Craig: Simon Birmingham is the Federal Finance Minister. Minister, Good morning to you.
Simon Birmingham: Good morning. Good to be with you, guys.
Craig: Why is heading towards a trillion dollar debt good for Australia?
Simon Birmingham: Well, because it’s important for Australia that we keep the economy strong and keep Australians in jobs and that we deliver the essential services that Australians rely on. Now the debt itself for Australia, we managed in this budget to hand down a budget where net debt actually is lower than was forecast in last year’s budget, not only over the next year or so, but over each of the next 10 years. We’ve got that net debt looking lower each year, both in absolute terms and as the share of the size of the Australian economy, which is a very important measure of debt and its sustainability in terms of how you manage it.
Craig: So two years ago, Minister, you were talking about the budget theme back in black. That was blown apart by the coronavirus pandemic, which we’re still seeing the effects of. But it is that generation of my children who will have to pay this back. Will we ever?
Simon Birmingham: Well, look, in terms of paying it back, that indeed is is a long way off and it’s a long way off because the pandemic has had and continues to have profound impacts, profound impacts in terms of the fact we went into the first recession in 30 years and profound impacts in terms of our net overseas migration currently running at negative levels over these couple of years. These do mean that there is a long term effect from the pandemic and in this budget, our plan still sees us investing around $40 billion in temporary COVID measures to keep Australians safe, to keep our economy strong through these uncertain times. Over in Europe, they’re entering a double dip recession. So, we here don’t just have good health outcomes, we also have good economic outcomes. And that is something that we have to invest in and carefully make sure we maintain against a very uncertain global backdrop.
Craig: Simon Birmingham with you on ABC Radio Brisbane. We’ve heard from the Queensland Treasurer this morning saying the Sunshine State is getting a raw deal.
[Excerpt Queensland Treasurer]: While other States populations are falling or are barely changing at all, they are getting more infrastructure funding for roads, schools and hospitals and dams than we are getting, and that’s just not fair to Queensland.
Craig: Yeah, why is Queensland not getting its fair share Simon Birmingham?
Simon Birmingham: Well, Queensland is a huge beneficiary of investment in the inland freight route and the investment in Bruce Highway upgrades and investment in the Cairns Western Arterial Road duplication, the Gold Coast rail line. And let’s not forget that that, of course, and we’ve made the commitment in relation to jointly funding the infrastructure requirements around the Olympic Games. So there’s a lot there for Queensland, and Queensland is incredibly important.
Craig : But just on that point that Cameron Dick raises around population and net migration, Queensland has seen a high proportion of that when you compare it to other states, yet other states are seeing a lot more money for infrastructure. So isn’t it fair to think that we are missing out?
Simon Birmingham: Infrastructure projects over time move between states depending on the scale and nature of of those projects And I’ve got no doubt that in relation to Olympics preparation, people from other states will run the same claims against me that Queensland’s getting a bigger and a better deal as as they have in the past in relation to some of these big infrastructure projects. So look in that regard, what’s important and crucial there is that we keep investing right across the economy. And it’s not just about the infrastructure spend strategy in relation to growing advanced manufacturing, in relation to keeping more innovation in Australia through the patent box reforms that are so important to getting medicines and biotechnology that are not only developed in Australia but commercialised and manufactured in Australia. Our investment in our Ag 2030 strategy, that is that is going to help our agricultural sector become a 100 billion dollar export industry country, that again is is crucial, particularly to Queensland, which contributes so much in relation to that ag sector.
Loretta: It’s twenty to eight on ABC Radio Brisbane, Simon Birmingham is with us, the federal finance minister talking about the federal budget. Now on aged care, The Royal Commission into aged care declared the sector was underfunded by about 10 billion dollars a year. Yet you are committing $17.7 billion over five years. There is a significant gap there.
Simon Birmingham: So it’s not just about dollars, it’s also about the reform that is applied. In your opening questions you were asking whether we were spending too much and had too much debt. Now it’s a question about whether we’re not spending enough.
Loretta: Well becausewe haven’t been on aged care and we’ve seen the effects of that.
Simon Birmingham: And and that’s why we’re investing more in relation to aged care. But it’s also about the reform measures that are put in place.
Loretta: But it’s not really more is it? It’s $17.7 billion over five years. But the commission says it was underfunded, by about 10 billion a year.
Simon Birmingham: Well, the commission didn’t quite say that. That’s the figure being being thrown around by some others. So we’ve responded very directly to the recommendations of the royal commission. The commission said we should increase the daily rate per resident by 10 dollars, and we’re doing that. The commission said that we should look at minimum time in relation to the type of care that individuals face and we’re putting in place and funding minimum mandatory care requirements that will see an individual resident receive a minimum guarantee of 200 minutes of personal care per resident per day. At least 40 minutes of that being mandated to be by a registered nurse or investing in more than 33,000 additional training places in the aged care sector. And we’re investing in terms of a step up of the powers and the capability and resourcing and quality and safety regulators. We’re creating an extra 80,000 home care places to give people the choice to be able to stay at home and how they’ll be able to access support there. But making regulatory reforms in the way beds are allocated across the residential aged care sector so that good providers are able to grow their service offering faster. There’ll be a star rating system that the regulators are applying so people can have more transparency.
Loretta: Whenwill we see all these changes take effect, though?
Simon Birmingham: All these changes are forecast to be rolled out over the next couple of years. And we are moving quickly in that regard. The 80,000 additional home care places, for example, it’s another 40,000 this year and a further 40,000 next year. That’s why that investment in skills training is so important, because we have to make sure we’ve got the workforce to be able to deliver on this very significant step up in aged care support.
Craig: Just on those home care packages Minister, isn’t there already a waiting list of some 100,000 people who want one?
Simon Birmingham: There’s a waiting list slightly slightly below that or around that. But there is also an acceptance rate that actually runs below 100,000. So based on the based on the projections, the increased 80,000 places should largely clear that list. But also importantly, the royal commission recommended that there be a new home care model developed that can meet the needs of the nation. And that obviously that takes a period of time, and so we’ve put funding in place not just now, but enduring into the future for us to be able to establish new home care model by the 1st of July 2023. And that process will will commence and run through whilst we’re creating these additional places.
Craig: I know you’ve got interviews back to back this morning, Minister. A final quick one for you. How confident are you in the assumption that international borders will reopen by mid next year?
Simon Birmingham: That is just an assumption, an assumption to enable us to do the budget projections that are there. We haven’t taken that decision as a government yet because it will be highly conditional, completely conditional, frankly, on the health advice at the time. So it could be early. And we want borders to reopen as soon as we can, but no sooner than is safe to do so. And so we will continue to look at those health circumstances and and do that as quickly as we possibly can. But recognising we have to continue to keep Australians safe because those positive health outcomes are a key determinant of the positive economic outcomes that have got more Australians in jobs now than ever before.
Craig: Simon Birmingham, thanks so much for your time this morning.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks, guys. My pleasure.