LYNDAL CURTIS: I’m joined by Labor MP Shayne Neumann and Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham. Welcome to you both.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Simon, you’ve been in the Senate. You would have seen… worked with Trish Crossin. The sorts of things she was talking about… doing a broad range of things… it shows the breadth of things politicians do deal with during a career, doesn’t it?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Absolutely, Lyndal, and Trish has been an exemplary member of the Senate, an exemplary Labor person, an exemplary Senator for the Northern Territory and what we just saw was that she continues to have such enormous passion for such a breadth of issues but especially for the issues that are dear to Territorians and important to the indigenous communities of the Northern Territory and it is a great shame that a great contributor like Trish is going out on the… in the way that she is, with the push from the Prime Minister, but Trish, I think, demonstrated today that she puts issues above everything else and her words about her departure speak far more importantly than mine do.
LYNDAL CURTIS: Simon, there were words from both party leaders in party room meetings today about the need for discipline. The Prime Minister told the Labor Party meeting that Labor needs to be focused on the nation, not on themselves. Your Leader told your party, your troops, that there is a need to maintain discipline in the lead-up to the September poll. We’ve had more words today from your colleague in South Australia, Cory Bernardi, about linking same-sex marriage to things like polygamy. Do those little outbreaks worry people who are concerned that, at this stage, you could still lose the sort of lead you’ve got going into the election?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I don’t think they’re the issues that the leadership want us talking about. They’re not the issues that I want to be talking about. I know the Australian people are far more interested in discussing the issues around their cost of living, the issues around the competitiveness of Australian industry and maintaining jobs for Australia into the future. The Australian people are worried about, of course, the surge in illegal arrivals into Australia and that surge of illegal arrival boats into Australia of people seeking refugee status and so we have grave, big issues to deal with and I think issues like this, of course, will come up from time to time but should be treated as a side issue in terms of those types of comments that have been made.
LYNDAL CURTIS: I did want to go to one final thing because the Senate’s debating what’s called the water trigger*, that the impact of coal seam gas on groundwater should trigger the federal environmental protections. Shayne, there has been talk over a period of time about trying to get less duplication in environmental laws between the federal and state governments. Do you think that now that’s moving back a bit, that Labor would prefer to keep some… keep federal hands on the tiller in terms of environment laws?
SHAYNE NEUMANN: Well, the states aren’t doing their job and they’re not listening to community concern with respect to coal seam gas nor large coal mining. I mean, what we’re doing here is amending the environmental protection and biodiversity act [Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)] to make sure that water resources are front and centre. At the moment, tangentially you can take them into consideration in issues of national environmental significance but… so we’re making that front and centre. This is not about duplication. This is about the best science and satisfying community concern.
LYNDAL CURTIS: And, Simon, just quickly because we’re about to run out of time, should the science be paramount in these decisions?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Of course, absolutely. The Coalition doesn’t object to the amendments to the EPBC Act. What we do disapprove of is the fact that the Government, with Mr Windsor and the Greens, is shutting down any opportunity to get a more streamlined approach around our environmental regulation, blocking out a chance in this area around coal seam gas to get state and federal laws on the one page.
LYNDAL CURTIS: And that’s where we’ll have to leave it. Shayne Neumann and Simon Birmingham, thank you very much for your time.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: A pleasure.
*Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment Bill 2013