the dividend of the surplus that we're delivering is returned to people where it possibly can be, in them paying less tax, in them receiving better services such as our investments in mental health, in support for new apprenticeships which will help to create more job opportunities.

David Bevan: Mark Butler.

Mark Butler: Well just to take up one point of Simon's there, he said that energy assistance payments are available to people on Newstart. Well that's not been the position since those payments were leaked to the newspapers over the last week or so. It was made very clear by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer that energy assistance payments of seventy five dollars a week would only go to pensioners, disability support pensioners, and carers but would not go to people on the Newstart allowance. Now it appears over the last couple of hours that we've finally forced the government into a back down on that and they're changing their budget already. Only 12 hours from delivering a budget, they're changing the budget finally to allow Newstart recipients to receive this very modest energy payment which is nothing more or less than an abject apology I would hope, to the fact that power bills have gone up and up under this government. But more broadly this budget is a budget that again fails to recognise that people on fixed payments, on Newstart and on low wages are doing it tough. Of all of the tax cuts that would be delivered by this government over the next five years, someone on less than forty thousand dollars, so there's millions of workers on that wage will not even get a five dollar tax cut, while someone on three hundred thousand dollars will get a 223 dollar tax cut. I think that says everything you need to know about this government's priorities.

David Bevan: And yet have we got anything more from Labor in terms of Newstart other than a review, a promise of a review?

Mark Butler: Well we've said clearly from Bill Shorten down, that we think Newstart is too low. But we've also said that we want to go about the process of lifting Newstart in a proper evidence-based way and our record reflects that. That's exactly what we did when we were last in government on the aged pension, went through a proper review that looked at living costs and living costs for people on fixed payments don't reflect CPI, they don't reflect inflation because the cost of things like energy, transport, health, food, they're all going up by more than inflation and that's the problem that people on fixed payments are facing at the moment, particularly on a payment that's only indexed by inflation like Newstart.

David Bevan: Sarah Hanson-Young?

Sarah Hanson Young: Well we don't need another review. What we need is a lift in the Newstart rate and there's been many experts who have sat around the table, debated this issue and looked at the fact that while these recipients, while people on Newstart continue to live in poverty day in day out, it's bad the economy and it's not helping those people get a job. When you've got the Business Council saying for heaven's sake to the government just lift Newstart by 75 dollars a week. Any government who's or opposition party for that matter, who sits there and says oh well we'll just put it in the basket for later in tomorrow's in-tray. No, it should have been in this Budget last night, it should be in the in the Opposition leader's Budget reply tomorrow and if it's not it just goes to show that again whether it's Labor or Liberal they just don't care about the poorest of the poor. People in South Australia are doing it tough. We know that there is sixty five thousand Newstart recipients in South Australia. Those people deserve not just weasel words, not kind of pretends that indexation has happened and they should just suck it up or a review will happen in the never never. They deserve a lift in their Newstart payment now.

David Bevan: Mark Butler, Labor argues that it will be in a better position to deliver a surplus but isn't that because it would take more tax and the assumption is that taking more tax won't affect the economy?

Mark Butler: Well what we're doing is over the last several years we've gone about the hard work of looking at tax arrangements in this country and we've said very openly with the Australian people that we think that there are a range of tax concession arrangements that have existed in the past, that have been able to be funded in the past when we had all of the money coming in through the China boom for example, that simply aren't affordable now. And that are also creating a whole lot of disincentives and inequities in the system. For example our changes to negative gearing will provide much needed assistance to first homebuyers who are currently facing investors who have a tax advantage at auctions and unable to get a foothold in in the housing market. So what is very clear after last night's Budget is that over the forward estimates, so the four years of this budget not only will Labor be able to deliver a surplus in 2019-20, will deliver better surpluses over the course of the four years because we've done the hard work on tax reform, hard work that this government simply isn't able to do.

David Bevan: Simon Birmingham?

Simon Birmingham: Well it is very clear, crystal clear, the Labor Party are going to collect around 200 billion dollars or more in higher taxes. Chris Bowen, out on radio this morning has already once again confirmed that Labor doesn't support the Government's cap on taxes as a percentage of GDP ratio. We put that in place as a limit to say, frankly government shouldn't be taking more than twenty three point nine cents in every dollar out of the economy in taxation. Yet Labor will blow that, collect more tax than that. What we've done here is to say having brought the budget back to a position of surplus, we can now afford to give people back more of their money in tax relief and that tax relief is heavily targeted towards hardworking Australians, who if there are people listening this morning.

Mark Butler: Five dollars for someone on $40,000 over five years.

Simon Birmingham: A couple who's a teacher and a tradie, who both earn around sixty thousand dollars would see around 2160 dollars come back to them this year. This year, an extra 2000 dollars, I don't think that's something that most households through your electorate or across Adelaide would sneeze at Mark.

Mark Butler: No because they are tax cuts we announced last year, we announced those cuts last year and you've just caught up with us but you've left the 40,000 dollar cohort out.

Simon Birmingham: They would welcome the fact that the Coalition Government has got the budget to a position where we can deliver that tax relief, but also still deliver on the infrastructure promises; deliver in terms of the mental health support, there's a new package in there, delivering investment for growing new apprenticeships...

David Bevan: On another topic, we were talking to Mathias Cormann this morning and he wasn't able to rule out shifting submarine maintenance work to Western Australia, Mark Butler?

