Interview on ABC 891, Breakfast with Ali Clarke and David Bevan
AliClarke:It's a good morning to Mark Butler, Member for Port Adelaide.
MarkButler:Good morning, how are you going?
AliClarke:Good. Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens Senator for South Australia are you with us?
SarahHanson-Young: Good morning, thanks for having me.
AliClarke:And we're just waiting to hear from Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade,Tourism and Investment. Actually he's not answering at the moment so we'll getstraight into it.
DavidBevan:I imagine he's got quite a bit on his plate at the moment.
MarkButler:I've got his proxy actually he's just emailed it through to me.
DavidBevan:No he joins us now, good morning Simon Birmingham.
SimonBirmingham:Good morning everybody, sorry to disappoint Mark.
DavidBevan:We'll come to you, Simon Birmingham and Mark Butler, in just a moment.Particularly Simon Birmingham I want to put to you comments made by DennisShanahan in The Australian today about where your party finds itself. But SarahHanson-Young, yesterday Julia Banks left the Liberal Party sighting that theLiberals had been captured by right wing forces but also a lot has been saidabout the Liberal Party not embracing women, not giving women safe seats.Rebekha Sharkie was making similar comments to Sabra Lane just a few momentsago. You find yourself, yet again, the focus of attention and the issue of theway women are treated in the Senate. We are of course referring to remarks thathave been made to you by a Coalition Senator.
SarahHanson-Young:That's right. I think there is obviously a problem with how some men treattheir positions in Parliament with very little respect. That is little respectfor their constituents and little respect for their female colleagues. I'msorry but I'm not going to put up with it anymore. I've sat in that Parliamentfor ten years and the situation has gotten worse. The behaviour of some peoplehas gotten worse. It's time we started calling them out and naming and shamingthem. I must admit I was pretty angry yesterday and I was pretty shaken by whathappened in the Senate.
AliClarke:For those that did miss it here is Barry O'Sullivan who is a Queensland LNPSenator and he was speaking in Parliament yesterday afternoon…So that was yourleader, Greens leader Richard Di Natale. He was actually then suspended fromthe Senate because he refused to withdraw his comments after he called SenatorBarry O'Sullivan a grub and an absolute pig and a disgrace. Do you feel letdown that it was the Greens leader suspended and not Barry O'Sullivan becausehe just withdrew comments and keeps continuing on?
SarahHanson-Young:I do think there is a problem when people can continue to behave badly andthere are no repercussions for them but if you say something that istechnically unparliamentarily, whether it is in defence of a colleague or not,you're the one who cops it. I stand by Richard Di Natale's position not towithdraw his comments. Frankly, Senator O'Sullivan is a constant reoffender.I've been on the end of his bullying and intimidation for many years. I knowmany other female Senators have as well and we are sick of it. From here on inwe are going to stand up to it and other decent men in that place, and I knowthere is plenty of them, Simon is there, Mark I know in the House, there areplenty of decent men and together we need to find a way to get past this tolift the standard for everybody. Treating women better in politics is going tomean that everybody gets treated better and ultimately the voters will bebetter off.
DavidBevan:Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham, were you impressed with Senator BarryO'Sullivan and what do you say to Julia Banks and her comments regarding yourparty?
SimonBirmingham:David, no I was not impressed. I sit at the opposite end of the chamber toBarry and Sarah. There seems to regularly be a cacophony of exchanges happeningacross the other end of the chamber that inhabits the crossbench and theNational Party and so on, much of it frankly appears to be pretty unedifyingand I encourage everybody to lift their game and to actually stick to theissues and perhaps reflect the standing orders of not interjecting and notengaging in those sorts of ways. Barry O'Sullivan has lost his pre-selection.He is not going to be an endorsed candidate for the National Party inQueensland at the next election. That perhaps means that he becomes even harderto influence from time to time in terms of what he says or does, but the Partyhas taken its action and steps up there. In terms of issues of how Parliamentconducts itself I think the Parliament could do well, I thank Sarah for thereference, but it could do well if we saw a lot more of perhaps policy that Ithink on this program Mark and I, when we are both on together take, we largelystick to the issues and steer away from the personal. I would urge everyone todo that a lot more in the House, in the Senate, in Question Time, in the restof debate, and in their engagement with one another.
DavidBevan:Mark Butler, time is precious for us. I just take it for granted you are notimpressed with Barry O'Sullivan either?
