Topics: Budget in Reply; Ukraine military support


08:45PM AEST


Simon Birmingham: Australia is just weeks away from a federal election where Australians will choose. They’ll choose the future of our nation, they’ll choose who will govern our nation into the future. On Tuesday night this week, our government detailed our plans for the future. We demonstrated how our plans are working to keep Australia safe, strong and secure into the future. We detailed our plans and how they’re going to keep Australians in a position where jobs grow, where there are more opportunities for families, and where cost of living pressures come down. We outlined detailed plans for small business and for national security. We had a comprehensive agenda that showed how we invest in the essential services for Australians and we built upon our investment, our record investments in areas such as mental health and aged care. A $19.2 billion investment over two budgets that the Coalition has put into detailed plans in aged care alongside our detailed economic plans.

What we got tonight though, from the Labor Party was a complete failure of the test ahead of this election. Tonight was an opportunity for Anthony Albanese to show what his detailed plans are for the future. But they were completely lacking. Tonight was an opportunity for Anthony Albanese to clear up the confusion about the fact that he’s running a small target with no plans. But instead he only added to the confusion. Tonight’s demonstration from Anthony Albanese was a Labor Party devoid of any economic plans, with no demonstration as to how they would keep Australians in jobs or with job security or with lower taxes. This was a very shallow, poor performance from the Labor Party demonstrating that they have no economic plan, no jobs plan, no tax relief plan, no cost of living plan for Australians. Indeed, what we heard was simply a few sweeping promises from the Labor Party with no details on what they will cost or who will pay for it. It’s not good enough weeks away from an election to front up, make sweeping promises without detailing the cost of them and how they will be funded.

Our budget is fully clear and fully funded in terms of the fact that we are bringing down the levels of deficit for the future. We are investing in essential services. We are investing in national security. And we have the details in our small business policies, our manufacturing policies, our infrastructure policies to keep the economic growth going into the future. The contrast couldn’t be starker between Scott Morrison with a detailed plan for Australia’s future and Anthony Albanese with sweeping promises, completely uncosted, no detail of who will pay for them.

Tonight at the end of Anthony Albanese speech, Australians have no more idea about how much more tax they would be paying under Labor than they did before he started. But it’s clear from the nature of the promises that Labor would once again let spending get out of control. And with spending out of control, it’s always the case that Australians will end up paying higher taxes under a high spending Labor government.


Journalist: What’s wrong with an increase in wages for aged care workers? I mean, you’ve gone through a list of what you see as the flaws in his speech, but he is offering higher wages to aged care workers in the name of improving services for people in aged care homes. What’s wrong with that?


Simon Birmingham: David, perhaps there’s no more sweeping promise than that one. Did Anthony Albanese say how much those wage increases should be? No, he didn’t. Did he say how much he’s budgeting for those wage increases? No, he didn’t. Did he say how much they would cost overall or who would pay for them? No, he didn’t. It is a hollow promise with absolutely no detail attached to it. Indeed, there seems to be no effective costing for any of these promises. Anthony Albanese when on 7.30 just before and claimed that all of these promises were fully costed. Well, where are the costings? What are the details? Because he didn’t mention any of those costs in his speech tonight and there don’t appear to be any detailed costings underpinning this. Yet, promises of that nature can come at enormous additional cost and clearly no plan to pay for it.


Journalist: So the unions are asking for a pay rise across aged care that’s going to go to the Fair Work Commission. At least Labor says that they deserve something and that they’ll get whatever the Fair Work Commission decides. Would you allow whatever the Fair Work Commission decides to go ahead and would you contribute anything to it at all?


Simon Birmingham: We’ve always said we’ll support the determination of the independent umpire. That’s not in doubt. We, of course. Back that process. But we’re not prejudging the process and we’re not holding out some sort of false hope for people without actually putting details alongside it. That’s what Anthony Albanese has done tonight. Made a promise with no details.


Journalist: Labor would say to the aged care sector if the Fair Work Commission gives, decides on a pay rise. We’ll help fund it. But what would the Government do? Not funded it at all? Expecting industry to fund it all on its own?


