Interview on SKY News Live with Kieran Gilbert
Anniversary of the Turnbull Government; National priorities; Omnibus Savings Bill; Banking Royal Commission.
12 September 2016

Kieran Gilbert: In the meantime let’s have a listen to my interview this morning with the Education Minister Simon Birmingham. This week in Parliament it marked 12 months since Malcolm Turnbull toppled Tony Abbott as prime minister. For his reflections on what’s been achieved, here was the Education Minister.


Kieran Gilbert: Education Minister Simon Birmingham, thanks for your time. This Wednesday marked 12 months since Malcolm Turnbull took the top job. How do you think the first year’s gone? 

Simon Birmingham: Kieran, look, I think Australians can be pleased that over the first year we’ve seen a strengthening of economic growth, that we’ve seen a prime minister and a government really focused on measures that will ensure the strength of our economy and therefore jobs for Australians long into the future through the Innovation and Science Agenda, through the types of tax reforms that we’re working on, through the types of industrial measures that we’ll bring to the Parliament and hope that we can secure support for. All of these types of arrangements are focussed on ensuring confidence in the economy, investment in Australian businesses and job creation for more Australians.

Kieran Gilbert: There’s been a fair bit of advice around the place as we head towards this anniversary of Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension to that job and advice from John Howard, Peter Costello, urging you to focus on the bread and butter issues of the Coalition. Do you think you’re doing that?

Simon Birmingham: I think the economy is always the number one issue that the Coalition should be focussed on and is focussed on because it’s through a strong economy that Australians get jobs, it’s through a strong economy that government gets revenue to pay for the services that Australians care about. That is absolutely core to what a Coalition government seeks to deliver for all Australians, it is about creating a circumstance where Australian businesses and foreign investors have the confidence to invest in Australia, to grow Australian jobs and to create greater wealth and that can therefore create greater opportunity for all Australians and that is really the first, second and third priority, sitting of course alongside national security as that other core of…

Kieran Gilbert: Well one of the elements of that, the big focus this week will be on the Government’s omnibus savings measures; the Labor Party is having a rethink on at least one of the areas and that is the Clean Energy Supplement, a supplement in terms of welfare recipients. Is it within their right to reassess in the context that the Government’s won the election, and therefore its measures, as it was going to be put in place, are not going to be delivered in full, therefore they can reconsider the savings as well.

Simon Birmingham: No Kieran, I think that Australians rightly expect that when political parties, the two major parties, the parties of government go to an election and both agree on certain elements, that surely those things can and should be implemented afterwards. This is a real test for Mr Shorten as to whether he can provide economic leadership, budget leadership for Australia. If he doesn’t support these savings measures then it’s clear for all to see that Labor has learnt nothing from the big spending ways of the Rudd-Gillard years, that they are incapable of actually sticking to a tough decision when they take one, in the election campaign it was convenient and it suited them to support these savings measures. It is the right thing now for Labor to support those savings measures. There are other areas where there were clear areas of difference during the election campaign which the Labor Party can rightly seek to negotiate with us and discuss with us but where they said we will do exactly as the Government proposed then in this Parliament they should vote exactly along those lines.

Kieran Gilbert: But by the same token, this would be a big loss for the Government if you can’t even get this first, this preliminary set of savings through, it’s not even that much in terms of the mountain that needs to be climbed to reign in the debt but this – if you can’t get this through that would be a big hit for Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison.

Simon Birmingham: Kieran, there are many different ways of course to ultimately get something through the Parliament, it’s not just a matter of the Labour Party voting on these matters; there are crossbench senators that we can and will have discussions with, but that should not be necessary on this occasion. Mr Shorten said he would implement these measures himself if he were elected prime minister. We are only asking him to do that which he said he would do himself.

Kieran Gilbert: So you’re confident you’ll still get it through anyway even without Labor?

Simon Birmingham: Kieran I don’t want to predict what the outcome will be. What I want to see is that the Labor Party makes this clear and simple for the Australian people that when both sides of politics go to an election saying these budget savings are savings that we should realise, that there’s actually then support from both sides of politics to implement it afterwards. The Coalition is only seeking to do what we said we would do before the election and what Mr Shorten said he would do before the election and so I hope and trust the Labor Party comes to the party, recognises the fundamental importance of repairing the nation’s budget, doesn’t backflip on that, otherwise we’ll see that on budget repair, Mr Shorten has about as much credibility as he has when it comes to parliamentary standards as he showed over Senator Dastyari over the past two weeks.

Kieran Gilbert: One of the things the Labor Party’s 100 per cent consistent on with its commitments prior to the election is on the banks royal commission. Does the Government still face some internal tensions on this matter, given how popular that proposal is in the broader electorate?

Simon Birmingham: I don’t know that a banking royal commission is universally popular; I find that people do want to know that there is appropriate action taken against banks…

[End of excerpt]