Topics: Parliament House culture; Economic recovery;
David Koch: Finance Minister, Simon Birmingham joins us now from Adelaide. Minister, you’ve got some great economic figures to talk about, we’ll get to those in a moment but obviously the big talking point today is the Prime Minister’s interview last night. As Mark Riley just put it. Does your government have a plan to fight sexism and safety and respect for women in the workforce, particularly in Parliament house?
Simon Birmingham: Absolutely Kochie, and I think Australians will see a real step up in terms of action, the messages have been heard, the concerns have been heard. Now, that’s not to say there wasn’t work underway before. The national action plan in relation to women’s safety and tackling safety for women and children in particular, the work that’s been ongoing for many years in terms of support around sexual harassment and sexual discrimination. But it is very clear that Australians and particularly Australian women expect more and that is absolutely what we have got to get on and do. To make sure that our parliament sets the best example for the nation rather than being a place where shameful acts have occurred. And that’s just not to be tolerated, it won’t be tolerated. But equally we’ve got to work in terms of workplaces across the nation, in terms of women’s safety across the nation, in terms of gender equity across the nation, and they’re all part of the priorities for the future.
David Koch: In terms of shameful acts, overnight you released a statement saying you have spoken to the whistleblower who released those photos of lewd sex acts in Parliament House, are you any closer to determining the other people responsible? And what action will you take?
Simon Birmingham: We’ve shown we’ve got zero tolerance for that sort of thing. On Monday night, one individual was able to be identified and that individual was sacked. We will take similar action if similar acts have been undertaken by other people. It’s very clearly zero tolerance. I am grateful to those who are helping in terms of investigations. Obviously, sacking someone is a significant step and we need to be confident that we know that people are guilty of having undertaken such acts or anything similar, but we won’t tolerate it where we can find that evidence and that is why we are reaching out to undertake such investigations.
David Koch: Let’s get onto the economy now. Your wheelhouse as Finance Minister. February year-to-date budget deficit $134.6 billion. 23 billion less than the forecast deficit. The government credits the improvement in high tax receipts from the recovering economy as was a fall in the number of JobSeeker payments. Figures look terrific. Monday is D-Day, when JobKeeper comes off, is the economy strong enough to soak all of that up and not impact the economy badly?
Simon Birmingham: The economy has shown enormous strength now. $134 billion deficit is still a whopping great deficit in anybody’s terms, it still the biggest deficit in our peacetime history as a nation. But it is crucial to see that the jobs growth we have been seeing, 300,000 people coming off JobSeeker in recent months is feeding back to improved budget outcomes because it means we have significantly less strain on taxpayers in terms of supporting social safety nets, more taxpayers in terms of generating revenue, and that is the virtuous cycle we are eager to continue. Now, we are taking the step off of JobKeeper, but we fully anticipate the other supports we have put in place for tourism, for aviation, for arts, for entertainment, targeting the support now into different sectors to support those industries, business survival, job creation, they are going to be the ongoing measures and approaches we take as well the overall economic growth that has seen Australia’s employment levels get back to being above what they were in March 2020 which is a remarkable thing, basically unheard of in any other developed nation.
David Koch: It is an incredible bounce back in the economy. Minister, thank you for your time.