Doorstop interview, Adelaide
Topics: Decentralisation; Bill Shorten’s Budget reply; Mayo by-election

Simon Birmingham: I’m thrilled to be at the Golden Grove Primary School today in recognition of the fact that the Turnbull Government has reinvested in the National School Chaplaincy Program, providing important support to children around Australia in terms of anti-bullying support, counselling support and very valuable assistance during challenging times.

It’s also a day on which we note the fact that one of our Budget decisions consistent with the decentralisation agenda has been to shift a couple of agencies into Adelaide and South Australia. The National Rural Health Commissioner, along with the registry for the delivery and recognition of VET qualifications, is of course about putting more jobs into Adelaide, ensuring that this great city that I love to live in is a city that is supported in terms of growth opportunities, highly skilled job opportunities, and that where we can, we get public servants in the public service out of Canberra more in touch with the rest of the country and what better place than Adelaide for some. Of course, others are going into a range of other settings in Western Sydney and parts of regional Australia as part of a coordinated effort to ensure that we have an effective redeployment of public servants, where we can, to get that diversity reach.

I also wanted to quickly touch on unbelieva-Bill’s budget response last night. And what we see from the Labor Party is that they want to pretend to the Australian people that everybody can have their cake and eat it too. But Australians are too smart for that. They know that when something looks and sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. And certainly across the education and training landscape, what we see is that Labor are all talk but absolutely no substance. That in the early years, in early childhood education, in pre-school, there are an endless stream of press releases that would be taller than me if you stack them up one upon another claiming that Labor cares, that they’re undertaking consultation and that they see that there are problems. Yet they have no alternative policy and it didn’t even rate a mention last night in early childhood education, in child care services, or in pre-school.

The Turnbull Government, however, is delivering with comprehensive reforms to child care starting from July this year with ongoing support for pre-school services, but also a real commitment to make sure that we address the problems in pre-school where not enough children are attending for the hours they’re enrolled. Elsewhere, Labor is simply throwing money around like confetti – across schools, across universities, across the TAFE sector. They make big promises, but there’s no substance. Bill Shorten used to say he was for needs-based school funding. Now it’s just a great big lump sum promise with no needs-based distribution formula attached to it. They pretend that there are no efficiencies to be found in universities and simply make grand promises, throwing billions of dollars into a system where it is clear there are efficiencies in marketing, in administration, and the research and evidence backs that up. And in relation to TAFE, what they’re doing seems to be making a promise to give more money to state governments with no clarity about what courses, how much will be subsidised, or whether in fact there’ll be a single extra place created. But we do know that the last time the Labor Party played in the vocational education space all we got was the disastrous VET FEE-HELP program that subsidised everything from energy healing to basket weaving and saw billions of taxpayer dollars rorted and tipped down the sink.

Question: Senator, you say unbelieva-Bill, but isn’t Bill Shorten providing low and middle income earners with more money in their pockets sooner than the Coalition will?

Simon Birmingham: This is the magic pudding of it all. Bill Shorten says he’s going to spend billions of dollars, give billions of dollars in tax cuts, bring the Budget back to balance faster. Australians are smarter than that. They know that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. Bill Shorten looks and sounds like a desperate man making desperate promises because of course he feels the pressure of this week, and he has no responsibility in his approach. He’s happy to make endless promises for spending, endless promises to give money away, when of course what the nation needs and deserves is responsibility and people who will stick to a plan, and the Turnbull Government’s shown that we will stick to a plan to deliver a stronger economy which is boosting government revenues in a way that allows us to get the Budget back to surplus, to do so faster than had previously been forecast; to give people tax relief, but to do it in a responsible way that keeps the economy strong and keeps jobs growing.

Question: But how can they trust you’ve got a plan when there’s such a long time period over when it’s going to be delivered?

Simon Birmingham: Well, Australians can trust the Turnbull Government to deliver on our plan. We promised jobs and growth at the last election and we’ve had record jobs growth, more than 417,000 jobs created across Australia over the last year and that is the highest on record. We have the highest level of female workforce participation in Australia’s history. We’ve got the longest run of consecutive monthly jobs growth in Australia’s history. The Turnbull Government has demonstrated that as we work to a plan of a strong economy we deliver with jobs, we’re delivering with balancing the Budget, and we will deliver with tax relief.

Question: Just on the Mayo by-election. Has Georgina Downer officially put her hand up for that spot now?

Simon Birmingham: My clear understanding is that Georgina Downer intends to nominate, but we will have a full and proper preselection process. Nominations will close at 5:00 PM on Monday, and then assuming there’s more than one nomination, the 600-plus party members, Liberal Party members in Mayo, will be invited to come and select the best man or woman for the job and then we’ll get on with campaigning and giving the people of Mayo a real choice to be part of the government again, to focus on the delivery of that plan, rather than potentially re-endorsing somebody who has not ruled out making Bill Shorten Prime Minister, and somebody who has voted with the Labor Party and Greens against national security measures, against tax relief, and in favour of a range of other things that are to the detriment of Australia.

Question: So, would Miss Downer have your support even though she hasn’t lived in the electorate for many, many years?

Simon Birmingham: Georgina Downer is highly skilled, highly capable and if she were to be elected as the member for Mayo, she’d be an outstanding local representative, as well as a powerful future leader for the state. But of course, who the Liberal Party candidate is, lies in the hands of the Liberal Party members in Mayo. I’ll respect their decision. I’ll look forward to campaigning with whoever that candidate is, but we will then be campaigning long and hard to encourage the people of Mayo to back our plan, to keep delivering a stronger economy, jobs, tax relief, balanced Budget, essential services. And we know though that that will be a tough campaign, a difficult campaign. Governments don’t usually win by-elections off of independents or minor parties and so we go into it knowing that we’re going to have to work incredibly hard day in, day out.

Question: Do you know of any other Mayo Liberals that intend to nominate?

Simon Birmingham: I hear a few names around the traps, but that’s up to each and every individual to confirm for themselves if they’re going to put their hands up.