Interview with Michelle Rowland, ABC News Breakfast

  • Transcript, E&OE
Topics: 2019 Federal election.
20 May 2019

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Joining us now from Adelaide is the Trade Minister and Liberal Party campaign spokesman Simon Birmingham. Senator good morning to you.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning Michael. Great to be back with you.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: And congratulations. Now let's go to the seat tally Antony Green has the coalition on 75 seats, he says you are likely to get the 76 an outside chance to get to 77. Are you confident of securing majority government?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well we are currently ahead in 77 of the 151 electorates. Now of course every vote has to be counted and respected and so we'll see what the final landscape is. But we are confident that we are in a strong position to provide stable, secure, leadership for Australia over the next three years. That Scott Morrison will be able to get on and implement his positive plans to lower taxes, to support our farmers in future drought recovery measures, and protect them from farm invaders to make sure that we deliver on the promise of more support for mental health services and tackling youth suicide in particular. So we've got a busy agenda to get on with and we're confident in terms of the way in which the numbers appear to be falling in the Parliament that we'll be in a strong position to do so.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, confident of getting 76 perhaps 77 seats?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well as I say we're currently ahead in 77 a couple of them are close. We will see exactly where all of those final votes fall. Of course I'm sure that we will be reaching out and discussing with the independents and the crossbench over coming days as well to make sure that we have maximum cooperation and stability in the Parliament. But we're looking at a very strong position to hopefully be a secure, stable, majority government as we had laid out as our ambition to be at this election.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: The Prime Minister says obviously his first priority is to get legislated those tax cuts by July 1st. But beyond that he didn't really have much of a long term policies put forward to the Australian electorate. What is the government's agenda once those tax cuts are dealt with?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: So the tax cuts of course are a priority to make sure that the thousands, millions of Australians who will be better off come July 1, start to see those benefits and then of course they grow over time. We also want to make sure that our new first home buyers scheme is put in place swiftly, we want to make sure as I said before that our support for our farmers in terms of the drought recovery measures as well as support to protect them from farm invasions is put in place swiftly. We have plans to make sure that elsewhere we deliver in terms of the social media reforms that we'd outlined as well as making sure that our protection and security around Australia's national security from returning terrorists from overseas are also strengthened. So there's a number of areas of key legislation that we have to pursue over the coming months and they'll be forming the initial basis of work. That of course will run through the next three years to deliver on our bigger plans of seeing 1.25 million additional jobs created to really boost apprenticeship numbers around Australia, 80,000 extra apprenticeships that we're wanting to see supported and created through reforms there. As well as ongoing support for the NDIS and to build the numbers over time to get to nearly half a million Australians who we expect to be supported on the NDIS with the type of assistance that a country like ours wants and strives to provide for those Australians.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Are you sorry to see Tony Abbott go?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well I'm sorry that we have lost the seat of Warringah and I do pay tribute to Tony for his contribution, long contribution to Australia, service to our nation and particularly service as Prime Minister of Australia. Of course we would rather have held the seat of Warringah that would have given us an extra seat in terms of those numbers we were talking about before. But that's history.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay, is it good in your view that now Scott Morrison can start afresh with both Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull, two former Prime Ministers who don't necessarily like each other out of Parliament?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: There is an element of generational change about the team that now takes us forward. Of course Scott and Josh, working alongside Mathias and myself in the Senate leadership, Michael and Bridget in the National Party leadership. We are a very close knit team, you could see that I think in terms of the way in which this campaign was run, the discipline that was shown, the focus that we had in terms of making sure that our message to Australians was clear and disciplined, and that's the same type of focus and discipline that you can rely upon the leadership of the government now to bring to driving the country forward over the next three years, to delivering on our plans and our commitments to maintain the economic strength for Australia to maintain national security, to keep ensuring that we can afford to invest at record levels in our schools our hospitals and health system, our roads and infrastructure, and we're going to get on and deliver some very exciting plans the length and breadth of this country.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: There are suggestions over the weekend that Tony Abbott may now be in the frame to be the next Australian ambassador to Washington is that the case?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Oh look I think it's very premature to be talking about Tony's future. We have a great ambassador to the United States in Joe Hockey there at present who has done an incredible job ensuring that Australia is well positioned with the Trump administration to deal with some very important and difficult issues including in my own trade portfolio. When Joe's term is up we'll of course have a look at appropriate replacements.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Okay. Looking ahead the shape of the new ministry that Scott Morrison will put together. He has already said on the campaign that Melissa Price will keep her environment portfolio, will that be the case?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well the Prime Minister's word is one that is one that he keeps and so I am sure that will be the case.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Will she be brought out of witness protection anytime soon?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well I don't accept that Michael and all members of the government will be there undertaking their jobs of course we've got to bring the party room back, then we'll have the ministerial swearing in. I would anticipate that will happen over the next couple of weeks of course, once we see those final couple of seats settled and then we'll be in a position to get on with our agenda in the environment portfolio. A big agenda to make sure that our $3.5 billion Climate Solutions funding package is implemented successfully and that Australians have full confidence in us in terms of the delivery of those 2030 Paris targets that we've laid down. As well as a lot of local environmental programs as part of our $100 million investment that we've made in terms of local environmental solutions that will be delivered as well by Melissa, I'm sure with great ability and real focus on getting the best possible local environmental outcome.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Just about out of time and I want to ask you about the Senate where you sit of course, based on how it's looking with the Senate numbers, is it potentially more conducive for the Coalition in terms of getting legislation like tax cuts through the Senate?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: It does look like we may have had a strong result in the Senate but the Senate will do something that we have to respect and work with the various crossbenchers who were there and we had great success over the life of the previous Parliament in terms of legislating many times against the odds. You know this is a government that legislated against the odds that won against what the commentators pundits and polls all said and we will now work with the Senate that we're given including the new crossbench in its composition to make sure that we get their support for the agenda the Australian people have endorsed which is one of lower taxes greater support for them to be able to get the get ahead in their lives by keeping more of their hard earned money to save for their retirement to invest in their family and to build for their future families.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Who is the Labor leader the Coalition would most fear?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well that's entirely a matter for the Labor Party but the Labor Party will be kidding themselves if they think it's just a question of leadership. This was a rejection of the policy platform the Labor Party took to this election. It's a rejection of the idea that government has the solutions for everything through big taxing and big spending promises and Labor needs to look long and hard at those policy questions and soon we'll be getting on with our agenda which is about prudent investment careful management of the nation's finances lower taxes on Australians because that's clearly what Australians voted for.

MICHAEL ROWLAND: Simon Birmingham, thank you so much for joining us on News Breakfast.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Thank you Michael.

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