Subjects:Steve Dickson; Preferences; Child care wages


GILBERT: Government spokesman, Simon Birmingham, thanks very much for your time. Minister let’s start with this reaction from Pauline Hanson, the fact that Dickson has resigned, what are your thoughts on that, particularly at a time when  the Deputy Prime Minister is out there saying that you know it’s appropriate that the Nationals have done a deal with One Nation.

BIRMINGHAM:  Look, One Nation are something of a sideshow to this campaign and most campaigns and activities, in the end its Pauline Hanson and her party to speak about her candidates, her members, it was obviously grossly inappropriate conduct and behaviour from Steve Dickson and I have nothing more really to say about it. 

JAYES: Well the preference deal though that is being done, Michael McCormack describes as “reflects closely aligned policies” quote unquote “it just makes sense”, do you agree?

BIRMINGHAM: Look really, again, that’s for the National Party, now Scott Morrison very clear stance that we would put One Nation below the Labor Party in all circumstances and now we’ve seen as preference cards come out, the Labor Party has curiously in some cases including the Prime Minister’s own electorate, put Fraser Anning ahead of One Nation and I think that’s terribly inappropriate and Labor ought to do what they’ve already been forced to do in Goldstein and pulp their how to vote cards there and rethink and reconsider those actions. I mean we’ve clearly put Fraser Anning at the bottom, except in a handful of cases where the Australia First party is running who we think are even worse. But again Labor seems to have been happy to entertain them higher up the list.

GILBERT: Let’s look at the debate because there was not a knockout blow from either side, either of the leaders last night. Bill Shorten had a bit of a morale boost, even though more broadly I think it was evenly viewed as both leaders doing ok and then the studio audience gave it to Bill Shorten.

BIRMINGHAM: A studio audience of forty-eight people is hardly a scientific sample and I think what anybody who was objectively watching the whole show last night would have seen is that Bill Shorten refused to answer detailed questions, when presented with detailed questions about what the cost of change is he doesn’t answer those. When asked what the detail is around his tax policies he won’t detail it, in fact he misleads and misled again in relation to pensioners last night, retirees, when asked about the detail of the costs of his higher emissions targets he again obfuscates and dodges on that. That’s really what this campaign is now crying out for.

GILBERT: He also says that government hasn’t modelled your own climate policy and climate solutions plan which is true.

BIRMINGHAM: Well Kieran, we went through an exhaustive process back at the time four years or so now in terms of setting those targets and that was a very exhaustive process informed by Treasury and other advice to clearly get the right spot in terms of what we think is a high ambition target, 26 per cent reduction, by GDP, by per capita standards amongst the highest in the world but also economically responsible. Bill Shorten is the one coming in to this election proposing to nearly double that and not actually telling us what the consequences of that change would be. In the end he’s the one at this election with a radical suite of policies to change the tax system in this country, to change the climate targets in this country, to intervene in the economy through wage subsidies in ways that have never been contemplated before and he won’t detail what the cost of those things are, somebody always ends up paying and it will be Australians, hardworking Australians, retirees, homeowners, workers, others who will end up paying through higher taxes and he should come clean on that.

JAYES: So what is your problem with subsidising low workers, including child care workers with taxpayer funds?

BIRMINGHAM: Let’s work through this, and firstly, the child care sector is an incredibly profitable sector, profits of around $1.3 billion last year so if there is pressure to be brought to bear for wage rises it ought to be brought bear in terms of those employers delivering on wage rises, rather than what Bill Shorten is proposing which is $10 billion of taxpayers spending to do something that is really something that is completely un-thought of, unheard of in relation to the Australian economy and government in this country pays public service wages and we fund a strong social safety net. You don’t go in to the private sector and start providing wage top ups and by opening up this hornet’s nest. Bill Shortens created a circumstance where people now say, well what about us? Why don’t we get the same sort of treatment? We are seeing that already from the health services union following up and putting pressure on the Labor Party in relation to aged care workers and whether they should get the same type of government top up Mr Shorten proposes as child care workers and if you go down that path and what about those in manufacturing, what about those in retail, a some $30 billion cost on top of the $10 billion.

