Export market development grants (EMDG); Labor’s negative gearing policy; the Greens; One Nation; Budget.

Simon Birmingham: The Government is announcing a $60 million boost to the export market development grants. This is an investment in helping Australian exporters to succeed on the world stage. This is building upon incredible success we’ve already had in growing exports from Australia. Last year Australia recorded its largest trade surplus ever, our best performance for our exporters. We’ve seen the number of exporting businesses grow by 16 per cent since we have been in office and what we’ve done to deliver that is open up access for Australian business, by delivering trade deal after trade deal, and we are backing them in with these grants to help them invest in growing their export markets around the world. And this is about driving the economic strength of Australia, more exports, more businesses exporting, more access to markets, more investment in exports, means more jobs for Australians, greater prosperity for Australians. That’s been the lived experience for the last five to six years, and we’re investing to make sure that under a Liberal-National Government, investment and growing exports continues, because that’s what will grow our national prosperity.

It stands in stark contrast to Labor’s policy announcement. Labor’s policy announcement today is that 1 January, should a Labor government to be elected, to be marked in the diary as the time at which Australian homeowners can see the values of their properties diminished, and renters see the price of rent increase. That’s the whole hard, cold, reality of Labor’s negative gearing and capital gains tax policy. They are going to create a circumstance where thousands of Australians who already feel pressure in terms of their house prices, are going to see further pressure if there’s a Labor government, pushing those house prices down, undermining what is the one biggest capital asset that most Australians have. And at the same time, renters will find that prices go up. That’s what the economic modelling has demonstrated time and again, that was the lived experience when Keating toyed with those policies demonstrated. Bill Shorten is jeopardising Australia’s housing market and will be making life harder for renters in the future.

Equally, on the policy front today, we see the Greens out there suggesting they’ll tear up the Australia-US defence alliance. It is most reckless and irresponsible. The Greens would destroy the US defence alliance, cut deeply to our defence expenditure as a nation, destroy of course our economy with higher taxes, higher electricity prices, and destruction of our trade deals. And yet Bill Shorten seems to think it’s okay to do preference deals with the Australian Greens. Well Scott Morrison has shown leadership in saying those who are the parties of government, those who claim to try to occupy the centre of politics, whatever our policy differences, ought to make sure that those who have policies that are in the extreme, whether its of the extreme right or the extreme left, are not worthy of immediate preferencing, and Bill Shorten ought to take that lead to ensure he protects Australia’s defence interests, our national security interests, and our economic interests by ensuring he preferences the Liberal Party ahead of the Greens rather than Labor doing another dirty preference deal with the Greens in the future.

Journalist: Mr Birmingham, what’s your proof that Labor’s changes to negative gearing will damage the economy?

Simon Birmingham: There’s clear economic modelling that’s being undertaken, time and time again and there’s the lived experience. The fact is that when some of these changes were toyed with by Paul Keating we saw the type of impact in terms of increases in rental prices and frankly, I know far too many young Australians who can’t afford to have rental prices go up because Labor decides to go and just do a great big tax break. But let’s understand what is driving this from Bill Shorten. If the desire to collect $200 billion dollars plus of more tax revenue, and the price of Bill Shorten getting $200 billion of extra taxes is that your house prices will go down and your rent will go up.

Journalist: Simon can you tell us more about this economic modelling (indistinct)?

Simon Birmingham: Well we’ve seen economic modelling that’s been supported by various industry groups. We absolutely have the economic modelling, we’ve been referencing in terms of are estimates to be (indistinct) and we can see the modelling that goes market by market, in terms of the potential loss of house values in markets such as Sydney or Melbourne, or that there’s an increase in rental prices in other markets such as Perth or Brisbane. And we really want to make sure that Australians understand that. I refer you indeed to modelling that the Treasurer has publicly identified previously, and we’ll continue to make sure that Australians understand the choices at the next election. Higher taxes under Bill Shorten, lower house prices, higher rentals.

Journalist: But isn’t it the case that the government (indistinct) falling house prices and yet its criticising Labor’s policies (indistinct) risking a reduction in house prices?

Simon Birmingham: Well you’ve got to be careful about these things, we have worked closely with the Reserve Bank in terms of financial settings to make sure that we do all we can to guarantee lending practices are responsible, and that investment in the housing market is responsible. But this policy of the Labor Party, coming on top of those measures that have already been demonstrated to be working and are already cooling the housing market, will take that from a cooling of the housing market, to a potential real loss of value in the housing market for mum and dad Australians.

Journalist: Can we expect any measures (indistinct) housing market in the budget?

Simon Birmingham: As a government, we’ve already put in place measures in terms of support for people to use superannuation (indistinct) for their home deposit, as well as the types of measures that have guaranteed more responsible lending practices and better sustainability in terms of the housing market. But we continue to work closely on all of those things. The most important thing though that we can do for Australian homeowners or those who seek to purchase a house, is to maintain a strong economy, and you won’t have a strong economy if there are $200 billion plus of new taxes being levied on us under a new Labor government.

Journalist: Will the budget be in surplus?

Simon Birmingham: The budget will be in surplus and this is a phenomenal achievement of our government, to be able to bring the budget back to surplus for the first time since the Howard years. We have done so by containing spending growth and growing the economy simultaneously. This has been about careful economic management, economic management that has created one point three million new job opportunities for Australians, brought the budget back to surplus, delivered tax cuts for households and small businesses, and all of those things are at risk if we have a Labor government levying new taxes, reckless spending, and jeopardising jobs growth in the future.

Journalist: On a different issue are you concerned about the One Nation backlash atter the Prime Minister decided to preference them below Labor and could that hurt the government?

Simon Birmingham: The Prime Minister has done the right thing by saying that parties that have extremist, damaging policies, whether they damage social cohesion like One Nation policy, or our economic prospects and our national security like the Greens policies, ought to be at the bottom of how to vote cards. Bill Shorten ought to show the same leadership and stop cozying up to the Australian Greens who today are talking about tearing up the US defence allliance and recognise that he too should be putting the Liberal Party ahead of parties from the far right or the far left, in terms of their how to vote cards in the Labor Party.

Journalist: Do you think it’s responsible to compare One Nation with the Greens?

Simon Birmingham: I’m not comparing the two.

Journalist: You just did.

Simon Birmingham: I put very clearly the fact that One Nation have policies that are reprehensible in terms of social cohesion for Australians that are racist and discriminatory, and have shown complete disregard for the 35 Australian lives that were lost at Port Arthur. That is a horrific crime by One Nation in terms of the public position they take as well as selling out Australia in terms of foreign donations. That’s not to say that the Greens don’t have completely different, but also radical policies on the far left. Policies that will tear up the US defence alliance, savage the defence spending, undermine our trade and economic relations. Those things ought to be called out as well. If we’re having a debate about who preferences who, well the Labor Party ought to explain why they think it’s acceptable to preference the Australian Greens or they ought to rule that out and preference the Liberal Party first, because the Greens have dangerous policies, the Greens have reckless ideas, and they ought to be called out for what they are too, rather being part of a cozy alliance on the left of the Labor party.