Subjects: Debate; Child care wages; Scott Morrison


KIERAN GILBERT: Simon Birmingham, on to the cancer claim why hasn’t the Government moved to match Labor on that because it’s clearly a very popular initiative.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well Kieran we don’t go around matching Labor’s big spending promises because we know that if you just follow all those big spending promises you end up with the same problems as Labor, that there’s not enough money, that you end up just having to hike up taxes or run up debt. You’ve got to be careful with the money you apply and that in the end was a key message the Prime Minister delivered last night whether it’s in relation to childcare support, whether it’s in relation to health support, be careful with taxpayers’ money to drive it to get the best value outcome. So in healthcare it’s the listing of two thousand plus lifesaving, life altering and improving medicines, we’ve managed to deploy. It’s investment in targeted support in cancer services. It’s ensuring that we maintain record levels of bulk billing services, we’ve done all of those things. We’re not going to run around on an ill-defined cash splash like Mr Shorten has and we won’t be going and matching his reckless spending.

LAURA JAYES: It is clear that the Government is concerned about the cost of these policies and there was a question put to Bill Shorten last night and he said it was a dishonest question to ask about the cost of climate change. In that vein, what is the cost? What has the Government spent in – to reaching that target, that 2030 target of a reduction in emissions by 26 to 28 per cent?

BIRMINGHAM: Laura, I can tell you that the cost of delivering our Climate Solutions Package to meet our 2030 targets is $3.5 billion. I can certainly go back and look over the previous Budget papers to add up what the cost of making sure we meet and exceed our 2020 targets is. That is the key point. We’ve acted and we are on track to meet and exceed the 2020 Kyoto targets despite all of the rhetoric from Bill Shorten, despite the fact that when he is asked perfectly reasonable questions, he denigrates the question either as dumb or dishonest rather than acknowledging that you do have to recognise there are costs of action and the cost of our climate solutions plan, $3.5 billion. That is a plan that we’ve outlined each of the steps along the way to meet Paris 2030 target. Bill Shorten has failed to do that. He won’t identify how he will actually get the 45 per cent target which components of his policies will contribute to that. How much will rely upon purchase of overseas permits and how much Australian businesses will have to spend overseas to buy them.

GILBERT: Do you accept though that in terms of modelling that component, that its relevance depends really on how much the costs of climate change is on the economy, the impact on the physical climate and so on in our world.

BIRMINGHAM: We accept that there is a cost of inaction, that’s why we have been acting; this is a global problem in terms of addressing emissions level…

GILBERT: …but when you have modelling of one side of the equation do you accept that you need both sides of the equation to actually have a credible understanding of what the cost is?

BIRMINGHAM: Well Kieran, you’ve got to acknowledge that yes there is, as we do, there’s a cost of inaction. Which is why we act. Have acted, are acting, will act. It’s why we’ve ensured we met the target. You know you can go back to the 2013 election and we were all told then and that Australia would never meet its 2020 targets if we abolish Labor’s carbon tax. We’ll we abolished Labor’s carbon tax and we’re on track to meet and exceed those 2020 targets. We’ve put in place clear targets for 2030 but they’re different from the Labor Party. You know, this morning I heard Tanya Plibersek being interviewed, lying about Warwick McKibbin’s modelling. She claims that he has backed up his previous modelling and said that there is no difference in the economic cost between the two party’s positions. That’s not true. He’s indicated there’s a $60 billion-dollar difference between the economic impact of our approach, versus the economic impact of Labor’s target and yet the Labor Party is just telling boldfaced lies about that.

JAYES: Shorten has flagged price controls on childcare as well. Will you?

BIRMINGHAM: Well we will always take a close look there, but the evidence of what we’ve done to date as the Prime Minister referenced last night, is that the Bureau of Stats data shows nine per cent reduction in terms of out-of-pocket costs on average for Australian households. Those benefits felt in a greater way, low-and middle-income households many of whom are thousands of dollars better off under our changes, but just yesterday we saw another instance of our compliance action in the child care sector as well. Multiple arrests resulted in multiple raids clamping down on those who seek to rip off the system. This is something the Labor Party never did because again they never careful with taxpayers’ money. They’re reckless with taxpayer’s money.

GILBERT: Does it have implications in terms of you know the payroll tax component for child care providers if you do have this increase in their wages?

BIRMINGHAM: Absolutely. Modelling shows there’s a $591 million-dollar bill that will come to child care providers under Labor’s policy for payroll tax, that many small providers will be pushed into having to pay payroll tax for the first time. This is just another one of the unforeseen consequences of Labor’s policy because they don’t think about the consequences. They don’t think through the detail, they don’t release any detail. They just let the United Voice union cook up a policy to back in one of their biggest donor groups in the United Voice union. They haven’t thought about how it would be delivered. Smaller child care providers will face significant extra costs. You’ve got even the biggest child care provider in the country today, Goodtstart, out there saying they assume that the Labor Party in government would pick up the tab of the extra superannuation cost of this policy, but nobody really knows and Bill Shorten won’t say.  

