HAYDEN COOPER: Gentlemen, thanks for joining us.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: A pleasure, Hayden.
DAVID BRADBURY: Afternoon.
HAYDEN COOPER: Well timing is everything and Scott Morrison has admitted that he got it wrong. You’ll remember that yesterday he raised questions about the cost to taxpayers of flying relatives to Sydney for the funerals of some of the Christmas Island boat disaster victims.
Senator Birmingham, firstly to you. What was your reaction when you first heard those comments yesterday?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Oh look, Hayden, I think that what we saw yesterday was a case that Joe [Hockey] spoke his mind and in speaking his mind I think showed an appropriate sense of judgement and compassion in regards to this issue. Scott, however, has shown that he’s big enough to admit when he’s erred. He’s done that today and he says now, of course, we should get on with things, as we should. We recognise that, in the end, the big issue here comes back to Labor’s failure in relation to its border protection policies. Scott has been relentless in highlighting that taxpayers are facing hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs because of those failed policies. That’s his job, he does it brilliantly, he erred yesterday, he’s been big enough to say so, we move on from there.
HAYDEN COOPER: So you clearly identify yourself with the more compassionate view displayed by Joe Hockey. What was it about Scott Morrison’s comment that was out of line?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Hayden, I don’t want to dwell on this issue. I think it has been done to death already. We have a situation where, of course, Scott has admitted that he erred. He’s admitted that he’s erred on a particular matter of timing but he’s right, of course, to highlight the costs associated with Labor’s failure to protect our borders and they are massive blowouts that we’ve seen over a sustained period of time now that taxpayers have to face.
HAYDEN COOPER: David…
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Scott will continue to highlight those concerns, as he rightly should.
HAYDEN COOPER: Tony Abbott has in fact adjusted his view today as well. Let’s have a quick look at what he had to say about this.
TONY ABBOTT: I want to say that Scott has shown a lot of guts this morning, accepting that he might have gone a little bit too far yesterday. I think that it’s very important that we have a tough border protection policy. The Coalition will always have a tough border protection policy but we will never depart from being humane and I want to thank Scott for being man enough to accept that perhaps we did go a little bit too far yesterday.
HAYDEN COOPER: Senator Birmingham, you’ll note the use of the word ‘we’ went a little bit too far, not just Scott Morrison. Do you believe it was a poor judgement call by your Leader as well?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well I think Tony has clearly reflected in his comments there that he accepts Scott’s statement that there was an error of judgement there, Tony accepts that and that we need to move on. He has been Scott has been, Tony on behalf of the Opposition has been big enough to admit an error of judgement and that we should move on. What the Government should do is be big enough to admit that their policies are failing, their policies are bringing more boats to this country, their policies are costing taxpayers hundreds of millions, billions, of dollars in extra spending on our borders and Julia Gillard should be big enough herself to admit that things like her East Timor processing centre are just never going to happen and that she needs to adopt some real policies to tackle this issue or else we will continue to see, of course, millions of taxpayers’ dollars wasted, more people arriving and more lives put at risk.
HAYDEN COOPER: We should move on and there’s a lot of attention today on BHP [Billiton]. The mining giant has unveiled a record $10 billion half-year profit. Now, Senator Birmingham, why shouldn’t BHP pay more in taxes?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Hayden, the truth is they will be as a result of this higher profit. We should celebrate this higher profit. Australia should celebrate it. We should be unashamedly positive about it and we should be because, firstly, BHP will pay more tax. They’ll pay more tax through the company tax regime just like every other company that pays company tax in Australia pays more when they make a higher profit. We should equally be happy about it…
HAYDEN COOPER: But it’s clear they could afford a [Resource] Super Profits Tax, couldn’t they?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, we should equally be happy because what it will mean is higher dividends and higher returns, and I see they’re talking about a share buyback scheme, that will benefit every Australian with superannuation. That, of course, is basically every Australian of working age or indeed many who are older Australians, who are in retirement and are living off of retirement savings, will benefit. Millions and millions of Australians will benefit. In my home state of South Australia it looks like the Olympic Dam [expansion] project will go ahead, will go ahead perhaps even quicker than expected, because BHP have got this money. This is good news all round. If you tax them more, if you put on this one industry sector an additional tax and impost as the Labor Government is proposing, what you’ll get is less money for superannuants, less money for retirees, less money for projects like Olympic Dam in South Australia. That’s what the Labor Government wants to do.
DAVID BRADBURY: What a load of rubbish. That’s a load of rubbish, Simon, and you know it.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, where do you think the money comes from, David?
DAVID BRADBURY: When we have a look… When we have a look…
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Where do you think the money will come from?
DAVID BRADBURY: It’s… It’s…
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: It will come off of that profit and mean less for all of those things.
DAVID BRADBURY: It’s a load of rubbish. Simon says we should celebrate BHP’s profit. Of course. Whenever an Australian company is profitable we should celebrate that. But the reality is the mining sector…
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: You celebrate it by taxing it!
DAVID BRADBURY: … the mining sector as compared to other sectors in the economy, they actually dig up and they ship out a resource that is owned by the Australian people and all we’ve been saying throughout this debate is that it is absolutely imperative that the Australian people get a fair share of the exploitation of those resources…
HAYDEN COOPER: Alright, just finally today, gentlemen…
DAVID BRADBURY: … and that is a system…
HAYDEN COOPER: … we must move on finally to a breaking story this afternoon that Japan has suspended its whale hunt and it blames the harassment of the environmentalists in the Southern Ocean. Senator Birmingham, is that a win for the tactics of the Sea Shepherd?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, it’s certainly not a win for the tactics of the Labor Government. They have had lots of high-falutin’ rhetoric on this, they’ve spent millions of dollars on envoys and lawyers and everything else and nothing they have done has saved a single whale whereas activists out there have. Now, some of their approaches and tactics can be questioned from time to time and safety should always be paramount in this regard, but I think you’ve really got to question whether the Government, in all they’ve talked about and all they’ve done, has achieved a single thing in the whaling debate so far.
HAYDEN COOPER: Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.
DAVID BRADBURY: Thanks very much.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Thanks Hayden, David.