Topics: Government not addressing cost of living pressures; Fuel excise; TikTok;





Simon Birmingham: Anthony Albanese went to the election, promising full employment, real wages growth, productivity gains. He comes out of this Jobs and Skills Summit, seemingly fixated on giving the trade union movement what their number one demand was. Even though business didn’t actually support that number one demand. That demand, of course, was for there to be a form of collective bargaining re-established across enterprises and workplaces. And this is a return to policies that Paul Keating had got rid of. It runs the risks of strike action across businesses, infecting one business to another regardless of the enterprise conditions in some of those other businesses.

This is a very concerning and troubling proposition, because what it risks is a drop in productivity, a drop in workplace conditions and outcomes across the economy. What it risks is that ultimately this government pursues industrial relations policies via these reforms, forcing businesses into these arrangements. Or potentially the abolition of the Building and Construction Commission, which actually harm our economy and in harming our economy hurt outcomes for workers’ jobs right across the board.


Journalist: Senator, should the halving of the fuel excise be continued beyond the end of this month?


Simon Birmingham: Well, the policy to cut the fuel excise was put in place by the previous coalition government at a time when oil prices were very, very high and it was done so to address that particular cost of living pressure. We’ve seen some of those oil prices come down a bit and stabilised over time. But we’ve seen other inflationary pressures rise. So with this reduction in fuel excise coming to an end, it is for the Government to explain what else they are going to do to actually help Australians with the cost of living pressures they now face and that they’re facing in a range of other ways beyond those in fuel excise alone.


Journalist: If you were still in government, would you be recommending that this be continued?


Simon Birmingham: Well, we’re not in government, unfortunately. We no doubt would have continued to put a strong emphasis on helping Australians with cost of living pressures. It’s what we did in government, what we would have continued to do. But it’s now for this Government, the Albanese Labor Government, to explain what is it they are going to do to help Australians with the cost of living, given they seem to be letting this fuel excise cut come to an end.


Journalist: Senator, the Government is lifting the pension rate as well as the jobseeker rate, as well. Do you welcome that as an adequate response?


Simon Birmingham: Well, this is the standard indexation of pensions and allowances. And of course that standard indexation that is in law and has long been in law should be happening.


Journalist: One more. Just quickly on TikTok. Obviously, the government, the Home Affairs Minister is now examining the app as part of a broader inquiry for interference. Do you have concerns about the reach of TikTok, a Chinese operated app in Australia?


Simon Birmingham: There are definitely concerns about the way in which data harvesting occurs, the potential for other.


Simon Birmingham: Forms of monitoring or the like. And so it is critical that our security agencies and others take a very close look at it and provide clear advice and information around how TikTok is best managed. And managed in a way that protects Australians. I’m all for freedom of speech, all for the opportunity for people to be able to engage appropriately and freely on social media platforms. But it does have to be done with a national security lens over the top of it to make sure that there aren’t undue risks to Australians.


Journalist: Sorry, back to the fuel excise when it’s restored to its full amount. Will that add to inflationary pressures?


Simon Birmingham: Well, the cut in excise that occurred at the time and did have a deflationary impact in terms of reducing, to an extent, the rate of inflation. Clearly, the restoration of that, as well as the indexation of it that’s now going to occur, will add to inflationary pressures. So just putting petrol prices back up will cause inflation to be higher. And of course the flow through of those higher petrol prices across the economy will cause the cost of other goods to be higher too.


Journalist: Some have suggested that the Coalition government left a bit of a poison pill in the budget for the Labor government in relation to this. What do you say to that?


Simon Birmingham: We addressed at the point in time the spike in oil prices that we were seeing around the world. They were much higher at that time and than they had been in recent times. And so we acted to deal with the spike at that time. What we’ve seen since then is other inflationary pressures build across the economy. That’s why the government, if they’re letting this reduction in fuel excise come to an end needs to outline what else they’re going to do to help Australians with the other cost of living pressures that are involved since that time.


Journalist: Some have suggested that stage three tax cuts should be ditched so that this can be extended. What do you think of that suggestion?


Simon Birmingham: Well, you don’t manage to help Australians with the cost of living by taxing them more, which is what the consequence would be getting rid of further future tax cuts. Thanks, guys.