KIERAN GILBERT: … today Andrew Forrest is going to be outside the WA Press Club putting the boot in to Kevin Rudd… Simon Birmingham, if the Government is able to secure a compromise with the likes of Andrew Forrest and some mining giants over there, does that not leave the Coalition extremely isolated in this debate and possibly irrelevant if a compromise can be secured?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well Kieran, Tony Abbott and the Liberal and National Parties have been standing up from day one for Australian industry, investment in Australia and Australian jobs. That’s what we see this debate as being about. Jason can claim that this is a framework for a tax proposal although I would hate to see the detail for a tax proposal because their so-called framework sets out the rate, the level at which it kicks in, a whole raft of details that show this was a tax proposal devised by Kevin Rudd and his ‘kitchen cabinet’… this was a tax proposal simply released into the public arena, released with no consultation with industry and ever since its release Kevin Rudd has been having to play catch-up, catch-up on a problem of his own making because he didn’t sit down and consult beforehand, because as Peter Walsh accurately says the major obstacle to consultation, the major obstacle to listening to industry, to people in Australia at present, is Kevin Rudd. He acts without listening, he acts without thinking, this is the number one problem the Government has. Now we see today…
KIERAN GILBERT: … he’s holding talks today with Andrew Forrest, yesterday with Marius Kloppers … is this not the way to go about it? Get some officials to hold the preliminary talks and then the Prime Minister take over at the business end?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The Prime Minister should have been holding these talks weeks, months ago. He should have been holding them before he dropped this proposal out on the Australian table, before he dropped out a proposal that has hit investment, has hit the share market is of course hurting the Australian economy now because he’s got the process for this all wrong. So you’ve got two major problems with Kevin Rudd’s proposal. One is his process, and his process means we’re feeling the pain before it’s even been implemented because it has scared the markets and scared investors and we see that of course with another 3 billion dollar investment pulled from the table this morning… and of course it’s a problem because the actual detail of it is all wrong because in the long term it will drive investment offshore, it will make Australia a less competitive place for mining investment and that will hurt jobs and families for many, many years to come.
KIERAN GILBERT: What about the principal, as Jason said, that the Minerals Council are backing, and in their submission to the Henry Review, supported a profits-based tax, what is your view on a profit-based tax? Is that more a more efficient way to go about things because it’s certainly the view of the MCA and they reiterated that as recently as last week.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well you need to look carefully at what the MCA did recommend and of course they recommended abolition of royalties, they recommended a transition to a new arrangement and they wanted to sit down with Government and negotiate something that would be fair and reasonable and most importantly would not destroy investment and jobs in the Australian mining industry. Now the Coalition is always willing to sit down and talk to industry, we’re always willing to do the hard yards when it comes to tax reform, we proved that in Government, but we demonstrated that we would do it in a consultative way, that we would take industry and Australia with us… that we would actually do the hard yards on it, not just try to impose something and then when there was a massive negative reaction, when the stock market dropped, when investment started to dry up, then that we might start to engage in consultation… that’s all too late and it shows this Prime Minister really can’t manage to manage policy-making decisions let alone manage the economy or the good of Australia for the long term.
JASON CLARE: … we’ve got to get more information out there, we’ve got to explain to people that the impact of this reform will mean the whole economy will be stronger, that every company will get tax cuts and every worker will get more superannuation.
KIERAN GILBERT: Simon Birmingham … I’ll let you respond to that but you know the Government as Jason said has got a bit of work to do, it’s frankly struggled thus far to sell the benefits of this mining tax, but if it does get its act together are you concerned that it’s quite a positive message that it’s got to sell particularly in relation to the broader company tax reductions and a boost to super for workers.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, I’ll let the Government worry about how they sell their message. The reality of this tax proposal so far is that eight projects worth 55 billion dollars have been stalled, have been held back or put off… that is thousands of jobs for Australians into the future that will not be there.  Jason can say all he wants about a stronger economy, there won’t be a stronger economy if there isn’t investment and if there aren’t jobs for the future and that’s what this tax proposal does. It destroys investment and in doing so destroys job opportunities for Australians into the future… that’s why the Liberal Party is standing clearly against it.