MarkButler:I'm going to veer into the personal, despite of what Simon says - this man is apig. He's a particular offender but he's not the only offender in the Senate. Ithink all of us are getting sick to death of Sarah having to put up with this.I completely get why Richard did what he did and behaved the way he didyesterday. There are conventions in the Senate that I think everyone sort ofunderstands up there, you abide by the President's ruling and I think all ofthe crossbenchers, Centre Alliance Senators, Tim Storer and so on, as well asthe Labor Party supported the President's ruling. But at some point enough isenough and I think it is incumbent of the leaders of the Liberal and Nationalparties to start pulling not just this fellow Barry O'Sullivan in, and I acceptthat is going to be difficult because he has been deselected, but there are anumber of them, who as I understand it, continue to make these references.Enough is enough. The Liberal Party has got to recognise over the last severalweeks this is starting to become a very serious brand problem for them. So, ifonly for that reason, from the top down they need to start pulling these peoplein and stop this behaviour. It is just completely unacceptable.
DavidBevan:Simon Birmingham you know when you get an opinion piece from the politicaleditor of The Australian that it is a case of apocalypse now, the stench ofpanic grips Liberals. It's goodnight Irene. You are now just in the position ofsaving what furniture you can get; it's every man and woman for themselves.
SimonBirmingham:Well John Hewson had an unlosable election, Mark Latham thought he had anunlosable election and Bill Shorten may think he has an unlosable election butthe lessons of history are that unlosable elections are often lost. We are notabout to stop fighting. In terms of the next election we want to make sure thatpeople understand that our Government has delivered most of the things we promised.We promised we would fix and balance the Budget, we have. We promised we wouldgrow the economy, we have. A million plus jobs, more than 100,000 jobs foryoung Australians a record number ever created in the history of our economylast year in terms of new jobs for young people. We've lowered taxes on incometax. We've lowered taxes on small businesses and medium businesses. We'vesecured the boarders in terms of stopping the flow of boat people to Australia.
AliClarke:If you've had so much success though Simon Birmingham then why are peopleleaving?
SimonBirmingham:I think the politics has been pretty ordinary. We've had great success on thepolicy and the things that actually influence and impact the lives ofAustralians and make our country better but our handling of the politics hasbeen frankly pretty ordinary. Now what we will urge people at the election toreflect on is the things that matter and impact to them in their lives. Wherethe Member for Chisholm sits in the Parliament of Australia doesn't impact onMum or Dad or Grandpa or Grandma or anybody else getting up around Adelaide andgetting off to their job. They have a job, they are going to be paying less taxand their job is more secure because small business is paying les tax.
DavidBevan: But is it about you have got the politics wrong or is it something much deeper?Again quoting Dennis Shanahan he says the worst of it, for the Liberal Party,is that there are equal and opposing camps both convinced the Party must befirst destroyed to enable it to be rebuilt in their own contradictory image.This is not about politics it goes deeper about the heart and soul of theLiberal Party.
SimonBirmingham:I reject that analysis and I reject it in part because despite some of thosepersonality squabbles that may have ensued – we've got all of those goodpolicies I was talking about done. The country is in a much better place afterfive plus years of Liberal Government then it was when we came to office.
DavidBevan:On policy Julie Bishop says you ought to go back to the National EnergyGuarantee and presumably she applauds Mark Butler for adopting it?
SimonBirmingham:I think if you take a close look at what Julie said she is fairly critical ofthe extreme targets that Mark Butler and the Labor Party have set and thethreat that they pose to higher electricity prices and economic growth in thefuture. It's not the only place where Labor's policies will see higher taxes,on people's wages, higher taxes on retirement savings for people, higher taxesin terms of other investment streams, all of that is going to dampen oureconomy and mean there is less prospect for jobs in the future. That's thechoice we have to have people focus on in May next year, when we have anelection, after they've seen a surplus Budget handed down for the first timeessentially since the Howard years. Where we've actually got things back to thestage we expect them to be under a Liberal government - a balanced Budget,lower taxes and jobs growing.
AliClarke:But Simon Birmingham even though we do vote for a Party, we're not voting for aspecific person to lead the country, do you not see that people go to anelection and vote for leadership. At the moment it is leadership in the LiberalParty and leaders set the culture from the top that maybe people aren'tconnecting with and don't see as people they want to vote for?
SimonBirmingham: I think most Australians vote for governments because they want governments tolook after their interests and their lives. That is what matters. My time herein Canberra, I wake up every day, I think about as I go through the day how itis the policy decisions I'm making can make the lives of Australians better –can secure their jobs, jobs for their kids.
