Topic:  Minister for Trade needs outcomes from trip to China; Budget pressure on inflation; Labor’s poor housing policy;  

09:35AM AEST
Thursday, 11 May 2023


Journalist: What does Don Farrell need to get out of this trip to China?


Simon Birmingham: We need to see outcomes from this visit to China. There have been so many meetings now between the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Trade Minister with their Chinese counterparts. Talk is great and it’s wonderful talk resumed, but it’s time for outcomes, especially the removal of those tariffs on Australian barley and wine.


Journalist: Do you share his optimism that all of them could be gone by the end of the year?


Simon Birmingham: Well, I’d love to see China’s economic coercion against Australia end. Australian industry and business has shown enormous resilience against China’s attempts to see Australia change policy. And what we should see now is China lift all of their different impositions on Australia, on our barley, on our wine, on our seafood, on all of the other sectors that have felt that pain.


Journalist: What happens if Don comes back empty handed?


Simon Birmingham: It’ll be a great disappointment if this visit doesn’t yield anything because there’ve been so many talks, so many meetings and so much build up that this visit should be one where we see progress.


Journalist: Peter Dutton’s budget reply speech tonight. What do we expect from that? And also the Treasurer says this morning that, you know, you’ve got Angus Taylor on one hand saying that we shouldn’t have cost of living relief because it hikes inflation. Sussan Ley’s saying that, you know, we haven’t given people enough. He’s accused the Coalition of, I guess, sort of saying one thing and then saying another. What do you say to that?


Simon Birmingham: What we should have seen was a Government with a plan to reduce inflation, which would have helped all Australians, and that’s what the Opposition believes should have occurred and what we’ve been calling for. That if you actually lower the rate of inflation for everybody, then everybody is better off rather than just the few who get a handout.


Journalist: But these measures kind of do that in a way in that they’re not being- the money’s coming not as cash handouts and it’s being delivered over a longer period of time.


Simon Birmingham: Well, as the days have gone on since the budget, increasing numbers of economists and commentators have called out the claims by the Government that this is not inflationary. What we’ve actually seen is that now we’ve got Standard and Poor’s, UBS, Goldman Sachs, Chris Richardson and others all saying this will have an impact on inflation and make the prospect of interest rates being higher for longer, more likely. So, the risk of interest rates being higher for longer means that all Australians will end up being worse off, even those who do get the government handouts.


Journalist: Just to clarify. So, you would have preferred to see the Government not spend any money on cost of living relief?


Simon Birmingham: I would have much preferred to see the Government get inflation under control and make every Australian been better off rather than seeing some people get handouts. But everybody face higher prices.


Journalist: Just quickly on housing, what’s the problem with the Housing Future Fund?


Simon Birmingham: Well, the problem with Labor’s Housing Future Fund bill is that it’s a poorly thought-out piece of legislation. It isn’t going to achieve the type of outcomes that put any meaningful dent in the Australian housing market, but it is going to set up another new $10 billion government bank and which they say is going to run off budget. But everything they’re promising attached to it is going to actually mean that there’ll be a budget blow-out down the track.


Journalist: What does the Government actually do then on migration? Just quickly on the migration, what does the government need to do to build more housing for these migrants that are going to come in?


Simon Birmingham: The Government needs to sit down with the states and territories, with industry and actually have a clear plan for how they’re going to manage the infrastructure, the housing builds to ensure it actually aligns with migration numbers rather than simply hoping that it can catch up with what are huge migration numbers at present.