JASON CLARE: … and to be frank, Kieran, the Liberal Party lost all creditably on this when they said that it would destroy the industry and then the next day one of their front benchers, Peter Dutton, bought shares in BHP. Now seriously, if the Liberal Party thought that was true, why are they buying shares in BHP?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Kieran if I can quickly, Jason wants to talk about credibility, what about the credibility of Wayne Swan who spent day after day, week after week trying to argue what the impact of this tax might be but eventually conceded that yes some companies would be paying an effective tax rate of 58 cents in the dollar, 58 cents in the dollar which makes Australia one of the most uncompetitive countries in the world for mining investment. Now I’m not willing to let the Rudd Government and Kevin Rudd gamble on Australia’s future like that. Tony Abbott isn’t willing to let them do it either, that’s why we are standing steadfastly against this because if Australia becomes the uncompetitive country in the world with a 58 cent in the dollar tax rate on the mining industry it won’t just be eight projects we see dry up in the future, it will be dozens and dozens meaning tens of thousands of job opportunities wasted and lost for Australia
KIERAN GILBERT: … a report in The Australian Financial Review suggesting a review by the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has found the ‘kitchen cabinet’ of Gillard, Swan, Tanner and Rudd has not been consulting the broader Cabinet enough…
KIERAN GILBERT:   That same report in the AFR, Simon, suggests that the Government is going to come up with a renewed climate change policy after its ETS backflip. Are you expecting, what are you expecting as the Shadow Climate Action Parliamentary Secretary? What are you expecting to find the Government come up with in that regard?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, firstly if I can address the substantive part of the report which goes to the Cabinet processes and I feel sorry for Jason having to defend those because for him to say ‘this is a consultative Cabinet, a consultative Government’ less than a week after it was revealed that the Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, learnt of the backflip on the ETS from the media without any consultation is just laughable. It’s a laughable series of processes and you’ve got this gang of four who are at the heart of the Government – the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Finance Minister – the four most senior people…  it doesn’t matter whether it’s the four of them sitting around the Cabinet table or in a gang of four together, they are the root of the problem and they are of course the Rudd Labor Government, the four of them, and so any process will be flawed as long as the flawed judgment and flawed decision-making of those four people is at the heart of it. As for Kevin Rudd’s climate change policy, well it’s in tatters at present… he doesn’t have one, having conducted this backflip on the ETS. What he will do in the future I don’t know, I suspect what he’ll probably do is copy elements of the Coalition policy, the Direct Action Plan, because that’s the only plan that’s out there for real action on climate change at present and that of course is something that Kevin Rudd could copy, probably will copy, but it will show him for the fraud that he is in terms of the way he attacks a policy firstly and then adopts it when it suits him at his convenience.
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay we just have to finish on one other matter, a very sad matter, the two Australian soldiers killed in the Uruzgan province, 25-year-old Sapper Darren Smith and 21-year-old Sapper Jacob Moerland…
JASON CLARE: … and the reasons why you don’t set a timeline but you focus on the mission. If we were to walk out of Afghanistan on any given date it would make the place more susceptible to terrorism re-emerging. Remember, this is a place where the people that killed 88 Australians in Bali, where the people who planned the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, based their operations and trained people and if we walk out just because a date has occurred, it means that Australians will be less safe and the world will be less safe because terrorism, and the training of terrorism, will re-emerge there. Our responsibility and our task, our mission, in Afghanistan is to train up the 4th Afghan National Brigade. That’s our responsibility, to train the Afghanis so that they can protect their own country and that’s the job that we’re doing.
KIERAN GILBERT: Simon, we’re really out of time but I just want to get your thoughts quickly if I can.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, the loss of any young life in combat is a terrible tragedy, it always has been and always will be and our hearts of course go out to the families of those two soldiers but Jason is absolutely right in terms of the approach we must take to Afghanistan nobody wants to be there a day longer, a moment longer than is absolutely necessary but that doesn’t mean we should leave before the job is finished and that job is to leave the country intact in a manner that doesn’t allow terrorists to flourish and foster and inflict pain and anguish on the rest of the world like they were previously.
KIERAN GILBERT: Senator Birmingham and Jason Clare, as always, appreciate your time this morning. Gentlemen, thank you both.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  A pleasure. Thanks, Kieran.