AliClarke:That's you, what about the rest of them?
SimonBirmingham:I think that is overwhelmingly not only what the team has thought about anddelivered in terms of lower taxes, balanced budgets, jobs growth, secureboarders, national security. It's a Government that has an incredibly goodtrack record of achievement and yes it is incredibly frustrating to be a memberof the Government and deal with all of these questions about politics and personalitieswhen the policies and outcomes are bloody good.
DavidBevan:Mark Butler he's waving not drowning?
MarkButler:Simon's problem or the problem with the Government is that it is not just aboutpolitics, it is about policy. That is really the point Dennis Shanahan wasmaking on the front page of The Australian this morning. This is now aGovernment that has a very deep philosophical divide running through the middleof it. It is reminiscent of the Labor Party of the 1950s and 60s. So philosophicallydivided that it is incapable, leaving aside the personality disputes betweenTurnbull and Abbott or anyone else, it is just incapable of presenting a unitedfront. It is incapable of presenting a position that appeals to Australianpeople on schools, on hospitals, and on energy policy. It keeps getting draggedinto these ideological wars within its own Coalition party room.
DavidBevan:Do you think things are so bad for the Coalition that the Labor Party couldpick up Christopher Pyne's seat of Sturt?
MarkButler: I think Simon was right early on in his remarks that no election is in the bag,no election is unlosable or unwinnable. We are very focused on just trying todeal with policy, putting together a platform of issues and policies thatappeal to the Australian people. That's what we've been doing over the lastseveral days while this mob has been fighting itself. We announced our energypolicy last week, over the last several hours we released a domestic violencepolicy to restore $18 million of cuts that this Government made to familyviolence programs. That is our focus. The problem this Government has is not apersonality problem, or a politics problem, it is a deep philosophical divideas Dennis Shanahan pointed out, between the conservative and moderate campsthat can't be resolved.
DavidBevan: Let's finish on an issue of policy. Mark Butler are you happy for oil companiesto drill in the Great Australian Bight?
MarkButler:What I want to see is a very proper process of consideration and assessment ofthe plan that this latest company, because there have been a number that have gonethrough this process, run by the independent regulator NOPSEMA.
DavidBevan: So if the independent regulator signs up, we're pressed for time, if theindependent regulator signs off and says it's okay – you're okay with that?
MarkButler: What I was about to say is I think everyone was quite shocked by the spillmodelling that was released, which showed the absolute worst case scenario andthis is what we should be focused on in a case like this, a development in alargely pristine ocean at the bottom of our continent. The worst case scenariois deeply shocking and we are watching closely the work NOPSEMA will beundertaking to consider this application in that context.
SarahHanson-Young:We shouldn't have drilling in the Bight. The worst case scenario would bedevastating for South Australia but we also don't need it. The idea that wewould in ten years' time be pulling out oil at a commercial rate and shippingit overseas to be burnt for fuel and energy, at a time where we have to tackleclimate change, is madness. South Australia can do better than this. SouthAustralians don't want this and the sooner the Labor and Liberal party's getused to that the better. You've got to stop it once and for all.
DavidBevan:The plane you flew in recently, the car you drove wasn't solar powered was it?It did have petrol in it?
SarahHanson-Young:Sure David but we don't need another oil well in the Great Australian Bight.There is plenty of fuel around. We are transitioning and we have to if we wantto save the planet from dangerous global warming.
AliClarke:Look we do have to leave it there.
SimonBirmingham: One quick observation, petrol prices are high because oil prices are high.Having more oil would be a good thing to get petrol prices down.
DavidBevan:You think a drill in the Bight would lower oil prices?
MarkButler:Oil prices are in free fall.
SimonBirmingham:No the fact that Sarah says we don't need more oil or otherwise…
SarahHanson-Young:None of this oil is going to stay in Australia mate. It's all going to gooverseas, with the profits.
SimonBirmingham:Ultimately we've been drilling offshore in Australia, the Bass Strait, theNorth West Shelf and elsewhere off the country for many, many years with toughenvironmental conditions in place and as long as those conditions are met thenSouth Australia shouldn't be shutting its doors.
AliClarke:Thank you very much, Simon Birmingham Minister for Trade, Tourism andInvestment, Mark Butler Member for Port Adelaide and Sarah Hanson-Young GreensSenator for SA.
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