Topics: Kim Jong Un visit to Russia; Ukraine; HAFF bad policy; 

07:45AM AEST
12 September 2023


Pete Stefanovic: Well, let’s bring in the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham. Simon, good to see you. Thanks for your time. So, this meeting, should the West be uneasy about this?


Simon Birmingham: Well, this is a reminder of how despots and dictators stick together and the risks, indeed, of it, seeing yet more weaponry provided to Russia for Russia to deploy against Ukraine. It shows what a terrible situation Russia has created through its illegal and immoral war on Ukraine. It’s a reminder of the importance of like-minded democratic nations who value the sovereignty and respect for international laws to work together to continue to provide more support to Ukraine. And it’s why we continue to be concerned that the Albanese Government in Australia hasn’t kept Australia at the forefront of international efforts in terms of non-NATO contributor countries to Ukraine. And we want to see Australia continue to play our role and not let any unease, slippage occur in relation to the effort that’s got to be there to push back against these types of despots.


Pete Stefanovic: Would this embolden not just Vladimir Putin, but it would embolden someone like Kim Jong Un?


Simon Birmingham: Well, there’s no doubt that that they will each, if this occurs in the way it’s been reported, enjoy the type of grand symbolism and other things that are attached to a state visit. And it could embolden each of them. And that’s something that is dangerous for the world. North Korea continues to present a serious threat, continues to ignore the need to respect international conventions, particularly around nuclear weapons. We’ve seen Vladimir Putin threaten to use nuclear weapons in relation to the Ukraine conflict. That’s a serious and deeply grave and worrying and troublesome type of threat to make. But it is why the continued efforts and support are to make sure Ukraine is in as strong as a position as possible to deter the use of those nuclear weapons and ultimately to be in a strong position to see a peace negotiated where Ukraine’s borders are properly respected and enforced against Russia.


Pete Stefanovic: On the housing fund, it looks like that one’s going to pass through parliament now, have you got to cop that one on the chin?


Simon Birmingham: Well, we’ve always thought this was bad policy. It doesn’t do anything to help address home ownership problems in Australia. If Labor wants to spend an extra 1 billion, 2 billion, $3 billion, it’s hard to keep up with how much they give away under pressure from the Greens. Then they should do so directly through credible means, such as the successful National Housing and Investment Finance Corporation that the Coalition put in place and not the type of convoluted money-go-round that Labor has proposed and is putting through here. Many of the Greens had concerns about how this will or won’t work are actually correct. Labor’s tried to make it up along the way in terms of changing its policy and throwing more cash at it. But fundamentally, this is not going to do what is necessary to address the real challenges around home ownership in Australia, and it’s not going to generate the type of numbers of homes that will shift the dial in a market that is pressured as a result of population and migration.


Pete Stefanovic: Sure. I mean, creating these homes, these thousands of homes, it is not going to fix the problem. But won’t it at least help the problem?


Simon Birmingham: Well, again, you have to look firstly at how the money is being spent. And if the Government wants to spend this money, then they should spend it upfront on the books through established incredible means. Not invent some sort of new, highly bureaucratic, complex process that-


Pete Stefanovic: But using the share market is hardly new?


Simon Birmingham:  But setting up an off-budget fund where they’re borrowing the money to set up the off-budget fund. It’s not like the nation has eliminated its debt all of a sudden. I mean, trying to build this like the Future Fund was built by the Howard and Costello government. It’s nothing like that. The Howard Costello days, the government debt was paid off and they were able to build the Future Fund out of surpluses when there was no debt. In this case it’s a ridiculous proposition that the Government’s put forward to try to pretend that this isn’t having a budget impact when it has a direct budget impact because they’re having to ultimately see us carry more debt for longer as a country to establish this type of funding mechanism.


Pete Stefanovic: I mean, do you share concerns, at least from some that suggest I mean, supply chain issues are going to slow this down, that they can’t be done, and they can’t be built on time?


Simon Birmingham: Well, there’s a genuine risk of that. And the reality is that the government’s industrial relations reforms will take challenges in this sector and make them far, far worse. They will drive up the cost of construction across the Australian economy. They work against productivity and all the things the Government says we need to see improvements to. Yet their main economic policy, the only economic policy of substance from this government being these IR reforms, takes us in exactly the opposite direction, hurts competition, hurts productivity and drives up costs.


Pete Stefanovic: Simon Birmingham, we’ll leave it there. Appreciate it. We’ll talk to you soon.