Topics: Making child care more affordable, accessible and flexible for families; Cory Bernardi; Marriage equality
Journalist: Can we just get an update first off on where the child care package is at and when it’s likely to be introduced?
Simon Birmingham: The Government’s intention is to introduce child care reforms this week and these are critical reforms to make child care more affordable and accessible for all Australians. What we will do is implement a package that is fully funded, fully paid for by savings elsewhere, but importantly will remove the cliff that many families fall off of partway through the year in terms of their child care support; will provide more support to the hardest working, lowest income Australian families; ensuring our dollars are best targeted to help maximise workforce participation; and provide the types of safety nets necessary for young children to access early education opportunities.
Journalist: What indication have you got that Nick Xenophon or how the independents are going to go in the Senate?
Simon Birmingham: Discussions are ongoing with the crossbench and, of course, we’ve learnt well not to play those out in public. But we will continue to discuss how we pass and progress the savings as well as the important aspects of child care reform.
Journalist: Are you prepared to grandfather some of the FTB changes so that no families are worse off under the combined package?
Simon Birmingham: Well I’m not going to run a public commentary on individual changes to particular measures. But the Treasurer, the Social Services Minister, myself, and the Government generally are working cooperatively with the crossbenches. We demonstrated in the last half of last year that the Turnbull Government can get things done and get things passed through the Australian Senate. We passed legislation that had been defeated multiple times in the previous Parliament and we’re determined to continue that positive track record of implementing reform and getting things done.
Journalist: Given that success …
Journalist: [Interrupts] Senator, Andrew Bolt says that Cory Bernardi will break away from the Liberal Party this week to form his own party. How damaging would that be?
Simon Birmingham: Well every comment I’ve ever seen Cory make, including over recent months, has been about the importance of Liberals, Nationals, conservatives – all those in the right of centre – working together and working as a strong coalition. And I’m confident that Cory will stand by his words.
Journalist: Are you confident- do you think- have you spoken to him? Is there a chance that he could leave and create his own party?
Simon Birmingham: Well I believe and I’m confident that Cory is someone of his word and his words have been very clearly that he believes we are stronger united.
Journalist: On the 46-54 Newspoll today, given that record of success that you outlined a minute ago, what is going wrong in punters’ minds then?
Simon Birmingham: Look there are always a range of issues washing through the electorate and we see a lot of global instability, particularly in politics today. But what I think the Australian people want is firstly, strong leadership and Malcolm Turnbull’s demonstrated, especially over the last week, that he can deliver strong leadership and results in Australia’s national interest in spades. His work in terms of securing the refugee deal and ensuring that it is implemented with the United States is a demonstration we have a leader for our times and someone who can truly get things done for Australia. Of course, on the domestic policy front, we’re absolutely focused on building on last year’s reforms via implementation of our child care reforms; with a focus on how we can make our electricity systems more affordable and more reliable across the country; by working to see delivery and implementation of our enterprise tax plan that will make Australia a more competitive place to invest, create more jobs, more opportunities for all Australians. That’s the focus people want and that’s certainly where the Turnbull Government’s focused.
Journalist: Are you expecting a party room fight over a free vote for same-sex marriage?
Simon Birmingham: Well I have never liked to pre-empt what will be discussed in the party room, but I’m sure we will certainly be discussing legislative agenda around child care reform, the importance of what we can to make our energy and electricity markets more affordable and more reliable in the future. They’re the priorities that certainly the ministry will be taking into the party room.
Journalist: But is there a growing acceptance that the Turnbull Government has discharged its duty on the plebiscite?
Simon Birmingham: Well there is no doubt that we have tried very hard to get the plebiscite passed and implemented and of course we will continue to work as hard as we can should there be a glimmer of hope anywhere in the Australian Senate to see that plebiscite bill passed. Because had it been passed we could have had the plebiscite next weekend, we could have seen Australian people voting for same-sex marriage and it could have all been done and dusted within the next couple of months.