Kieran Gilbert: We’re going to turn to politics now, and tax change is once again at the centre of the political debate as Parliament resumes again today. With me now Education Minister Simon Birmingham to discuss this and the other matters of the day. Senator Birmingham, thanks for your time. Apparently the Prime Minister consulting over the weekend with ministers; is there a better sense of where you’re heading on tax now?
Simon Birmingham: Well Kieran every day is a day closer of course, but we are being unashamedly meticulous and careful in developing tax policy. We don’t want to the repeat any of the mistakes of the Labor Party in terms of rushing out piecemeal reform that could have negative consequences for things like the housing market in Australia. We want to ensure the tax policy we release is comprehensive, well thought through, allows us to address bracket creep for middle income Australians in particular, allows us to make sure we get the best economic lift out of any tax reform that’s possible and that it complements the other parts of our economic reform agenda around innovation policy and competition policy, and that we ensure that the flow-through consequences of any tax changes don’t have negative repercussions in areas like government spending, such as change to the GST could have.
Kieran Gilbert: But do you think that there’s a recognition now within the Cabinet, within the Government, that the debate has been … there’s been a vacuum in the debate now for too long, you need to fill it with some detail?
Simon Birmingham: We’ve always been committed to making sure that we released it and had the information out there in a timely manner, but we’re not going to be rushed because it is important that we get this right, that we are meticulous in the way in which these tax changes are designed. And so that’s why it’s taking a little bit of time. But we’ve also been crystal clear to all Australians, these are changes we are taking to the next election; they’re not changes that are about to apply from tomorrow because we want to give the Australian people a clear choice at the next election. And that will clearly now be a choice between a Coalition party with a carefully thought-through tax proposal that does address areas like bracket creep for middle income Australians, and a Labor Party that has got a few piecemeal offerings in tax reform but that have negative consequences, especially in relation to people’s house prices.
Kieran Gilbert: But there will be an announcement before the budget though?
Simon Birmingham: Well yes, and that is something we’ve been working to for a period of time. But as I said, we won’t be rushed. It’s important we get this right, that we do the due diligence that Australians would expect a government, and especially, as Malcolm Turnbull has emphasised from day one, that we look at all of the options. It’s been a very mature conversation from the Government’s perspective. We’ve certainly [indistinct] …
Kieran Gilbert: [Interrupts] Has it been mature though? Because a number of the back benchers sniping at every opportunity, that’s going to be a worry isn’t it? Because there are still some disgruntled about the changes late last year that are still throwing grenades, are you worried that they will continue to do that in the coming weeks?
Simon Birmingham: Kieran I think it has been mature, and a mature dialogue with the Australian people. where we’ve been quite transparent in saying we’ll take a look at everything. And then, as we looked at areas like the GST we released the modelling to demonstrate why there were problems with that type of tax mix switch. And so we’ve moved on to have a look at other scenarios as to how you can better adjust the tax equation, particularly to deal with that bracket creep.
Kieran Gilbert: So what do you say to your colleagues who keep criticising from the sidelines? The back benchers who are speaking publicly and critically of the prospects of change to negative gearing for example?
Simon Birmingham: The Coalition always tolerates back benchers having opinions. That’s the beauty of the Coalition side of politics, that we do let our back benchers express their views, have their opinions, and no doubt they’re being expressed to the Treasurer and the Prime Minister as well. But people should appreciate that this has been a careful and well-though through process, that there will be a comprehensive answer in the not-too-distant future, and that that answer of course will then form the basis of our tax policy, which is just one element of economic reform in our policies that we take to the next election.
Kieran Gilbert: Senator Birmingham thanks for your time.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks so much Kieran.