Topics: ‘Bad Blood’ series; foreign policy with regard to China; US-China trade war; Iran.



Laura Jayes: And he joins us live now. Thanks so much for your time. First of all what are these revelations in the documentary Scott’s numbers, Scott Morrison’s numbers men accused of bringing down Turnbull for, well essentially to get their man up, is that plausible?


Simon Birmingham: Look Laura, everybody will have their own interpretation of events, they played out some time ago now. I think on May 18 the Australian people put these events firmly behind them and certainly for Scott, myself, for the government’s leadership in cabinet, they are behind us and our job now is to focus on delivering what the Australian people want and what we promised such as a lower tax agenda. You know we heard that message from the election, it’s a shame the Labor Party yet.


Laura Jayes: We’ll get to that. From Muppet show to miracle win absolutely, but does this accusation show honestly that there still is some bad blood in the party?


Simon Birmingham: Obviously these interviews were conducted by your colleagues here at Sky, I’m not sure when exactly all of them were put in the can and were undertaken but I can assure you and the listeners that the sense of direction and unity and purpose at the heart of the government is as strong as it’s ever been, that we are completely united around getting our policy agenda implemented and seeing that tax relief delivered for Australians, and on continuing to do the things that are necessary to keep the Australian economy strong and to keep generating jobs and that is right where the focus of every single second of Scott Morrison’s time is.


Laura Jayes: Do you think finally, could Malcolm Turnbull Turnbull have won the election like Scott Morrison did?


Simon Birmingham: Yes and Scott said that in the program last night and look we are continuing to build upon Malcolm’s legacy and his work as indeed before that Tony Abbott’s, put us in a position in terms of being able to bring the budget back to the point of handing down a surplus budget. Being able to deliver the type of tax cuts and tax relief again for hard working Australians, creating the type of jobs that are there. This is a legacy of the Coalition Government that goes back to 2013 and that has been about the work we have done to date and I think the verdict of the Australian people on May 18 was that they may not have liked some of the political shenanigans that happened, but they recognised that our management of the economy, our management of the budget, our creation of jobs and the policies we had in terms of what they’ve delivered and what they can deliver for the future are the right policies for the country. And we have heard that message loud and clear, there will be no shenanigans there will be absolute delivery of our policies and we want to make sure that the Labor Party and the parliament, respect that message as well in terms of the importance of lower taxes for Australian families.


Laura Jayes: Could Peter Dutton have pulled off the same Simon Birmingham?


Simon Birmingham: Look, I don’t know. We’ll never know. In the end the decision was made once the leadership spill vote was successful to have a vote. Scott became the leader and we’ve seen exactly how Scott performed, he’s performed brilliantly and he’s providing strong leadership not just for the party and the Coalition but for the nation. And this week, he’ll take that leadership to the world stage at the G20 where he goes now as a leader, elected in his own right, with a strong mandate and that of course gives him a strong platform in terms of his engagement with other world leaders. Let’s talk about some of the challenges we face and challenges not of our creation in terms of global trade conflict but challenges that we urge the world to get on and address and that we will collaborate closely with like-minded countries to address.


Laura Jayes: Scott Morrison, you’re right has declared today that Australia won’t stand by passively so what will you do?


Simon Birmingham: What we are doing is engaging with Singapore, Japan, European Union, other like-minded countries around the world to advance an agenda of how it is that we advocate for the maintenance of rules-based systems around international trade and modernise them. What’s really important here is that we recognise that in the period since World War II, the United States and other nations helped build international institutions such as the World Trade Organization and establish rules that have served us very well. But they are far from perfect. In that time we’ve seen phenomenal economic growth including in China who now sits alongside the United States as a great economic power. And Scott is urging both the US and China to exercise those powers responsibly as great powers should, to recognise that might is not always right and to engage in addressing some of the legitimate concerns that exist about the operation of their economies and the operation of their trade policies in particular, and the impact that they are having on market conditions around the world and on growth prospects for our economy and every other world economy.


Laura Jayes: It sounds like what you’re saying Simon Birmingham is that you will engage to try and circumvent this problem between the US and China at the moment, engage with other trading nations to beef up those relationships perhaps and use stronger language, imploring the US and China to come to some kind of deal. Can you do anything other than that? 


Simon Birmingham: Laura, we can’t fix this dispute between the US and China, they are big economic superpowers. They have to resolve their tensions and their dispute themselves. We have said consistently for a while now that we appreciate and understand and share as do many other nations, some of the concerns about protection of intellectual property and technology transfer within the Chinese system.  We urge China to provide action and to deliver upon the promises that President Xi has made to the world that they will be stronger protections there. Equally we are concerned about the use of unilateral tariff measures by the United States and the impact that has had in terms of undermining global economic confidence and we see now from the work of the IMF, the work of the OECD that projections around global trade growth are down and that flows through in the projections of global economic growth have been brought down as well. And that’s bad news for everybody including those in the US and China. We need them to recognise that and that the growth of global trade rules have delivered has been an economic miracle of our lifetimes, lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and that we can continue to develop and modernise those rules for the future.


Laura Jayes: Will you impose economic sanctions on Iran?


Simon Birmingham: Well we already have. We already have economic sanctions in place.


Laura Jayes: Any further sanctions, do you have any further levers to pull?


Simon Birmingham: We are constantly reviewing those sanctions to make sure that they are fit for purpose and appropriate. Australia is deeply concerned about the type of disruptive action we’re seeing from Iran, deeply concerned about anything that allows Iran to develop nuclear capabilities and especially given the threat that those nuclear capabilities could then fall into the hands of terrorist organisations and others. That’s why we want to do everything we can, responsibly, sensibly, within our power to see these issues resolved in a diplomatic way using the leverage of economic sanctions to do so.


Laura Jayes: Just finally on tax cuts how do you know that you can afford the entire package that you took to the election, because it does rely on, the affordability does rely on a GDP figure of 3 percent, that’s in your own budget in the outer years. How believable is that given at the moment our economic growth is at about 1.8 percent and is not even meeting the current budget expectations which is at 2.75?


Simon Birmingham: Well we based all of these figures upon our analysis of global economic trends and the type of concerns I was speaking about before are built into our budget projections and we look to the future as to how we will best overcome those results. I mean Australia can’t afford not to have the delivery of income tax relief, that’s the clear message we’ve had from the Reserve Bank Governor, from business leaders, from economists, from those who recognise that if we don’t do this, our conditions will be anti-competitive when it comes to comparison with other global economies particularly in the English speaking world. Workers in Australia will be paying significantly higher taxes relative to their counterparts in those other English-speaking countries. So again, we must see this tax relief delivered because of what it can ensure, the strength of our economy, the resilience of our economy, help to underpin future growth and of course it’s what we promised the Australian people we would do. And it’s remarkable that Anthony Albanese and the Labor Party are so tone deaf when it comes to what was a clear verdict from the election, a verdict for lower taxes not higher taxes.


Laura Jayes: Trade Minister we appreciate your time this morning speak soon.


Simon Birmingham: Thank you my pleasure.