GILBERT: There’s a disparity though isn’t there between the amount that families, working parents pay for their kids to go to child care which is exorbitant and people you know weighing up whether they go back to work or stay at home because of the costs and then for some reason the workers don’t get paid well. Why is that?

BIRMINGHAM: Well look again these are things as to why, I’ve been clear before that child care services ought to pay their employees as much as they possibly can, but we also ought to back independent Fair Work Commission.

GILBERT: But they don’t obviously?

BIRMINGHAM: to hear those cases around minimum wages and if there is pressure to be brought to bear, put it on those who are making $1.3 billion in profits out of this sector, not have a circumstance where the taxpayer is taxing other Australians more to provide this wage subsidy. This is quite unheard of, now in relation to child care fees and costs and what parents pay, our government has delivered a complete overhaul of the child care subsidy system and unlike the lies Mr Shortens telling in the period since July last year through the first three quarters since we put that overhaul in place, out of pocket expenses for Australian families in relation to child care are down an estimated nine per cent, that’s the Bureau of Stats data analysis and we’ve actually done that work compared with Labor who is billions more the last time they tipped billions more into the child care sector fees went up by 50 per cent.

JAYES: Well that’s not the lived experience of many, in some parts of the country, people are paying $160 upwards of $170 a day, we have some cases where child care costs as much as private school and I note that you say that prices have come down about 9 per cent so are you saying that that’s it? You’re not going to touch child care and we shouldn’t expect any more announcements from the government over the next three weeks?

BIRMINGHAM: I’m saying Laura that we put in place a comprehensive overhaul of it, that the Labor Party opposed, let’s just remember this, Labor voted against our child care changes, which actually came into effect last July and have been shown to work and work in relation to, not government stats in the sense of us making them up, these are actually statistics from the Bureau of Statistics as part of the CPI collection, that show out of pocket expenses for Australian families, on average, down around 9 per cent, now we targeted that to make sure it went to low and middle income families to give greater support to those working the longest hours earning the least, but we also have a lived experience when Labor was last in office and they tipped in billions of dollars in the type of ways Bill Shorten is talking about now and rather than it reducing fees it saw fees skyrocket, the company simply took the money, pocketed it and families were no better off.

GILBERT: Reports say this week that the Coalition, Liberal campaigns having problems with its voter ID software at campaign headquarters, $1.2 million rollout of this software called I360, and its botched, is that correct and if so what are the implications for the Coalition ground game?

BIRMINGHAM: I’m not aware that there was any intent to use that software nationally and so I’m not aware in terms to the detail of those reports whether that’s accurate or not, we continue to use long standing software packages, that’s for the campaign operatives to talk about and to deal with. We’re focused as the politicians on the message, on the politics, and making sure that the policies that we sell are our policies of 1.3 million jobs created this term, 1.25 million more jobs to be created in the next term that’s about getting more people into employment, more people paying taxes so you can afford to give everyone tax cuts rather than Labor’s model which is going to see fewer people in work and paying more taxes to do so.

JAYES: On One Nation and Clive Palmer is the reality that you simply couldn’t win the election without doing these deals?

BIRMINGHAM: The reality Laura, is that we have a compulsory preferential voting system in Australia and frankly the choices, if you are not voting for the Liberal or National parties, are all pretty sub optimal, we weren’t obviously going to recommend that people give preferences to the racist policies, of Fraser Anning or One Nation, we weren’t going to recommend that people give preferences to the irrational economics of the Greens, or the fact that the Greens want to tear up many parts of our national security laws, we are not going to recommend that people give preferences to Bill Shorten and the Labor Party with $387 billion of higher taxes, you know, there’s not a lot to choose from.

GILBERT: Thank you Minster, Simon Birmingham we appreciate your time.