JAYES: So are you saying that child care workers; care provider’s childcare workers sorry, shouldn’t be paying more because their employers will have to pay more tax?


BIRMINGHAM: Laura, what I’m saying is that there are consequences to Labor’s policies. We back the process of the independent Fair Work Commission to make annual wage determinations. We encourage childcare providers where they can to pay above award conditions. Last year the award rates rose by around 3.5 per cent and that was above average wage increases, so you do see growth that occurs there. But what we don’t think you should have is a Labor Party policy that doesn’t actually consider the consequences of, if child care providers are paying more tax then they’re going to have to put their fees up. If you’re putting a price cap as you suggested before and they can’t put their fees up, then they’re going to go out of business or they’re going to have to sack staff and there’ll be fewer jobs.


GILBERT: Where’s the discrepancy here, because we all know those that have put kids through child care in recent years that it’s extremely expensive, yet the workers get paid a pittance. Where’s the money go? Because I mean if the best private schools in the country can run their organisations for a similar amount. How do the child care centres – I mean they’re not serving the kids caviar for afternoon tea. Where does all the money go?


BIRMINGHAM: Well the child care sector does have a for profit element as well as a not for profit element. And estimates are that profits for around $1.3 billion last year. So the question as to why it is, that you would step into that field and have massive government subsidies to pay those employees, in what is a fairly profitable sector already. 


JAYES: Ok. So what would you do Simon Birmingham? You know sector pretty well. How do you make sure the wages of childcare workers go up and there is not this extra burden on employers, in terms of payroll tax – what’s the solution?


BIRMINGHAM: As I flagged last year we saw the award increase in terms of childcare workers rise higher than average wages, it’s something…


JAYES: Is that enough?


BIRMINGHAM: It’s a start and it’s about making sure you continue to do so. I’ve also been very public in my position that I think some of those highly profitable centres ought to make sure they follow the lead of others, such as Goodstart and pay above award wages. If you’re making good profits then the employees ought to share in that. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to come in as Bill Shorten proposes and prop that up. I mean this is; the Labor party has come along in this election campaign and said they’ve got a radical new policy, where they don’t really know how it’s going to work – they can’t actually say how these wage subsidies will be paid. They won’t say whether the superannuation is covered. They won’t say whether payroll tax is covered. There’s little detail in terms of any of that. They won’t rule out the possibility that it ends up running through the trade union movement, like it did last time. Which was heavily criticised by the Auditor-General.


GILBERT: Yesterday we saw Bill Shorten give an emotional response to a story in The Daily Telegraph. It was; well certainly seen within Labor ranks, as the peeling away the layers and showing who Shorten is. That authenticity could well be received quite well within the electorate given that’s been one of his problems; is proving his authenticity in terms of opinion polls – his popularities been low. That could be a turning point in this campaign.


BIRMINGHAM: Look I’ve got no doubt that Bill Shorten is proud of his mum and grateful for all that she sacrificed for his upbringing, just as Scott Morrison has spoken about his dad who was a police officer and the values that that’s instilled in him. In the end I think Scott was very strong yesterday in his response that he thought that type of reflection and digging into family members history or past has no real place and our message to the Australian people is – choose who you vote for based on the vast policy differences of this election. Based on the choice between higher taxes or lower taxes, more jobs fewer jobs, stronger economy-weaker jobs, not these sorts of sides of sideshows or distractions that have no place in terms of sensible thoughtful commentary.


JAYES: Now Morrison said last night he’ll lead from the middle. Is he viewed in your party as a moderate or a conservative? I ask this question because it’s important because the conservatives thought Turnbull was too moderate and that was really one of the arguments for getting rid of him.


BIRMINGHAM: Laura, I think Scott is truly a centrist in terms of the Liberal Party…


JAYES: Is that a new faction?


BIRMINGHAM: He has always worked…No…Scott is somebody who was a state director at the party level, outside of his work in the private sector in the tourism industry and elsewhere. And in that state director’s role he had to make sure that he managed the integrity of party operations and worked across all party members, regardless of their views or ideology. And I think in his entire time in Federal Parliament since 2007 he’s brought that same approach. He’s worked with everybody, worked with anybody on a basis where he engages with them fairly, even handedly and in a trusting relationship and that is reciprocated to him.


GILBERT: Senator Simon Birmingham Liberal Spokesman, we’ll talk to you soon, appreciate your time.