KIERAN GILBERT: Joining me this morning, Labor frontbencher Kelvin Thomson from Melbourne and Liberal Senator and frontbencher Simon Birmingham in Adelaide. Senator Birmingham, first to you. Hindmarsh… it’s only a very small margin there held by Steve Georganas as I said… the Coalition pretty confident you might nab that.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning, Kieran, Kelvin and viewers. Kieran, look, I am very hopeful in Hindmarsh. Matt Williams, our candidate there, who I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and being a mate with for some 20 years, is a great guy. He grew up in the local area. He still lives there. He’s sending his kids to the local school. He’s very much in touch and what he tells me on the ground is that people in Hindmarsh are very worried about their job security, they’re very worried about the cost of living, especially for older residents in Hindmarsh and we think that there is a strong mood for strong and stable government in Hindmarsh and I’m hopeful that that’s what the people of Hindmarsh with Matt Williams will choose for on Saturday.
KIERAN GILBERT: Kelvin Thomson, Adelaide’s not really the big problem for Labor at the moment – it’s Queensland – and two polls out today suggesting that in the marginal seats where Labor really needs to be doing well, it’s not doing as well as you need to be to be competitive on Saturday.
KELVIN THOMSON: Good morning, Kieran and Simon. I think, though, that while Tony Abbott is in Adelaide, he ought to be explaining to people in Adelaide what the impact of his plans to take away a billion dollars in co-investment for the manufacturing industry, automotive manufacturing industry, will have on people in Adelaide and his failure to commit to building the submarine program in Adelaide.
KELVIN THOMSON: There is a tens and tens of billions of dollars disconnect between what the Liberal Opposition is proposing to spend and what it is saying they will collect in tax revenue and, until they come clean with how they propose to bridge that gap, they are treating Australian voters with disrespect and discourtesy.
KIERAN GILBERT: Alright, let’s bring in… well, let’s go back to Senator Birmingham about that particular point that Kelvin Thomson made there and Labor’s commitment to assemble the 12 Future Submarines in Adelaide, to bring forward the construction of two replacement supply ships, Sirius and Success, to 2015-16 to avoid that gap in manufacturing in Defence industry… they’re both seen as important decisions, certainly the submarine one, for Adelaide, your home town. Is that a vulnerability for the Coalition in the closing days of the campaign?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, no, Kieran, because we’ve made it very, very clear we would expect submarines to be constructed in Adelaide, so it’s just another Labor lie from Kelvin and the rest of the Labor Party to be claiming otherwise. Now, equally, Kelvin wants to talk about costings. Well, perhaps he could explain where the funds are coming from to build sooner the two supply ships that the Labor Party’s promised, because the Labor Party haven’t explained the funding around that any more than they’ve explained the funding of how Kevin Rudd plans to move the Garden Island naval base to Queensland, any more…
KIERAN GILBERT: So, is it a guarantee from the Coalition on the submarines? I just want to clarify that. Is that a guarantee that they will be constructed in Adelaide?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We’ve made it very clear submarines will be constructed in Adelaide – that’s what we would expect; that’s what will happen, I am quite confident. It will go through the proper White Paper process. We’ll actually make decisions… let’s not forget Kevin Rudd was promising to build submarines in Adelaide way back in 2007. Here we are in 2013 and there has not been a cent spent on the actual construction of submarines, so we just…
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, we’ll get back to Kelvin Thomson in just a moment. I want to cross to Laura Jayes live there at that home in Kidman Park… Laura, covering a number of issues – carbon tax, the Paid Parental Leave scheme as well. What else is on the agenda?
LAURA JAYES: Yeah, this is always one of those anomalies of an election campaign, where Tony Abbott appears to have a pretty private chat with what is posed as a pretty normal, middle-income family. The only thing is there’s about ten cameras around and about 15 journalists watching on, so there was talk there between the family and Tony Abbott… the Schmuschs here at Kidman Park in the seat of Hindmarsh… about the cost of living and it was very much continuing on from that theme that we heard from Tony Abbott yesterday – this will be a referendum on the carbon tax, when he looks at the issues of this election… also discussions about the Paid Parental Leave scheme but, interestingly, the mother here is a self-starter, she’s a small business owner, so different circumstances when it comes to her replacement wage but, look, this is a last blitz, if you like, for Tony Abbott before we get to Saturday when the polls do open. There’s three seats in play here in Adelaide – the seat of Hindmarsh is the Liberal Party’s best chance. Now, this is just a meeting this morning here, as you can see behind me, he’s still continuing to talk with that family. The cameras are a little further away now but later on this morning at about 11.30, Kieran, he will be holding a media conference and answering questions along the lines of his speech yesterday and also some of those key questions that we still need answered as we do get closer to election day. Costings, of course, is one of them.
KIERAN GILBERT: It’s a big one. Laura, thanks for that and something that Laura mentioned there, Kelvin Thomson, that was discussed between Mr Abbott and that family at Kidman Park and something that he also spent a lot of time on yesterday at the [National] Press Club… he’s reminding everyone that if he does win on Saturday, in large part the carbon tax has been a factor, that he’s got a mandate to change it. Now, this morning in the Financial Review, Mark Butler is quoted… the Climate [Change] spokesman for Labor… saying that you’re not going to do that, that you wouldn’t vote to scrap the carbon price. Would that be politically very risky if you’ve just lost an election on it?
