Topics: Labor’s decision not to support full tax package; IR reform; Israel Folau.



Simon Birmingham: Today the Labor Party made the extraordinary decision that they were not going to support the entirety of the Coalition Government’s plans for tax relief. And today Jim Chalmers has indicated that they may even seek to roll back parts of the tax plan that have already been legislated. You’ve got to wonder what message if at all the Labor Party heard from the Federal Election that occurred just five weeks ago. There is a clear message for Anthony Albanese and the entire Australian Labor Party; wake up, hear the sentiment of the Australian people who want lower taxes not higher taxes. Recognise the agenda you took to the last election of having higher taxes was roundly rejected by the Australian people. Get on board with the fact that the Coalition has a comprehensive plan to lower taxes on Australians, to make sure that it is more competitive to work in Australia, to make sure that people get to keep more of their hard earned income in their pockets rather than going into the tax pocket and to make sure that we don’t become one of the least competitive countries in the world in terms of the income tax rates that hardworking Australians face.


Labor need to go back and reconsider the decision that was taken yesterday. Jim Chalmers needs to go back and rethink the idea that they would roll back somehow the tax cuts. There is one measure that they seem to be disputing about our remaining elements of our tax relief plan and that’s the measure to simply reduce the thirty two and a half cent in the dollar rate down to 30 cents in the dollar. But the Labor Party ought to step up and support that because Australians earning wages from $45,000 upwards will benefit from that plan and they ought to make sure they have the certainty for the future and to be able to plan their working lives to know there’s going to be a fairer tax system in place for the future.


Journalist: How are the negotiations with Senators going and would you be confident of winning enough Senate support without the support of the Labor Party?


Simon Birmingham: We’re not letting the Labor Party off the hook, we will talk to every senator who wants to talk as we always do. But the Labor Party ought to…


Journalist: Isn’t there enough support without them though?


Simon Birmingham: Well the Labor Party ought to hear the message from the Australian people and get on board and support the tax plans that we’ve put forward that were endorsed by the Australian people. We’re not doing this just because we won the election, we’re doing this because it was a promise that we made to the Australian people that we would lower taxes, that we would reform the income tax system and the Australian people expect their government to deliver on that promise. Now I hope every senator ends up voting for it but the Labor Party can’t just walk away from it and pretend it’s the problem for the Senate crossbench. This is something that as the alternative party of government, they ought to support and they are to have heard that message.


Journalist: Are you confident that Jacqui Lambie will vote for it and not with Centre Alliance?


Simon Birmingham: Well Jacqui is her own person and she’s coming back to this place with a strong mandate from the people of Tasmania who of course swung significantly to the Liberal Party sending additional Liberal Party representatives back to the Parliament. Now we’ll have as I say constructive conversations with everybody, it will be good to work with Jackie back here again. But this isn’t about the Senate crossbench, this is about the fact that the Labor Party having received and copped the lowest vote for the Labor Party in 100 years of Labor contesting federal elections, the lowest vote in 100 years and yet they still haven’t heard the message that the Australian people want lower taxes not higher taxes. What does it take?


Journalist: Does that vote for the Liberal Party in Tasmania put pressure on Jacqui Lambie to vote with you?


Simon Birmingham: Well look we will have a lot of constructive discussions with every one of the crossbench senators and we’re not going to start applying pressure to them through the media or any other means. But the Labor Party ought to feel the pressure because in the end they’re the ones who saw their vote collapse. If a vote, if getting the lowest vote in 100 years isn’t enough for the Labor Party to wake up to itself then what’s it going to take for them to realise the Australian people want lower taxes not higher taxes.


Journalist: What does the government think about the high number of Australian people who are currently donating to Israel Folau’s employment contract test case and what does it say about the number of people who think that their religious freedoms and their civic freedoms are being steadily eroded? 


