Matt Shirvington: Finance Minister Simon Birmingham joins us from Adelaide. Good morning to you. Minister, well before that Budget drops, what do you say to families who are struggling to make ends meet at the moment?
Simon Birmingham: Hello, Matt. Thanks for the opportunity. Look, we know that for some Australian families, filling the car up at present is a tough exercise and we certainly know that the pressures are real ones. It’s why throughout our term in government we’ve sought to make sure that we put more disposable income into the pockets of Australian households and families. We’ve done that through tax cuts, tax cuts that are providing around one and a half billion dollars extra a month into Australian households. And that means for somebody earning about $90,000, it’s about $50 extra per week that they are receiving than they would have under a Labor government thanks to our tax cuts. Equally, we’ve worked on electricity prices, driving them down by about 8% over the last two years after the years of increases that had occurred under previous Labor governments. So we are very conscious of this and as we frame the budget now in less than two weeks, we’ll always be looking for the opportunities to keep the jobs growth going, which has been remarkable in Australia, but also to make sure that we ease any pressures wherever we possibly can.
Matt Shirvington: Yeah, cost cutting is fantastic. More jobs is great. Obviously as we head to an election, the policy debate heavily focussed on rising prices. But what about trying to get more money into the back pockets of Australians with wages? Can you see them growing faster in the near future?
Simon Birmingham: So the budget update we provided at the end of last year shows wages growth, real wages growth in each of the forward years. So that’s a sign that our policies are working in terms of achieving projections for that real wages growth. That’s on top of the jobs growth. We’ve achieved 1.7 million additional jobs across Australia since we were elected and Australia’s economy withstanding these challenges better than most. We’ve grown faster than any of the other major G7 nations and indeed even when it comes to things such as petrol prices or inflation, our inflation rate is running around half that of the United States. Our petrol prices are in the bottom quarter or thereabouts amongst developed countries in terms of prices. So I know it’s tough out there, but relative to many other parts of the world, Australia is performing better and that gives us the chance to keep looking for how we can support households like we’ve done through tax cuts.
Matt Shirvington: Minister, just quickly, around $0.44 a litre in excise on fuel. Will you cut it?
Simon Birmingham: Well, the budget is in less than two weeks. So we’re finalising all of those decisions. Those decisions have got to be done in ways that don’t add to pressure on interest rates. We’re a Liberal government, we want to keep interest rates as low as we possibly can and we know that there’s pressure from the US and elsewhere for rises back to a more normal level. So we’ve got to be very careful in handling all of these issues. But households should rest assured as a Liberal government we’ll look to provide them with that additional disposable income to constrain government spending and help them wherever we possibly can. And that’s at the forefront of our budget thinking.
Matt Shirvington: Simon Birmingham, thank you.