Mark Butler: Well this is this is a terrible turn of events by the Finance Minister this morning in a budget that's really a shocker of a budget for South Australia. There's less than 100 million dollars in infrastructure funding over the course of the forward estimates, less than 100 million dollars over four years in infrastructure funding and we now can't even have this government confirm that the jobs that were promised from the naval shipbuilding program will be kept in South Australia. And so Simon Birmingham has got the opportunity now to correct the record from the Finance Minister and I hope he does that.

David Bevan: Simon Birmingham?

Simon Birmingham: Well this story has been peddled for ages and it has no validity. The government has not got any plans, intentions or otherwise, to see the shipbuilding work building, well the shipbuilding work will all be done in South Australia, that is a completely clear cut. The sustainment work, there are no plans, intentions or otherwise for that to move.

David Bevan: Well when I asked Cormann this morning he said I can't preempt a decision. I said can you rule it out and he said I can't preempt a decision.

Sarah Hanson Young: He's waiting to see if there's any marginal seats that's how this government works, it’s pathetic.

Simon Birmingham: Let's be clear, the only reason this is an issue is because of questioning and so on through Senate processes and that Defence has at some point done some contingency planning of what if there ends up being so much shipbuilding work at Osborne, that you actually can't fit in some of the sustainment exercises that are required at present in the future. Now if that were to actually transpire it would be a long way down the track and it would be a very happy day because we would be at the point where the Osborne shipyard was so hustling and bustling with work, that you actually had constraint limits in terms of the amount of work that was happening there. And now we've got a pickup of work, we've come out of the bottom of the valley of death created by the Federal Labor Party, didn't actually finish a single ship the last time they were in office, we've now commissioned more than 50 and there is a steady pipeline of work happening at Osborne. I'm more than happy for the entire election campaign in South Australia to be fought on defence investment and procurement in South Australia because our track record is 50 plus ships versus zero for the Labor Party.

David Bevan: We asked Mathias Cormann if he could point to a line in the budget for the South Road upgrade and he said he'd get back to us. Now we're still waiting, have you if you heard? Can you point to a line in the budget which says yeah that two point seven billion dollars is there Simon Birmingham?

Simon Birmingham: Well I don't have my hundreds of pages of budget documents carefully tabbed to do so David, the commitment is there. The commitment is there in terms of two point six billion dollars over the next decade for projects in South Australia, one and a half billion dollars for the North South corridor, 260 million dollars for South Australian rural roads, including 74 million dollars for the Victor Harbour Road...

David Bevan: It shouldn’t be that hard you know, it is the big ticket item here in South Australia 2 point seven billion dollars. We are just asking for a page number and we are have trouble getting it. It's 12 minutes to nine, before the three of you leave us on another issue, will there be of a censure motion against Fraser Anning today and will you support it if there is? Sarah Hanson-Young?

Sarah Hanson Young: Yes there is going to be a censure motion against Anning as there should be because his comments are obviously appalling and his behavior since has been appalling. But frankly I don’t think he deserves to be in the parliament. He came in yesterday after everything that had happened…

David Bevan: Well you don't get to decide that, the people get to decide that.

Sarah Hanson Young: The Senate needs to take a really strong stand against this guy. He doesn't represent Australian views and values and frankly I don't think he should have the privilege to stand in the Senate today and argue his case, he's got no right to be there.

David Bevan: Mark Butler? Should... I mean you won't be in the Senate.

Mark Butler: But our party will be, absolutely the Senate should be supporting it. I thought Simon's speech was a fine speech. …

David Bevan: Simon Birmingham, you are being applauded for the comments you made in the Senate yesterday regarding Fraser Anning that's pointing to, that's flagging that you will be supporting a censure motion against him?

Simon Birmingham: The censure motion will be jointly moved by Matthias Cormann, Leader of the Government in the Senate and Penny Wong Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. So it is a bipartisan step, it will be taken to give the strongest possible message in terms of the Senate's condemnation of Fraser Anning's appalling words and actions in the time since the tragedy occurred in Christchurch and he deserves that, …

David Bevan: And (indistinct) looks like Wang Wang and Fu Ni haven't got any more money from the Federal Government to stay on and the Adelaide Zoo. What about the Vickers Vimy, Simon Birmingham, that's going to go to Adelaide Airport as it isn't it with Federal money?

Simon Birmingham: It's going to go to Adelaide airport isn't it already?

David Bevan: Yeah yeah as properly displayed at Adelaide Airport.

Simon Birmingham: Well I know that there are various proposals to try to upgrade the display that's there, there is still an election campaign to come David, on a range of these issues.

David Bevan: I reckon that's got Nicky Downer and sorry, Georgina Downer and Nicole Flint written all over it.

Simon Birmingham: It's a long way from Mayo but on all of these issues there's an election campaign to come, and of course we haven't said the last word, we haven't said the last word in the election campaign but we said some very important things last night.

Sarah Hanson Young: I reckon South Australian's would have like a bit more money for childcare last night...

Simon Birmingham: ...to just show what we've delivered over six years and what our plan is for the next decade.

David Bevan: Simon Birmingham, Mark Butler, Sarah Hanson-Young thank you for your time.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you.


This transcript has been redacted in accordance with Digital Transformation Agency guidelines.

For a full transcript please visit www.senatorbirmingham.com.au/news/interview-transcripts/

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7420
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555