Topics: Beer tax; RBA rates decision; Housing fund;

07:45AM AEST
1 August 2023


Peter Stefanovic:  Let’s go to Canberra. Joining us, Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Birmingham. All feeds into the cost of living, doesn’t it? Simon, good to see you. We’re not smiling over that increase in beer costs, though, but-  Just start that again, Simon. We missed the top of it.


Simon Birmingham: I’m smiling because you should be choosing a Cooper’s or a good Aussie beer, mate.


Peter Stefanovic: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true.


Simon Birmingham: However, I mean, it’s serious, though. You’re right, in terms of this is just another consequence of high inflation as these charges knock onto people and they feel it in all aspects of their life including when you’re pulling a pint.


Peter Stefanovic: Let’s go to the RBA. There’s a mixed view on what economists are predicting today. Simon But if it does lift, do you fear the RBA will drive the economy into a recession?


Simon Birmingham: Well, I certainly fear that the economy is in a fragile position in some ways at present because so many Australians are doing it tough right now. And even if the RBA holds interest rates today, that’s going to be cold comfort for many Australian families who are already paying the highest interest rates in 11 years, the highest interest rates since the Gillard Labor Government. And that ultimately is the thing that Australians are seeing. Labor’s back in power and interest rates are high again. They’re feeling that pain of high interest rates along with high inflation and sadly that is making many households have to pull back on areas of spending. And that’s starting to show real signs across different parts of the economy in terms of different areas of spending that are feeling the real constraints.


Peter Stefanovic: Okay. Much of this feeds into housing. It remains a key concern for so many people who are trying to get in the market in particular, but also those who have a house that can’t afford the repayments. Now the government is returning its future housing fund or at least getting that back into Parliament. Why not get behind it this time? Isn’t something better than nothing.


Simon Birmingham: No, this is terrible policy and we’ve been clear about that for a long, long time. It’s bad firstly, because what it’s trying to do is set up a fund like the Future Fund, but the circumstances are completely different. When the Howard Government set up the Future Fund Australia, the Australian government had cleared its debt, it was debt free and it put surpluses into establish a fund. This Labor government is proposing to borrow $10 billion to then invest it, to then hope that the investments managed to fund it. Being able to build these so-called social houses, it’s not going to do a single thing to help with home ownership. All it’s going to do is increase the level of government debt further, create a questionable stream in terms of whether it’s going to deliver investments. It’s certainly not going to fix the current slump in terms of dwelling approvals that we’re seeing. Where the government needs to focus its efforts on how it ensures competitiveness, productivity and housing sector. And right now, through its industrial relations reforms, it’s going in completely the opposite direction when it comes to helping to have a more competitive and effective housing sector.


Peter Stefanovic: Okay, Simon Birmingham, short and sweet today. Appreciate your time, though. Thank you.