Topic: Budget 2021-22




Carrie Bickmore: Finance Minister Simon Birmingham may be better placed to answer that question than Chad, and he joins us now. Minister, let’s start with women. Would these same measures have been introduced had it not been for the national reckoning we’ve seen in recent months?


Simon Birmingham: I’m confident the majority of them would have been. There’s no doubt that what’s occurred across the country has heightened awareness and indeed raised further understanding, importantly, in the eyes of many, many people. But if you look at the work we’ve been doing in terms of delivery of the National Action Plan in relation to domestic violence, the actions on women’s safety in this budget build upon that work. If you look at the reforms we applied to child care only a couple of years ago, providing a big lift in terms of funding there. The reforms we’ve announced in this budget, build on that in a very targeted way to help those families who need it most in terms of being able to make the choice to access work. And so I think these reforms that are all very important, but they do build on many existing programs.


Tommy Little: You are the Finance Minister. But I do notice that all my friends are talking about Crypto. Everything in the budget seems to be Australian dollars. This has been an oversight?


Simon Birmingham: Well, we do tend to budget in Australian dollars, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. But we did announce a digital economy strategy in the lead up to this budget, and that really focuses on areas like artificial intelligence and how Australia can leverage capability there, skilling opportunities in terms of that growth sector of the economy as well. And it’s part of the high tech sectors that we’re backing in here. The patent box reform in this budget is about a tax measure to help biotechnology, medical technologies not just be innovated in Australia, but be commercialised and manufactured in Australia. So we’re trying to back some of those sectors and who knows maybe Crypto one day.


Tommy Little: I’ll be honest, it was a joke question. I did not expect you to have a serious answer. I do have a serious question for you, though. There are a lot of workers around this country who have been waiting a long time for a pay rise. It seems with this budget, that’s not going to happen. How long can they expect to wait before they get a rise in their wage?


Simon Birmingham: To our living in in times, of course, with record low interest rates, very, very low inflation accompanying those record low interest rates. What we’ve been doing to make sure we put more money in the pockets of Australian families and households is to deliver tax breaks for them. And we’ve done that again in this year’s budget as part of our plan to make sure we maintain that consumer confidence and also over the long term to get wages growth happening again. It’s all about driving unemployment down, driving it down below five per cent in a sustained way for the first time ever, which can then create the tension in the wages market. And look, we’ve got numbers of people employed in Australia back up above where it was pre pandemic. We’re the first country in the developed world, in the advanced world to be able to actually achieve that recovery back to pre pandemic employment levels-


Waleed Aly: But on that point, if that’s true, then why the wage stagnation, if it’s about unemployment and saying we’ve got record levels of employment, we should be seeing wages go up?


Simon Birmingham: We have seen over recent months the Reserve Bank of Australia, the Treasury, have released papers looking at what they see as the theoretical level of full employment in Australia. And they now say that what they previously forecast is being around the five per cent or so mark, being down around four and a half or so. So that’s why we’ve had to invest in growing not just in the digital economy, but advanced manufacturing strategies, our Ag 2030 strategy. They’re all part of the plan to get another two hundred and fifty thousand jobs created and to see by the end of next year that unemployment rate getting below five per cent and then holding it below that for a period of time to create that wages pressure. But in the meantime, the tax reforms continue, including getting the vast majority of Australians onto a tax rate no higher than 30 cents in the dollar.


Peter Helliar: Birmo, just quickl before we let you go, quick performance review. How do you see your traditional banter budget banter with Josh Frydenberg? So we have a little clip.




Peter Helliar: Had you met Josh Frydenberg before that?


Simon Birmingham: I think far too much time on the on the budget content, not enough on the choreography. As you say, next year we’re going to have to work on our moves just a little bit beforehand too.


Waleed Aly: Do you like how he pointed out it was your first?


Simon Birmingham: His third if we are keeping count. I won’t go there otherwise.


Waleed Aly: No, the numbers were very clear on that story.


Tommy Little: That explains why it was so awkward if it was a first.


Waleed Aly: We’ll leave it there Minister.


Simon Birmingham: Can always feel a little strange the first time.