Kieran Gilbert: Our top story this morning and the Prime Minister’s taken a hit in the latest Newspoll published in The Australian this morning. The poll has the Coalition and Labor deadlocked on the two-party vote. With me for more on this I have the Education Minister Simon Birmingham. Is this a worry?
Simon Birmingham: Good morning Kieran. Australians know that elections in Australia are always hard fought battles and I’ve got no doubt the next one will be, but Australia will face a very clear choice between a high taxing, high spending Labor Party or an economic plan that the Turnbull government will present that deals with a whole range of issues that are important to our economic future in terms of innovation policy which we’ve already released, competition policy and reform, tax policy which is a work that we are putting an awful lot of effort into making sure we get it right rather than rushing it, as well as of course other important matters, like industrial relations matters, especially those matters around…
Kieran Gilbert: It’s fine to have the debate about tax though but has it been too messy? Have the parameters not been clean enough on this debate from the Government?
Simon Birmingham: Well Kieran we’ve been clear all along that we would be meticulous in our approach, we would consider all of the options and we will be working towards the budget. The budget is the normal timeline in which governments consider these types of matters. That’s exactly what we’ve been doing. So I don’t think there’s anything unusual about that. Now Labor can rush its approach and put out bits and pieces as they go along as they like. We will be cautious and meticulous, make sure we get it right, make sure we deal with the fact that we have real pressures in areas like bracket creep that would put an increased burden on Australian households unless we do something about it. Labor’s plans have no proposal to do that. They’re simply upping the tax take, they’re increasing expenditure even more. We will be restrained in our spending and make sure that our tax reforms deal with the issues the Australian people [indistinct].
Kieran Gilbert: [Over talks] Is there a risk that the Prime Minister is hoist on his own petard on this because of what he said when he announced the challenge last year that you’d trailed for 30 Newspolls and now he’s going to be held by those same standards?
Simon Birmingham: Kieran, we’re focused on policy outcomes and the policy outcomes for Australia are about having a comprehensive economic reform [indistinct].
Kieran Gilbert: [Over talks] But he set the Newspoll as his benchmark. He can’t just say it’s another- he can’t just say there’s only one poll that counts. He’s the one that set this as the benchmark.
Simon Birmingham: And Kieran polls come, go up and down, we all appreciate that. What is important as a government is not to lose sight of where you’re going and what you’re seeking to achieve and what we seek to achieve is a comprehensive economic reform plan, a plan that deals with all of those different things I mentioned before: Innovation policy which is a detailed reform $1.1 billion of measures already out there that goes from preschool years to business investment in terms of ensuring how we become more innovative as a nation, coupled with dealing with industrial matters where we are trying to reform and make sure we fix matters around union corruption through the Building and Construction Commission [indistinct]…
Kieran Gilbert: [Over talks] But in terms of tax…
Simon Birmingham: …getting on with [indistinct]…
Kieran Gilbert: I understand all those points but the tax issue, it’s left a vacuum, Labor’s filled that vacuum and it looks like it’s quite popular their response with negative gearing.
Simon Birmingham: We’ll happily have that debate because what Labor’s done is propose a range of ways in which they will increase the tax take. When it comes to the election we’ll be clear to the Australian people if the Turnbull government does not want to increase the tax take, the Turnbull government wants to collect tax more fairly, more efficiently and we want to make sure that we deal with those issues [indistinct] bracket creep for the Australian people.
Kieran Gilbert: What do you say to your colleagues who might be spooked by the poll today?
Simon Birmingham: That people should be confident – and I certainly see that out in the public, that we have a clear direction, that we are working towards that budget in relation to economic and tax measures as governments always do. That the election is of course due in the second half of this year and that’s the timeline the Government works towards to make sure we have that comprehensive economic policy reform agenda unlike the Labor Party.
Kieran Gilbert: Alright. Education Minister Simon Birmingham, thanks for your time.
Simon Birmingham: Thank You Kieran.