Sylvia Jeffreys: Crisis in history, the government is on a mission to steer Australia out of the pandemic, dishing out a pre-election cash splash to supercharge the economy.
David Campbell: Finance Minister Simon Birmingham joins us now. Minister, great to have you on this morning. Job creation was on the top line for the 2020-21 Budget, with the Treasurer hoping to drive those jobless rates below 5 percent. Do you think that plan is achievable?
Simon Birmingham: Absolutely. This Budget plan is forecast very much with some cautious and conservative approaches put to it, in relation to our unemployment forecasts getting below 5 percent. They’re backed up by the fact that the Reserve Bank of Australia has forecast Australia’s unemployment could indeed get down to 4.5 percent, more ambitious than what we’re forecasting as of many other economic commentators. Elsewhere in the Budget, we’re taking a cautious and conservative approach to things like iron ore prices and indeed the questions around when international borders might reopen. Cautious assumptions underpinning the Budget, and so that people can have confidence that we have a clear plan here for economic growth, supporting continued jobs growth and being able to keep them safe from COVID while investing in essential services.
Sylvia Jeffreys: The aged care sector, we know it’s in dire need of reform. It’s one of the big winners set to be given a $17.7 billion boost. What is this major overhaul going to look like and when will residents start to see changes?
Simon Birmingham: So we’ll start to see changes pretty quickly. Funding will start to flow quickly and reforms will happen over the course of this year and next year and then some more structural reforms occurring beyond that. But the extra $10 per resident per day to lift the quality of care flowing through rapidly, the new mandated minimum requirements in relation to staff care that we’re going to implement, which will see 200 minutes per resident per day of guaranteed personal care, with 40 minutes of that to be delivered by a registered nurse. Reforms in terms of the safety, the quality, inspections, audits, greater transparency in reporting the outcomes of those, changes to the way bed licences are arranged so that we can see good providers grow and bad providers exit the system. These are all important reforms, plus an extra 80,000 home care places being made available to help ensure more choice for senior Australians about whether they access care in their own home or in a residential care setting.
David Campbell: But Minister we do know there’s more than 80,000 people that need help immediately, and that’s only going to get worse as we have this ageing population get older and older and live longer. What is in this Budget that’s going to help provide for that?
Simon Birmingham: So the 80,000 is delivered in two steps of 40,000 over the next two years. We’ve got to do it in a way where the workforce is actually going to be there to provide those services and we’re funding an extra 33,000 training places to put the workforce there. And we’ve accepted a recommendation of the Aged Care Royal Commission for a new home care model to be developed and implemented by the 1st of July 2023. So we’re putting in place extra places in the existing system and skilling and training the staff to deliver those and for ongoing reforms for the future. We want to make sure we do meet need and meet the expectations of Australians. But these are big and complicated reform areas, and so we have to, in accepting those recommendations of the royal commission, work through them methodically and that’s what this Budget has done across safety, across quality workforce and training, the availability of places and putting in place a system that hopefully people can have confidence in, be at home care or residential care.
Sylvia Jeffreys: The pressure is on families, that’s for sure and single parents looking to get into the property market. How will the Budget help them?
Simon Birmingham: So we do have this new measure in relation to single parents that’s going to provide an opportunity for people who save a 2 percent deposit on a home, to be able to receive government guarantee support so that they can get a mortgage without the need for mortgage insurance being in place. That’s a particular benefit for single parents. It’s building on top of policy that we put in place for first home buyers, that were similarly seeking to remove that 20 percent threshold that people had to get to, to be able to get a deposit to buy a home without facing the additional cost of mortgage insurance. This policy is working well, and so we’re extending it to single parent families to help them out. But we’re also doing other things to free up housing stock. Senior Australians will be able, if they sell the family home, to downsize from age 60 to take $300,000 of the sale proceeds, put that into their superannuation, which they get concessional tax rates around, which helps them of course, save for their retirement and enjoy a higher standard of living in retirement, but it also has the potential to free up more housing stock, more family homes for young families entering the marketplace.
David Campbell : Minister just quickly before you go, the Prime Minister this morning on the Today Show said that this is not going to be paid off for 10 years, this deficit, and that’s being hopeful, that’s being optimistic. Really, this massive spending, this spend-a-thon as everyone’s calling it, has come at a time surely when we need it, but we don’t know when borders are going to open. We don’t know when that extra money from overseas is going to come in to boost our economy more. Could this go longer? Are we kicking the can further down the road with this deficit?
Simon Birmingham: COVID-19 has been the biggest global economic shock since World War II. And of course, countries came out of World War II facing significant debts and with a significant challenge in terms of how they recovered. In Australia, we recovered in that post-war period by growing our economy strongly, by getting record numbers of people into jobs. And that’s the strategy we’re deploying for the post COVID era as well. Yes, to keep us safe and to save business and jobs across Australia, we’ve had to spend significantly to get through this crisis, and we still are. Europe is facing a double dip recession right now, and that’s why there’s another $40 billion worth of COVID response measures in this Budget alone to keep Australia safe in managing the pandemic. But our plan is to keep our economy strong through COVID and stronger still beyond it by growing jobs in sectors, through our digital economy strategy, through advanced manufacturing investments, through our Agriculture 2030 plan, through skilling Australians to create a more productive workforce and investment incentives for businesses, and this is all about making sure we have people in jobs, not on welfare, good paying jobs, productive economy, because that’s what generates the revenue that enables us to fund those services and to keep those debt levels under control.
David Campbell: Alright Minister we are out of time, but thank you for your time this morning. We appreciate it.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks so much. My pleasure.