MATTHEW ABRAHAM: … we have in front of us an email forwarded by Simon Birmingham but it purports to be from Peter Whiteman, Manager, Building the Education Revolution Asset Services, Department of Education and Children’s Services … division … leading the way to improved learning environments for education communities … and it is a memo … it says ‘hello everyone’ and it talks about ‘I need your help in ensuring all the BER signs are covered up at schools at polling stations’. He says ‘the Commonwealth Government has written to the relevant schools and provided them with plastic sheeting and a roll of tape advising them to cover the BER signs on Friday March 19 … brackets … I’m not joking … exclamation mark, close brackets’ … Simon Birmingham is a Liberal South Australian Senator, who sent us this … Simon Birmingham, good morning.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning Matthew, David, listeners.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: This is an actual email, it’s not a dodgy document?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Ah, well, I have every reason to believe it is a genuine, real email.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Okay so what’s going on here?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well it is sad, and if it wasn’t for wasted millions of taxpayer dollars it would be funny and it’s highlighted by the fact that Mr Whiteman in his memo to education department officials has to actually say that he’s not joking when he says that the Commonwealth Government has provided schools with plastic sheeting and a roll of tape and advised them of how to cover up the BER signs … the Building the Education Revolution signs … before the state election tomorrow. This is 3.8 million dollars that the Rudd Labor Government spent on putting signs and plaques up celebrating their Building the Education Revolution funding … at the time, they swore black and blue that these signs weren’t at all political but now it seems they’re so political that they have to be covered up ahead of the state election and the Commonwealth has gone to the lengths of sending out plastic sheeting and rolls of tape and education officials are having to ring the schools, check that they’re covered, send people out tomorrow morning to check that they’re still covered before polling booths open … frankly, I feel it’s another burden placed on the school community and principals and I feel quite sorry for them for having to carry it out.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: You’d rather have the signs just left as they are?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Matt, I’d rather that the Commonwealth hadn’t wasted 3.8 million dollars on putting the signs up in the first place but obviously these signs are politically motivated and it makes sense for them to be covered up but it would have made far more sense for taxpayers money not to be used in the first place putting them up.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Would it be a breach of the Electoral Act leaving the signs up and uncovered?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: There was at least obviously enough doubt around whether it would be a breach, and that is the reason why they’re being covered up. Most of the signs, as far as I’m aware, aren’t authorised although there was some debate at the time as to whether they should have authorisations put on them … they may have in some instances but certainly these signs are political propaganda by the Rudd Labor Government and obviously it’s appropriate on polling booths for them to be covered up but unfortunately it’s the teachers and the principals who have to coordinate wrapping these signs up in black plastic to hide them from voters’ view.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Now Simon Birmingham, Liberal South Australian Senator but obviously, and as a result of that, pretty well connected in the South Australian Party, how are you seeing the election campaign in these dying hours?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Matt, I’m not going to run a commentary on the campaign but I sense …
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: I didn’t ask you to run a commentary…
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: No, no … I think there is a mood for change in talking to voters, and I’ve spent weekends and spare times where Parliament hasn’t been sitting these last few weeks out with a lot of our State candidates on the ground, doorknocking, at supermarkets and elsewhere and I sense there is a mood for change, there is a disenchantment with the spin of Mike Rann and there is a genuine desire to look at, and I think support, the straight talking approach of Isobel Redmond.
DAVID BEVAN: Which seats have you been campaigning in … doorknocking in?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I’ve been down to Bright, Morialta, Norwood my home seat so I’ve sort of stretched across the metro area, some of the seats in Hindmarsh, where of course I ran as a Lower House candidate federally a few years ago in West Torrens and Elder and elsewhere.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: … what’s the buzz in Bright? … because we had (Sunday Mail editor) Megan Lloyd saying that the Labor Party polling there, she understands is showing that they are in trouble in Bright … it was a big swing in Bright anyway but the ‘Tiser poll showed the Labor Party holding Bright … Chloe Fox holding on there.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Maria Kourtesis, our candidate down in Bright, a very successful businesswoman, a very smart woman, has been campaigning really hard for close to two years. The mood I got in doorknocking with her was quite positive and receptive. With the desal plant of course slap bang in the middle of Bright, they’re very attuned to the stormwater issues that Isobel Redmond and Maria have been campaigning hard on, so the voters of Bright I think are hearing the message … it will be close, I suspect, as I think in many of these marginal seats will be, but Maria has given it her absolute all and I think certainly deserves to win and will be a fantastic advocate for her area if she does.
DAVID BEVAN: Have you wandered across into Mitchell, which is not far from Bright … and Mitchell looks as though it’s going to be reasonably strong for the Liberals … not enough to take it, it would normally be a safe Labor seat … but of course if you get your vote up higher in Mitchell, the Liberal vote is high in Mitchell, ironically it probably means Labor is going to win because Kris Hanna will be knocked out and most of his preferences would end up flowing to Labor.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: David, I haven’t campaigned in Mitchell, Peta (McCance) our candidate there, I have heard great things about and she’s a good young woman who I gather has run a very good campaign …
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: I had a funny felling you’d say that …
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Oh well, indeed, we have excellent candidates everywhere, Matthew.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: I don’t think you’ve named a dud yet … unfortunately we’re not going to run through all 47 seats, however …
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Oh that’s a shame, I’d love to endorse them all.
MATTHEW ABRAHAM: … however, tactically, while it does show a swing there in what should be a safe Labor seat against the Labor Party … quite a significant one and it would be one that will make things go down to the wire tomorrow night … that seat’s one you need to lose, in other words you need to lose that seat to Kris Hanna?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well we want every South Australian to consider voting for Isobel Redmond and for change in South Australia, including the people in Mitchell. If Kris Hanna is returned … and if it is a hung parliament, I’m sure Isobel and the team will talk to Kris and negotiate what outcomes they can, but the approach for the Liberal Party between now and six o’clock tomorrow is to advocate our policies on stormwater, on an ICAC, on the hospital and to secure every possible vote in every seat that we can.
DAVID BEVAN: Well, Simon Birmingham, thanks for talking to 891 Mornings.