Simon Birmingham: Well the Government’s worked through a cautious and careful program as to how we will address religious freedoms in Australia. There was a Senate committee that handed down bipartisan recommendations in relation to the need for religious freedoms legislation in Australia. There was then the Ruddock review that did likewise, we asked the Australian Law Reform Commission to work in relation to a model for that and the Attorney-General’s going through very cautious consultations with different sectors to make sure we get that right and provide the same sort of framework for individuals that guarantees nobody can be discriminated against in relation to their religious beliefs, just as nobody ought to be discriminated against in relation to their gender, their sexuality, their age, or the factors.


Journalist: But specifically Israel Folau, what does it say about this case that so many people have donated?


Simon Birmingham: Look it’s a high profile case and in the end our role as the government is to think about and make sure that we have the right anti-discrimination laws in Australia, to protect all Australians. As for that case, look everybody is entitled to have their claim, to have a day court to have…


Journalist: Is it a test case?


Simon Birmingham:  Well I’ll leave that for the lawyers to argue in terms of what is actually heard in the legal argument.


Journalist: Should have ‘Go Fund Me’ in your view, should have ended effectively (indistinct) from raising money? 


Simon Birmingham: They are a private company and they are welcome to make whatever decisions they make. They also have to wear the consequences of whatever decisions they make in terms of their commercial operation.


Journalist: Do you think Peter Dutton would have been elected as PM?


Simon Birmingham: Well I think we’ll never know the answer to that question and what we did see was the Australian people voted clearly for Scott Morrison and gave the Labor Party the lowest primary vote in 100 years. And that’s a message for the Labor Party to wake up to.


Journalist: Speaking of employment law, Luke Howarth this morning on Sky said he’d like to see small businesses given the right to hire and fire more. Do you agree with his comments?


Simon Birmingham: Look I think we have in Australia employment laws where we see some unions, the CFMEU in particular that are out of control at present in terms of repeat law-breaking and our number one priority is to get them back under control and to make sure that we have integrity in the operation of those sorts of industrial organisations. The Prime Minister spelled out a very clear framework yesterday in terms of how any future industrial relations reform ought to be considered. Firstly, that it’s got to benefit workers and employees whilst also increasing productivity and efficiency in the way those workplace laws operate and if business can bring forward proposals that meet those preconditions the PM set down, well then we’ll look at them.


Journalist: Scott Morrison previously refused to talk about this issue like when asked by the media he just would not go there on industrial relations and now one of the first things he’s announced is a review to speak with business about how they can make it more efficient. Was there a secret IR plan that you guys did not take to the Australian people? 


Simon Birmingham: Absolutely not, I mean the PM gave a comprehensive speech around economic management and leadership yesterday in WA and in that speech he spelled out the priority we have in terms of tax relief as part of our economic agenda. In terms of trade, engagement is part of our economic agenda, in terms of red tape reduction is part of our economic agenda and indeed in terms of industrial relations is part of our economic agenda. And all he did there was identify where we have clear priorities which is in relation to integrity of industrial organisations and if people want to bring forward other proposals for change, the preconditions for that change that he has in terms of ensuring benefits to workers and efficiency and productivity across the system. 


Journalist: Peter Dutton has claimed that he was the deputy leadership after he ousted Turnbull. 


Simon Birmingham: Well that’s a matter for those who think they were part of the conversation at the time.


Journalist: So could you rule out unfair dismissal laws being included in this review?


Simon Birmingham: Well there’s not a review.


Journalist: Sorry…


Simon Birmingham: It is not a review, the PM spelled out very clearly preconditions for any changes to industrial relations laws, around making sure there are benefits for workers making sure we get productivity gains and beyond that it’s a matter…


Journalist: But that is a review though?


Simon Birmingham: No.


Journalist: This is semantics. You’re wanting business to bring a case for the changes and you’re  encouraging them to do it. That’s a review.


Simon Birmingham: People are welcome to bring forward changes to any proposal of legislation at any time across any area whether or not a government takes it seriously, depends upon whether it meets the test the government sets. And in this case the PM’s laid out very clearly the preconditions in relation to IR. Thanks guys.