Topics: New UK Prime Minister Liz Truss;


07:05AM AEST


David Penberthy: …Prime Minister in six years. She defeated Rishi Sunak in the Conservative Party leadership contest and will travel to meet the Queen at Balmoral in Scotland to formalise the position. Now her former role was as foreign minister in the Johnson government, which saw her come out to Australia just recently and she travelled around the country with the then Australian Foreign Minister, South Australian Senator Simon Birmingham, who joins us now. Simon, good morning to you.


Simon Birmingham: Good morning, guys. Good to be with you. Although I was the finance minister at the time.


Will Goodings: You were finance minister.


Simon Birmingham: I shared the trade portfolio, though, prior to that.


David Penberthy: That’s right. Not to put Marise Payne out of a former job. But, so what was she like as a colleague, albeit one from the other side of the world? And more importantly, how do you think she’ll perform as the new prime minister of Britain?


Simon Birmingham: Well, Liz was great to work with. Together we launched the Australia-UK Free Trade Agreement negotiations and undertook those negotiations for a couple of years through multiple rounds, getting very close to a deal that was then finalised not long after the two of us had left the trade portfolio. And that was a deal that really is great for both countries in deepening investment ties and the opportunities for trade flows, the opportunities for young Australians and young Brits to move between two countries and a whole lot of high tech opportunities. And Liz was driven to get a good outcomes for both countries. She’s a good friend to Australia and has stood up internationally against various authoritarian powers, particularly most recently Russia. But most recently she was even in Adelaide in February of this year visiting the shipyards at Osborne, looking at the high tech facilities that BAE have got in place there. And so I’ve got no doubt that we will have in Liz Truss as UK Prime Minister, somebody who works well with Australia and works well with us internationally in defending all of our common interests and values.


David Penberthy: The AUKUS agreement sort of saw Australia go back to the future with regard to just re strengthening ties with traditional allies like the UK and the United States. Can you give us a bit of an insight into Liz Truss’ worldview? Simon, based on those conversations you had with her in the context of talking about how Australia fits in an alliance like that and what opportunities it might provide?


Simon Birmingham: Well, Liz recognises the power of democracy, the importance of countries who have these common likeminded value sense in support of basic freedoms, basic democracies, basic human rights. Working cooperatively together and to be able to defend all of those. And that’s why AUKUS was born in the sense that three very trusted partners, the US, UK and Australia, agreeing to share our deepest military secrets and technologies, the sharing not just of nuclear submarine technologies, but also of missile technologies, artificial intelligence technologies, the types of things necessary to keep our defence forces at the cutting edge and our country’s best able to defend ourselves and all of those values we hold dear. Liz is not afraid to speak her mind. She’s certainly willing to stand up and argue for all of those values that she confronts. A particularly challenging time, though, in the UK as the impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are having profound effects across Europe in particular, 80% projected increases in energy prices for households is a cost of living spike that is well beyond even what we’re feeling in Australia and means she’s got a fair bit of business to get down to in getting on with the job.


Will Goodings: And Birmo, do you think that Boris Johnson might make a quiet phone call to your old boss, Scott Morrison? Because the pair of them sort of they tell a bit of a story about how incumbency went from being a blessing to a curse in the midst of the pandemic, don’t they?


Simon Birmingham: They did. They did both ride the wave of COVID in that sense. And the crash that came at the end, I guess. I could certainly see them enjoying a quiet whisky at some stage in the future. Maybe not so quiet with Boris.


David Penberthy: [Laughs] He got his partying out of his system. As a former finance minister and how do you imagine that Liz Truss is going to go prosecuting a position of or advocating for tax cuts in the context of inflation at 10% and the economic challenges that UK and Europe are facing. I guess maybe more generally tax cuts are a bulwark against what we’re seeing as a crisis that all countries are going through at the moment. It feels like a difficult task to try and prosecute that one, doesn’t it?


Simon Birmingham: Look, it’s a careful balancing act. Obviously, when you get really extreme cost of living pressures, you want to do more to put money back into people’s pockets. And for governments that that entails either taking less out of them in the first place through lower taxes, or, of course, more handouts and more subsidies. So, you know, that’s the brutal, blunt choice that comes down. Over the longer term you hope to stabilise inflation, grow the economy, grow wages they are all the strategies over a longer term you seek to achieve. And in the U.K, they’re not just facing some of the inflationary pressures, but they’re seeing the risk of greater economic slowdown. And I think that’s where Liz is coming at from the policy she’s committed to around tax cuts and other measures to make sure that she strengthens their economy so that you don’t end up in the worst of all worlds with inflation running high, but also then an economy collapsing and jobs being lost.


David Penberthy: Good stuff, Birmo. We thank you for sharing those insights into the new British PM. Senator Simon Birmingham joining us this morning on 5AA. Cheers mate.


Simon Birmingham: Thanks, guys.