Leon Byner : Finance Minister Simon Birmingham. Simon, good morning.
Simon Birmingham: Hello, Leon. It’s great to be with you again.
Leon Byner : Tell me, how austere do we need to be as opposed to spend money on resources that are sadly lacking?
Simon Birmingham: Well, what we need to do is keep growing jobs in our economy overall. That’s what the economic plan that our government outlined in the budget this week said to do. We’ve got Australia back to a position of having more jobs than we had prior to the commencement of the Covid-19 pandemic. And we’re the first country across the developed world to have been able to achieve that outcome. But the economic experts and the Reserve Bank and the Treasury all indicate we need to keep pushing unemployment even lower and to be able to drive wages growth, to be able to drive strength across our economy, that can provide them the economic strength and the revenue and financial services in the future.
Leon Byner : As Finance Minister, I’d like your take on the fact that, and you would have heard this. A lot of people looking for workers can’t find them. Why do you think that is?
Simon Birmingham: So we do have challenges in some parts of the economy, there’s no doubt about that. And that’s why this year’s budget contains particularly additional funding in relation to skills, creating more than 100,000 additional new apprenticeship subsidies. In fact, that’s on top of some 170,000 that had been pushed through by government. So that’s 270,000 additional subsidies for employers to take on new apprenticeships and to to get more schools across our economy, not just in in those sorts of traditional apprenticeships, but also got additional support for skilling in the care sectors where there is huge demand to meet the needs in aged care, but also important parts of the economy, like digital economy where strategy there include the skills component. So all of those are about trying to help address workforce needs by better equipping Australians with the skills so that we can take the record number of people in jobs today and grow it by the forecast of 250,000 further jobs over the next two years.
Leon Byner : This connects over my next question. We’ve got a less than favourable unemployment rate compared to the rest of Australia. As Federal Finance Minister, why do you think we’ve been challenged by this? Why has that happened?
Simon Birmingham: It’s been a long term historic problem for South Australia in terms of the unemployment rate often sticking just a little bit higher than the rest of the nation, it tends to be that then when the rest of the nation goes into particular debt, that sometimes SA’s a little bit better in those worse times. So it’s hard to quite pinpoint entirely there, Leon, but I’m very encouraged by the fact that as we’ve rolled out some of these subsidies for apprenticeships and for skilling, Steven Marshall and David Pisoni have been usually the first of the state governments to sign onto those plans and to get those positions rolling. And I’m literally just on my way now to Lot 14, to visit the Australian Space Agency, where, again, our government is extending some of the investment there because of the success that our skilling has had.
Leon Byner : How many jobs do you think Lot 14 is going to provide our state? Do you know, have you got a figure in mind?
Simon Birmingham: Oh, look, I think it will provide many thousands over time in terms of what occurs as businesses grow and move off of that site. The type of innovative businesses there is very exciting. And I’m going to look to those businesses for the future, to look at a couple of the other things in our economic plan announced in the budget, the digital economy strategy has a particular stream around artificial intelligence, which is going to be a huge jobs and growth area in the future, as many parts of business activity rely increasingly on artificial intelligence to drive their systems. And so Lot 14 has a number of small businesses that are in the start up phase, the incubation phase, that are going to be able to leverage off of that. We’ve also, in this budget outlined plans for a patent box system in Australia. We’re starting in the biotechnology and the medicines area, and that’s about making sure that when you get those innovative breakthroughs of new medicines, new biotechnology in Australia, that what you want, is for the businesses to commercialise them, to manufacture them here in Australia as well. And so the patent box is about basically saying if the patent is registered in Australia, it designed it in Australia, then you get discounted tax rates to keep the manufacturing here in Australia in the future too.
Leon Byner: Professor Nick Petrovsky It would be very happy to hear that because he’s been one of those people. In fact, there are many of them, we don’t often know the names of them all, but they’re absolute rock stars in their space. So he’ll be very happy to hear that Simon. That’s the Federal Finance Minister, Simon Birmingham.