Scott Emerson: Federal budget is only less than three weeks away now, and we’re joined now on the line by the Federal Finance Minister, Simon Birmingham. Minister, thanks for being on 4BC Drive.
Simon Birmingham: Hello, Scott. It’s great to be with you again.
Scott Emerson: Now, the budget’s not far away at all. We are already seeing rumours circulating around the one in the papers today, particularly was this idea of tax rebates. You did have some tax rebates in place for COVID for certain wage earners. There was talk about, of course, that was going to end. But the talk in the papers today was that you may extend it now. Is that the case?
Simon Birmingham: I’m not going to announce the budget here and now we’re still finalising the budget that will be handed down in a few weeks time. But a couple of commitments for your listeners. First is we are a Liberal National Government that will always be focused on how we keep taxes as low as possible. And right now, people are enjoying some couple of a billion dollars a month extra flowing into household pockets as a result of the bringing forward of income tax cuts that we put in place, that providing additional support, particularly at times of recovery from the first recession Australia faced in 30 years, COVID-19 induced recession, is important for us to keep that focus on how we keep the economic recovery going. It is going very, very well and exceeding all expectations to date. But we know that with so much uncertainty around the world about further COVID outbreaks happening elsewhere in the world, lockdown’s happening elsewhere in the world, the vaccine uncertainty that exists right around the world in terms of just how long and well vaccines will work for, all of that is to keep underpinning confidence in households, consumers, businesses and that’s why we will continue to be a low taxing government where we can and deliver support to households wherever we can to maintain that confidence.
Scott Emerson: I was hoping that, I know I didn’t tell you, but Josh Frydenberg did give me the nod that happy for you to tell me everything about the budget on 4BC Drive. And you can take that from Josh, I’m sure that’s the case. Simon Birmingham, the one of the issues that I wonder if you factored into the budget is the 2032 bid for the Olympics, because the other day the Queensland Government came out and said, we want to spend a billion dollars on upgrading the Gabba for the opening ceremony of the Olympics. We want the feds to pay half that money and we want them to sign on the line for that by Monday, or we might not get the Olympics at all. I know I spoke to your colleague, Ted O’Brien, who’s the representative on the Olympic Committee bid for the Prime Minister. Are you happy to sign up for a half a billion dollar cheque to pay for the upgrade of the Gabba?
Simon Birmingham: Well, we’re definitely happy to continue what has been a very strong partnership between the federal government, the Morrison Liberal National Government in Canberra and the Palaszczuk Government in Queensland, around the Olympic bid. It works very well today that’s got us to this point of Australia and Queensland and particularly South East Queensland being shortlisted for the Olympics, and our ambition is to continue to work as closely as we can. Now, that doesn’t mean that that we will give blank cheques for the delivery of projects. But what it does mean is that we will keep working really closely with Queensland, and that will include an acknowledgement that there are costs and there is infrastructure that needs to be delivered, and of course, we understand the times in terms of what’s necessary to submit documents to make it through to the IOC to try to pin down this bid and ensure that we’re successful. So sometimes you can see certain state ministers who might try to see the political advantage out of some of these things. But we’re going to keep our eye on the bigger picture and for us that’s making sure that we work through the issues calmly, systematically when it comes to the federal budget, we publish four year estimates, but we equally, particularly in terms of the infrastructure spend, usually look about a decade out, but not always clearly knowing the projects that will be on the horizon in 10 years time. We will work with Queensland as sensibly as we can on these issues.
Scott Emerson: Now I’m talking to the Federal Finance Minister, Simon Birmingham. Now Minister, I want to play some audio from a caller we had previously, Dave. He called into the show and I promised him next time I was speaking to you on the show, I would put his call to you. Now, let’s play that audio.
Simon Birmingham: I’ve got a disabled daughter, and sooner or later my daughter will have to go independent living. As I turn 66, the government has seen fit now to treat me as a normal pensioner. In other words, even though I save the government something like 600,000 a year by keeping my daughter at home, because that’s what it would cost if I put her in independent living. But now they want to say to me, look, we’re going to take the dollars off but you can still do what you’re doing. There is no legislation to cover carers.
Scott Emerson: We’ll make sure next time we have Simon Birmingham on the show, we’ll put that question to him. Well, that’s exactly what we’re doing Simon Birmingham. You heard that situation for Dave. Obviously, he’s looked after his daughter for a long time, but he’s saying now that he’s got to pension age is actually going to have less money than he had previously.
Simon Birmingham: So to start, I think, and appreciate, appreciate indeed, Dave’s doing an incredible service by his family and by the country in terms of the care that obviously he’s providing with love to his daughter and in doing so is helping to make sure that the government, which in a country like Australia, we do make sure that we provide strong care and support for Australians living with disability and provide housing assistance where it’s not otherwise available, but a loving family environment is clearly preferable wherever that can be maintained. I’m very happy to go through and to try to find the correspondence that Dave sent, which I understand went to the Social Services Minister and might have been copied into various other offices. Have a look at the circumstances – It’s hard on air to know exactly the reasons at that sort of age as to whether he is now eligible to access superannuation, and as a result of that it may well change elements of the means system arrangements that are there. That at present, I assume, is receiving a carer’s pension of some sort and hasn’t reached the age to be able to access those super savings, depending on the value of them they may have an impact in terms of what government payments he would then be eligible for.
Scott Emerson: Well, Simon Birmingham, I really appreciate that if you could have a look at that and we’ll make sure we pass on all his details and all the correspondence we’ve got to your office. And hopefully next time when we do have you on the programme and you’re always willing to come on the show, I appreciate that we might get a response back to you from that.
Simon Birmingham: Absolutely, I’m very, very happy to do so. It’s part of the Australian system that we do means test different payments that are available to people to make sure that we can be as generous as we can as a country to those who really need help to get by, but also keep taxes as low as possible for all Australians in the provision of that support. But sometimes there are individual cases that seem hard to understand or that need a bit more explaining and if this is one of those very happy to dig into it and try to understand the details behind it.
Scott Emerson: Well, I appreciate that Minister, and we’ll catch you again soon on 4BC Drive.
Simon Birmingham: My pleasure. Thanks.