Topic(s): Labor’s failed China policy; business support;
Charles Croucher: Well, next week of course China becomes the focus of the sporting world as the eyes turn to the Winter Olympics. But China is also the focus of domestic politics in Australia. Senior members of the Mid Coast saying that Anthony Albanese, the Labor leader doesn’t have the ticker to stand up to China. Joining us to discuss is Finance Minister Simon Birmingham and shadow treasurer Labor MP Jim Chalmers. Gentlemen, good morning to you both from China. Simon I will start with you. You’re a former trade minister. You know the importance of unit when it comes to foreign policy. Given all the rhetoric going on in this election year can these accusations be taken seriously about Anthony Albanese?
Simon Birmingham: Charles, it’s Anthony Albanese’s own words where he seemed to indicate he was only interested in standing up for some Australian industries in dealings with China. China has been terribly unfair in terms of the punitive, coercive approach it’s taken to a number of Australian industries. We don’t want to leave any of them behind. We are not going leave behind Queensland’s beef producers who are doing it tough in terms of approvals through abattoirs to actually send product to China. We are not going to leave behind the barley industry or wine industry facing punitive tariffs and sanctions there. We’re not going to leave behind the seafood sector who face challenges. All of these industries and others deserve to have a government who is 110% committed to standing up for them, their right to have all of their opportunities to trade with China defended and of course those opportunities should be upheld in accordance with the trade deals that Australia has done with China. We’ve been very clear, very consistent with China in that. We’ve taken action to the World Trade Organisation in response to that. We will maintain that strong line as well as the type of investments in Australia’s national security that are so essential to protect Australia in the years ahead.
Charles Croucher: So Jim, is Labor soft on China?
Jim Chalmers: Of course not. Simon should be better than repeating the rubbish we heard and read in ‘The Australian’ yesterday. Anthony Albanese was asked about this during the week. He answered it as a real Prime Minister should. He said, China’s becoming more aggressive and more assertive. We want to see those trade sanctions withdrawn and we don’t want to play politics with such an important relationship when our national economic interest is at lay here and at risk here. That’s how a real leader deals with this issue. What we’re seeing and we will see now between now and the election more of these ridiculous scare campaigns. This is what happens when a government can’t run on its economic record because for almost a decade now had stagnant wages and record debt with not enough to show for it. They can’t run on the economy now because skyrocketing price, cost of living at the same time as real wages are going backwards. They can’t run on the management of the pandemic because they didn’t order enough tests and created this summer from hell and forgot a healthy economy relies on having healthy people. We will see more and more of this focus on Anthony. You would think after a decade in office the government would have something positive to say. They don’t have a plan for the future. So we will hear more of it. Australians will see it for what it is which is a shotty attempt to distract from the Government’s own failures.
Jayne Azzopardi:: Hi guys, it’s Jayne here. I want to get to some of the domestic issues at the moment. One of the stories we’re following at the moment is the NSW government support package for business. Simon the state’s treasurer absolutely slamming you guys and your government for not chipping in this morning. Here is what he said to us.
[EXCERPT] Well, I’m very disappointed. I would like to be making this announcement with Treasurer Frydenberg and Prime Minister Morrison. Because these aren’t just NSW businesses they’re Australian businesses. So, the national government is the one best placed to step in and help out. In their absence we’re having to step up to the plate and do our bit to preserve those businesses and help the national economy. [END OF EXCERPT]
Simon, those aren’t the words of a Labor state treasurer. That is a Liberal Party state treasurer. Why is the Federal Government leaving the states to do all the heavy lifting?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I completely reject that part of the question there. We’re definitely not. We’ve provided more than $300 billion in support for the economy to get businesses through COVID-19. More than $63 billion has gone into NSW alone. $63 billion of Federal Government support for NSW. Now, I welcome the fact that states and territories want to play catch-up, want to help out and want to do their bit. That is absolutely welcome and I encourage them to do that. I note the South Australian government announced a package yesterday. They did so, coming to the party doing their bit and without calling or criticising on the Federal Government because they know that what we’re doing to support the economy right across the country is in providing greater support for businesses through the lost carry back arrangements there in the tax system. Greater support in terms of driving business investment. Record investment in our construction sector that’s fuelling jobs across the country including in NSW. They know we’re providing billions of dollars in assistant flowing into Australian households in pandemic leave disaster assistant payments and the like. This idea somehow there’s not Federal Government support is rubbish. The Labor Party I’m sure Jim will say, yes, they should be chipping in. They of course at every instance said we should spend even more. It’s not unusual for a state to say they want more federal money. But the Commonwealth and the Federal Government is firmly at the table providing $300 billion plus of assistance into Australian businesses and households which has helped our economy to have one of the best outcomes globally in getting through COVID-19. And sees us with an unemployment rate standing at 4.2% some of the lowest we have ever seen.
Jayne Azzopardi: Jim if you were in charge would you be adding Federal Government money to the state pool?
Jim Chalmers: Look, clearly the workers and small businesses of this country need support. When the workers and small businesses of NSW in this case needed the Prime Minister and Treasurer to step up instead as usual Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have slunk away. This is a government that doesn’t take responsibility and in this case there’s so much pressure on workers and employers right around Australia and particularly I think in Sydney and NSW because of the mistakes made by the Morrison government. You would think having made this mess they would at least be part of conversation about fixing it up. Now, whenever there is a suggestion the government should step in and help clean up the mess they have made. You hear like Simon just said then it would somehow be wasteful spending. I’ll tell you what is wasteful spending. Spraying around all this money on sports rorts and car park rorts and all the rest of it. Giving JobKeeper to businesses that didn’t need it has meant denying businesses and workers that still need government support, that crucial support. So the state governments once again whether it’s Labor or Liberal right around Australia we’re seeing state governments having to step up because Scott Morrison always goes missing.
Jayne Azzopardi: Well, we had plenty more questions for both of you but we have run out of time. Thank you for your time this morning. Dickie, I know you also had political questions but I’m going to throw you some entertainment ones instead.