KELVIN THOMSON: Well, if I get elected to the Parliament, Kieran, I’ve got a mandate to support the policies on which I was elected and, frankly, it would be disrespecting my voters if I did anything other than vote on the basis of the policies on which I have stood for office.
KIERAN GILBERT: Senator Birmingham, as Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Environment you watch… monitor this issue very closely. You could be going to a double dissolution election within a year by the sounds of things, by the sounds of what the Labor Party’s position is. That is, of course, if you don’t win a majority in the Senate outright.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Kieran, I certainly don’t expect that we would – I don’t think that’s a mathematical possibility – but, that aside, it just shows how little regard the Labor Party has for the views of the Australian people that they are saying, if there is a change of government on Saturday, they will still try to block the agenda of a new government, they will try to stop a new government from reducing cost-of-living pressures, from increasing Australia’s competitiveness, by repealing the carbon tax.
KIERAN GILBERT: But what about Kelvin’s argument that he’s got a mandate as well? What about his argument, that he’s been re-elected in his seat, and various other people that will be, to carry out the agenda that they took to the Australian people?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Kieran, let’s, of course, see what happens on Saturday and what the actual result is but it would be showing real disregard for the views of the overwhelming majority, I would hope, of Australians if we are successful of winning, to say ‘we’re going to block the carbon tax repeal’. The Coalition has campaigned long and hard, through the entire life of this Parliament, against the carbon tax. If there’s a change of government on Saturday, it will be a very clear mandate for getting rid of the carbon tax, reducing cost-of-living pressures, increasing the competitiveness of Australian industry so that we can provide some security to jobs again. These are the things that we are campaigning on day in, day out. Now, I have no idea, in a sense, what the Labor Party is standing for at this election because the message keeps changing, the Leaders keep changing, the policies keep changing, the costings are never there… but we’ve been very consistent on this matter and, if there’s a change, then there clearly is the will in the Australian public to see us get rid of the carbon tax and I would hope that whatever might be left of the Labor Party Caucus if there’s a change of government on Saturday… that they will have a different view to that which Mark Butler has said today.
KIERAN GILBERT: Gentlemen, I want to turn your attention to the front page of The Daily Telegraph newspaper this morning. It’s a people smuggler with a photograph that he’s taken, put it up on social media apparently according to this report in The Daily Telegraph.
KIERAN GILBERT: Well, it looks like it, Senator Birmingham… if you win the election it might actually be quite an irony, if you have the PNG solution having cracked this evil trade and come into government and can claim credit.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, Tony Burke’s press conference yesterday, his ‘mission accomplished’ moment was quite reminiscent of that time when George W. Bush flew onto the aircraft carrier to claim victory in Iraq only to find himself stuck there for many more years. The truth is that the boat arrivals will never stop under Labor because the people smugglers know they’ve got the Labor Party’s measure – they know that Labor can’t stick to a policy; they know that Labor can’t deliver on a policy; they know that the fine print… the devil is always there in the detail – so the people smugglers, and there we have brazenly sitting there on the front page of The Daily Telegraph, in most of the daily newspapers around the country, a people smuggler saying ‘we can offer a fast track solution, we’ll put you on a speedboat and we’ll get you there faster’ even with Labor’s policies allegedly in place. As Tony Burke was doing his press conference yesterday, there were still two boats on the way. He was claiming success; the boats were still coming. Ultimately, you’ve got to return to proven policies and a proven team that can deliver on them.
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, but the bottom line is there were less onboard the boats – that’s the argument, though; that’s the point.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Kieran, the boats are still coming, we’ve still seen thousands of people and Labor has zero credibility to deliver on this policy issue.
KIERAN GILBERT: There’s another Liberal candidate… not just the Liberals, because we saw some Labor candidates earlier in the piece having issues, it’s both parties having to face this with the scrutiny of candidates right around the country, but a candidate for the seat of Perth up against Alannah MacTiernan, Senator Birmingham, has had to apologise for comments made, well, when he was a real estate portfolio manager talking about his tenants in a not-so-positive way.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, look, I honestly actually haven’t seen the comments in question. I think these are side issues to the main game of the campaign and today here in Adelaide the main game really comes back to issues around Labor’s tax slugs, be it the carbon tax, the fringe benefits tax hit, we see Ford and Holden, Australian manufacturers, suffering their greatest decline in sales in 20 years because of Labor’s fringe benefits tax policy. Now, Kelvin at the start of the show wanted to talk about the Coalition’s policy regarding the automotive sector. Labor’s policy today is doing real damage and it’s not even legislated yet. Imagine how bad it would be if Labor wins and that becomes law. Now, what the Coalition’s promise will do is that, if we are elected on Saturday, you will see confidence returned to the car industry instantly because they will know instantly the FBT changes will never come into law.
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, diverted quite well onto a totally different issue but that’s well done…
KIERAN GILBERT: Okay, that’s all we’ve got time for this morning. Kelvin Thomson, Senator Simon Birmingham, gentlemen, thanks so much… a busy four days ahead for both of you… appreciate your time this morning.