Interview on Sky News Live with Kieran Gilbert
Topics: Australian cricket team; Newspoll; Labor’s dividend imputation policy; Company tax cuts

Kieran Gilbert: Simon Birmingham, thanks very much for your time, as a reflection on this scandal that we’ve been reporting on at length the last couple of days. It goes to the heart of a lot of things in terms of what we try and teach our kids as well– in terms of fair-play doesn’t it?

Simon Birmingham: It does indeed Kieran. I mean the old adage that it’s just not cricket, well and truly resonates and it cuts very deeply I think to people and Australia upholds its sportspeople as exemplars for our nation and yes of course occasionally they let us down but in this instance they’ve let us down in a way that is hard to compare with anything that has happened before.

Kieran Gilbert: Well you love going to the Adelaide Oval as an Adelaide person, and revere the Aussie cricket team and the test match culture as much as anyone, it hurts when you see that sort of scandal affect the team when, the captaincy?

Simon Birmingham: The deep disappointment and deep shock that was felt across I think a lot of Australia yesterday was absolutely felt in my household as well and frankly we’re appalled and disgusted at what’s happened. Now, mistakes occur and of course we want to see Australian cricket rebuild from this and I’m sure it will manage to do so but in no way can anybody tolerate or accept what has gone on.

Kieran Gilbert: And rebuild Steven Smith as well, in terms of reputational, move this is obviously a major error of judgment and he’s got to rebuild as well on a personal level I guess in terms of his position in the cricket context?

Simon Birmingham: At a personal level this will no doubt be a real test of character for Steve Smith. He is one of the world’s greatest batsman and as a country I’m sure we all want to see him return to being able to be one of the world’s greatest batsman but his position as a leader of the Australian cricket team, will rightly, Cricket Australia is reviewing that and that is the very appropriate thing for them to do.

Kieran Gilbert: We’ve got a lot of other issues to talk about. So let’s go to the Newspoll, no damage to Labor at all in the wake of its dividend credit plan. A lot of people have thought you would see a drop in the Labor vote, in fact their primary vote has gone up, that must be a worry for you?

Simon Birmingham: Well let’s see Kieran these issues can take a while; I’ve just come off the back of the South Australian election campaign where for many many months the polls predicted a whole matter of things none of which actually materialised. In the end a majority Liberal Government was comfortably elected. And what will happen between now and whenever the Federal election is–around the middle of next year–is Australians will become more acutely aware of the choice that is on the table and that choice is one between a lower taxing pro jobs growth–pro wages growth–pro economic growth Turnbull Government or a high taxing–high spending Shorten led Government with tax proposals of more than $200 billion of additional hits across the Australian economy. People will find that many Australians will be paying higher taxes on their salary and wages–on their superannuation and savings–on their housing– on their electricity–small businesses–Australian family businesses–all of them face greater tax slugs under Bill Shorten and our
challenge is to make sure that when people go to vote in the middle of next year, they understand…

Kieran Gilbert: When you look at this plan though Labor’s dividend imputation credit–the removal of those cash credits. In that sense 50 per cent of people in this poll oppose it but that’s not translating into support for the coalition, why is that?

Simon Birmingham: Well Kieran, I’ll let the political commentators and analysts come up with reasons or arguments there. Our job as a Government is to make sure we get on with our job of governing first and foremost and we’re doing that in pursuit of company tax cut reform this week and other important legislative measures before the Parliament, but secondly to make sure that when people vote they understand the choice…

Kieran Gilbert: Labor are going to move, my understanding is and its being reported in the AFR today. I’ve confirmed it as well; Labor is working towards a carve out for…

Simon Birmingham: So if this…

Kieran Gilbert: For those pensioners affected, so therefore that’s going to inoculate them in a monetary sense and also politically?

Simon Birmingham: So if this policy is falling apart already, imagine what will happen during the heat of an election campaign. I mean yes Labor can try to seek to put patches over its policy here or there but in the end it’s a policy that strikes at people’s savings and will mean for many Australians, they are paying more tax, double tax in a sense because these dividends have already been taxed in the first place.

Kieran Gilbert: But Mr Shorten is working on a carve out to protect those pensioners so they’re not going to be impacted?

Simon Birmingham: There will be a limit to any add-on–to any band-aid¬ patch he puts and there will be people sitting on the margins of that limit who will still lose out, and of course what an earth were they thinking? This goes to the character and the in-grain principle that a Bill Shorten led government will bring to Australia. If they were willing to think about this in opposition imagine what they would do to pensioners–their savings–their taxes, in government.

Kieran Gilbert: Ok finally, on the company tax plan, it looks you might be a chance of getting this through, two Senators holding out, in Tim Storer the new Senator only been here a couple of weeks and also Derryn Hinch. Are you confident you can get them across the line in these final days before Easter?

Simon Birmingham: I think there is a greater realisation that Australia is at serious risk now of slipping behind the rest of the world, the OECD, latest research suggests that within a couple of years we could be the second highest taxing nation when it comes to investment and jobs and businesses operating in Australia. Now, I would hope that nobody wants that–I would hope the Labor party come to their senses when they hear that type of evidence and realise that this will just harm investment in our country, and if it hurts investment, it hurts job growth, it hurts wages growth, whereas the counter-to that, is to let’s say stimulate investment, let’s get more companies growing–when they grow– they employ more people–when they employ more people–it creates tightening in the Labor market which creates incentive for wages growth which benefits Australians…

Kieran Gilbert: Labor continues to run a ridicule the governments suggestion of this being an average benefit to workers of $750 a year– saying that the numbers don’t stack up. It’s really a trickledown economics…

Simon Birmingham: Labor can ridicule all they like because Labor have no policies to grow the economy, no policies to create new jobs, no policies to actually drive wages growth. The Turnbull Government has a policy that has been proven in the past and is proven to be the case overseas at present. That when you cut company taxes, you stimulate further growth, just look even in the last week–the latest report in terms of government revenue. In the small and medium sized business area, we’re we’ve cut company tax already as a Government, we’ve seen growth in company tax receipts as those businesses are doing more–they’re growing more–they’re paying more taxes as a result, they’re employing more people, who will be paying more taxes as a result. You can actually get a very virtuous cycle out of this in terms of growth in jobs, in wages….

Kieran Gilbert: [Indistinct] this is going to be a key battleground won’t it as we approach the next election?

Simon Birmingham: Well Labor are committed to having higher taxes on pensioners–on savings–on wages–on housing–on electricity and on businesses.

Kieran Gilbert: They’ll have lower income tax cuts they’ve got more scope to deliver that now?

Simon Birmingham: We’ll see about that. Labour are promising to spend billions of dollars left, right and centre across the board, I mean it will be a higher taxing– a much higher taxing– and a much higher spending government under Bill Shorten. I doubt we will see any scope for real relative tax reductions, compared to what the Turnbull Government will do who has lower taxes for businesses and for households–for wages–and policies to drive down electricity costs and other key elements of the cost of living.

Kieran Gilbert: Minister, I appreciate your time. Thanks so much.

Simon Birmingham: Thank you Kieran.