Interview on Sky News AM with Kieran Gilbert
Topics: Latest Newspoll, Child care industry industrial action

Kieran Gilbert: Minister, thanks for your time. This Newspoll today – do you feel like the Government’s turned the corner?

Simon Birmingham: Well, I think people are seeing that there are true benefits flowing from the Government’s work; that the growth last year, with more than 400,000 jobs – that’s more than 1100 jobs created every single day last year on average – is flowing through, in terms of benefits across the economy. That people are recognising that our work to repair the budget is not only on track, but indeed, as the Mid-Year Budget Update showed, is ahead of track, and that the conditions there are improving; that they recognise we are really focused on them and their issues, and that’s what we’ll continue to do.

Kieran Gilbert: But politically, do you feel like you’ve got that crucial momentum, which we all talk about so much in this place?

Simon Birmingham: Well, we look for policy momentum in government. Political momentum is for the commentators to talk about; policy momentum is what we’re focused on. Last year, we had a very good year, in terms of legislating the initial tranche of our company tax cuts, and we’re determined to make sure that we double down there; that we get the whole package in place, because we know that that is what will help to stimulate even greater jobs growth, and with even greater jobs growth, you’ll see even greater wages growth as well.

Kieran Gilbert: But do you need more numbers to back that up, though, instead of just saying its common sense? The Treasurer again in the Financial Review today saying that this will lead to all sorts of benefits, including greater investment, a pick-up in wages, but do you need more data to convince people that this is the right course of action?

Simon Birmingham: Well, we have step one, which is the clear data in relation to the jobs growth: 400,000-plus jobs; 1100 jobs a day last year – a record since statistics have been kept. Stage two, of course, is to see that flow through in terms of wages growth, and you’re seeing that happen in the United States; a combination there of jobs growth and company tax reform is delivering a wage dividend to workers. The evidence is there, and indeed it’s been the history in Australia as well – Paul Keating recognised it previously, Chris Bowen, even Bill Shorten, all historically have recognised that company tax cuts provide incentives for investment; investment not only in growing your business, but investment in your workforce and your staff for higher wages too.

Kieran Gilbert: Would it help if you had companies commit to wage rises before they receive the tax cuts, and commit to bonuses like we’ve seen delivered in the United States? Would that help you if the big end of town agreed to that sort of thing?

Simon Birmingham: We would, of course, encourage Australian business to speak out in favour of this reform, to spell out the benefits that will flow in terms of jobs growth, wages growth …

Kieran Gilbert: to be that specific as well? To be that specific with promises of this sort of percentage pay rise and so on?

Simon Birmingham: … economic growth, and indeed, more- well, Kieran, the more that Australian businesses can do to make sure that people do understand the benefits that flow from this type of reform, then the better it is, because these are important reforms, and we’re thrilled to have been able to deliver, for small businesses in particular, these types of changes, and we know that they’re providing a boost to confidence and activity in the small business sector. And again, we’re seeing that flow through in terms of jobs growth, and we are absolutely confident. The evidence is there, dating back not just months or years, but indeed, the last couple of decades to show that there are benefits that flow in higher wages as a result of the types of reforms the Turnbull Government is proposing.

Kieran Gilbert: To another area – your area of responsibility in early childhood. The sector has announced they’re going on strike next month for a day. When you look at the amount that they’re getting paid, surely you’d concede that more needs to be done in this space, doesn’t it, to give early childhood workers a decent remuneration?

Simon Birmingham: Well Kieran, I have enormous regard for early childhood educators and the work that they do with our littlest learners, and indeed, I would encourage all employers operating in that space to provide the best wages and conditions they possibly can to their workers. But in terms of what the minimum wages and conditions look like, that’s a matter, as it is across every other aspect of the economy, for the Fair Work Commission – the independent industrial umpire.

Kieran Gilbert: Where’s the breakdown here, though? Because, as parents know, it’s expensive to send children to child care, but it doesn’t flow through to the workers. Why is that?

Simon Birmingham: Well, and the Government is investing a further $2.5 billion in helping parents, and particularly hard-working, low and middle income families, to receive greater support in terms of meeting the cost of child care, and families will see those benefits flow through from July this year. Many families will be thousands of dollars a year better off as a result of that support. Now, early childhood education workers and individuals in the child care sector, as I say, they are not employed by government; they’re employed by the different community, council, private operators who run child care services. I encourage those services to provide the best award rates and conditions they possibly can – above award where they can – but the setting of the award rates is a matter for the independent umpire. And I don’t know what the union is calling for here – do they really want the Government to simply tear up the independent industrial process and start intervening left, right and centre?

Kieran Gilbert: Minister, we’re out of time. I appreciate it. Thanks.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you.