Simon Birmingham: David, we’ll deal with those issues if and when they come. We increased funding into aged care across last year’s budget. In this year’s budget by $19.2 billion. That included increased daily rates that are flowing through to help providers with their costs. It included comprehensive responses to the Royal Commission, including minimum care time for residents, including minimum nursing time for residents. We’ve addressed many of these issues quite comprehensively, but even perhaps more stark in terms of the aged care contrast. We also addressed home care. The Morrison government has worked following on from previous years to more than triple the number of home care places in Australia. In last year’s budget, adding a further 80,000 additional home care places. And we’re doing that because we believe that older Australians deserve choice, choice and support to stay in their own homes or to achieve and live in quality residential care. Both of those are valid options. There was not a word around home care tonight because of course all Anthony Albanese is doing is pandering to the health services union and the demands they have set down in relation to what they expect. And if they don’t get what they expect, they’ve said they’ll withhold campaign funding from the Labor Party. That’s how you end up with vague promises that are uncosted simply to pander to unions.


Journalist: He did say that he would support what the workers are calling for at the [indistinct]. Does your government support [indistinct]?


Simon Birmingham: We will let the Fair Work Commission do its work independently based on the evidence. That’s what we do across all aspects of cases that go towards the Fair Work Commission. The challenge here though is will Anthony Albanese actually budget for it? Will he say how much he’s going to commit to it? Because at present he’s not doing that. And what you got tonight is simply a series of sweeping promises with no details on what they will cost and no details on who will pay for it.


Journalist: Labor is promising around the clock care. Nurses in aged care homes. The Government’s accepted recommendation from the Royal Commission to do that by 2024. Do you think that could be met earlier? You could have a round the clock care from nurses in aged care homes before then?


Simon Birmingham: Well, our comprehensive response to the Aged Care Royal Commission included investment in workforce and training places, recognising the fact that you couldn’t just make those sorts of promises without creating the additional workforce to deliver them. And this is part of the false promise that Anthony Albanese is offering. Pretending none of this costs anything and pretending that it’s all just easily done, when in fact you’ve got to invest the details, invest into the details of skilling up the workforce to achieve the numbers, to meet those sorts of targets. But yes, we in responding to the Aged Care Royal Commission, absolutely supported minimum care time in terms of what residents receive, minimum nursing time in terms of what residents receive. We see those as important reforms and we’re already delivering those reforms.


Journalist: Are you concerned that the aged care staff who are going to benefit from this pay rise that Labor is pledging to give them will be more inclined to vote for the Opposition at the election because the Government isn’t willing to offer that same assurance?


Simon Birmingham: I think there will be many millions of Australians who are worried about the fact that Labor’s promises, with no costings attached to them but multi-billion dollar price tags that would eventuate will result in them paying higher taxes. Will result in Australia having even higher deficits and debt in the future. Australians have seen this show before where Labor make these brand promises, the costs of them blow out enormously and Australians end up paying higher taxes as a result. There were no commitments to keep taxes lower tonight. Australians can only trust the Coalition to deliver lower income taxes, as we’ve done. Lower small business taxes, as we’ve done. More support for Australian businesses to invest and to create more jobs, as we’ve done.


Journalist: President Zelensky asked today in his address to Parliament for more armoured vehicles and more armour as well. Is this something the Government would consider a consider providing to Ukraine on top of the announcement made by Scott Morrison today?


Simon Birmingham: We made the decision in an announcement today in relation to a further $25 million of military support to Ukraine. And that’s coming on top of the millions of dollars we’ve committed and deployed already. We’ll continue to work closely with Ukraine in terms of what Australia can most practically and most beneficially provide to support Ukraine. And that has been in the form already of missiles, of protective equipment. Support in a range of ways and we’ll keep working through that.


Journalist: Do armoured vehicles fit in that?


Simon Birmingham: Well, it’s got to be it’s got to be something that can be practically and effectively and efficiently delivered. The $25 million we’ve committed today in terms of additional support are things that we know we can get on the ground to provide assistance as fast as it’s necessary.


Journalist: Do we have Bushmaster to give? That’s what he asked for specifically.


Simon Birmingham: They’re matters that I’ll let Defence handle. But nobody should doubt the financial support we’re providing with an extra $25 million provided today.


Journalist: If you’re Government is re-elected will you match the promises for the aged care sector that Anthony Albanese made tonight?


Simon Birmingham: We’re not going to match uncosted and unfunded promises. We have a detailed $19.2 billion commitment, a detailed plan underpinning that, that supports more choice for senior Australians, access to home care places, access to quality residential aged care. The support for a workforce that has minimum care minutes for Australian residents to receive minimum care time in terms of nursing care that they receive. Significant step up in areas of quality accreditation and insurance. Stronger cop on the beat to make sure we get the best in our aged care sector. Ours is a truly detailed and fully funded plan. Labor’s is just a series of hollow promises with no costings, no details and certainly no detail of who will pay for them. Thanks everyone.