KIERAN GILBERT:  With me this morning, now, we’ve got the Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change, Mark Dreyfus, and from Adelaide the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment, Senator Simon Birmingham. Gentlemen, good morning to you both.
MARK DREYFUS: Morning, Kieran. Morning, Simon.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Morning, Kieran. Morning, Mark.
KIERAN GILBERT: Fellas, I want to ask you both about the National Disability Insurance Scheme if I can.
KIERAN GILBERT: Senator Birmingham, there’s bipartisan support – I’ve spoken to your colleague, Mitch Fifield, about this on a number of occasions. There’s bipartisan support for action on this to improve the situation for our fellow Australians, disabled Australians.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Absolutely, Kieran. Mitch Fifield has taken a very strong leadership role in the Coalition to make sure that our position is one where we welcomed quite strongly what the Productivity Commission had to say earlier this year. We recognise the status quo is broken – keeping it is not an option. We have a system that is wrongly based on essentially rationing services dependent upon how people acquired a disability rather than providing the services they need to support them living successfully with their disabilities. Now, we need a better way forward. We look forward to seeing some details, some ‘meat on the bone’, today and we will certainly be working very constructively and very hard, and I know Mitch will be passionately ensuring that we get an outcome from this process that treats disabled Australians the way they deserve to be treated – with dignity, with respect – and are provided with opportunity through the services that government offers.
KIERAN GILBERT: Senator Birmingham, while the Department of Foreign Affairs [and Trade] raised concerns about the human rights record [of Malaysia], it did make a number of other qualifications on that. It did say that Malaysia has cooperated with the UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] over the years and another part of that submission was, indeed, an endorsement of this plan by that said body, the High Commissioner for Refugees.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Kieran, in the end, the great shame of this debate is that it’s so very, very unnecessary. Mark talked about the moral imperative of smashing the business model of the people smugglers. Well, the reality is the Coalition had already done that. The Nauru solution worked. It stopped, of course, people smugglers and their operations. It stopped the boats and this Government – rather than wasting thousands or millions of taxpayer dollars on agreements with Malaysia, on, of course, defending those agreements now in the High Court, on basically putting many, many people, of course, through enormous uncertainty about their lives in terms of those asylum seekers now uncertain as to whether they will or will not be going to Malaysia – could simply have adopted the Nauru solution. It was there, it was proven, it worked and it could have been picked up again. They should have never abandoned it in the first place. This is all so very, very unnecessary and that is the real tragedy of this debate – that the Government, for its own pigheadedness, bloody-mindedness, has gone off and had to do something different from something which was already working.
KIERAN GILBERT: I want to ask you about one last issue if I can. We’ve only got two minutes left but, Senator Birmingham, you’re from Adelaide, you know Senator Penny Wong very well. This is on her announcement yesterday that she will be having a baby – her partner will be. She said with Fairfax [Media] today that you don’t do this to make a political point; it’s a very personal matter. That’s a fair enough statement, isn’t it, after that announcement yesterday – that statement from your colleague?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: It is a very fair point, Kieran. Look, I’m absolutely delighted for Penny and Sophie. Having had our own baby girl earlier this year, I know the joy that’s coming their way, as well as some of the sleepless nights, but Penny is not somebody, in all fairness to her, who has sought to define herself by issues of her personal life – she pursues her politics passionately and she seeks to separate the two and I think we should respect that but absolute sincere congratulations to them.
KIERAN GILBERT: Mark Dreyfus, I guess we might finish on a bipartisan note there?
MARK DREYFUS: Absolutely. If I could add my congratulations to Penny and Sophie – it’s a wonderful thing for them and it seems that the Senate is becoming a House of children, which is not something we’ve traditionally associated with the Senate. That’s a good thing.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: People have called it that before in other ways!
KIERAN GILBERT: Mark Dreyfus, Senator Simon Birmingham. Thanks for that, gents. You issued your congratulations.  I issue them too to Senator Wong and her partner as well, this morning, all of our best wishes to them both. Thank you for that. That’s all for this edition of AM Agenda. I’m Kieran Gilbert. We’ll see you next time.