DAVID BEVAN: Simon Birmingham is a Liberal Senator for South Australia and he’s been involved in the campaign, obviously, but not just to try and get… well I’m not too sure he was standing but he was acting as something of a campaign manager for the Liberals, I think the candidate for Hindmarsh…
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: No, he wasn’t up this time, was he?
DAVID BEVAN: No, but he was working as a… behind the scenes, a campaigner, but also he’s keeping an eye on the counting. Good morning, Simon Birmingham.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, David. Morning, Matt.
DAVID BEVAN: Were you down at the count for Boothby yesterday?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, I’ve been down at the count for Boothby every day since it started again on Sunday. I, as you guys might recall, went through a nail-biter count myself six years ago in Hindmarsh and Andrew Southcott helped me out then by scrutineering and I have some empathy for candidates in this situation so it’s a pleasure to be able to return the favour.
DAVID BEVAN: What do you do as a scrutineer? You stand there and watch?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: That’s very much it, David. It is a case of you keep an eye out to make sure that the voter’s intention is reflected, you make sure that only formal votes are admitted to the count and just that the whole process is proper and above board and look, the AEC [Australian Electoral Commission] staff are very thorough, they’re very proper, and really our role is just one of ensuring that in a sense the candidate’s and the Party’s minds are put at ease and that there are able people there to watch the process.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: And one of Mary Jo Fisher’s… Senator Mary Jo Fisher, who is up, she was I think number one on your Senate ticket this time with Sean Edwards as number two, former Party president… one of Mary Jo Fisher’s scrutineers or staff – Nicole Beck, is it? – touched one of the ballot papers, Simon Birmingham, what was she thinking?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Yes, well, a little bit of a storm in a teacup here. There… as Paul [Paul Langtry, Public Awareness Officer SA, Australian Electoral Commission] indicated before, there were a couple of incidents yesterday where scrutineers, one from each side I think in the end, reached across the table to point to a number to sort of say ‘well… that’s two fours’ or something of that sort and in the process of pointing, their fingertips touched the ballot paper.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: [sharply draws breath]
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Now, sin of all sins, I can hear the deep inhalation of breath there…
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Doesn’t the Electoral Office staff have a ruler and just slap ’em on the …
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I think they’re bringing the guillotine in today
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: No more fingertips.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Well I notice in the paper, in The Australian, she’s got her hands folded.
DAVID BEVAN: Simon Birmingham, so how many of these scrutineers are there, standing watching how many people counting votes? And do you literally just stand looking over their shoulder? So there’s a person … counting these votes, and on one side they’ve got a Labor scrutineer, on the other side they’ve got a Liberal scrutineer, and you’re watching what they’re doing and you see a mistake or you see something that you think they’ve missed, you jump in?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I think you can see a couple of photos in the newspapers today, you’ve alluded to Nicole and you can see that I’m standing there behind Rebecca, the Boothy Divisional Returning Officer’s right shoulder, looking over her shoulder as she goes through the disputed ballot papers and that’s very much the case, you stand there, you look, you make your argument as to whether it’s one or the other and the DRO rules it in or out – there’s only one opinion that counts in whole room and that’s the returning officer’s opinion.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Now as a Senator for South Australia but not up for re-election this time, is the Senate vote… have you kept an eye on that and… is there going to be no change? In other words, three Liberal, two Labor, one Green?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: That, I think, is the likely outcome, but that is of course a change, Matt, that will see the loss of one Labor Senator, Dana Wortley will be replaced by Penny Wright for the Greens. That looks to be the most likely outcome, I think David Fawcett, our number three candidate, will get there ahead of Bob Day from Family First, but obviously all of the below-the-line votes are being entered in a very laborious process into the AEC’s magical computer system that’s almost as magical as [ABC election analyst] Antony Green’s and they’ll push the button in a couple of weeks’ time.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: There is a slight chance that Family First could take the third Liberal spot. Is that right?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: A very slight chance.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Because they have the Shooters and Fishers preferences but not the Sex Party.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The Sex Party did choose to go elsewhere rather than Family First in the end, much I know to your disappointment, but…