Doorstop interview, Adelaide
Topics: Little Scientists program; National Energy Guarantee
Simon Birmingham: Thanks so much for coming along today. It’s wonderful to be here at St Thomas School, celebrating success in the Little Scientists program, which is inspiring preschool children right across Australia to become more engaged in science and STEM subjects by discovery. Discovering amazing interesting things; here, their discovery around the path between caterpillar and butterfly, but right across the country, a lot of different science-based experiments. And the Turnbull Government was thrilled this year in the Budget to provide additional support to continue this program that was started as part of our National Innovation and Science Agenda. Our extra $4 million is helping to underpin a program that is inspiring 40,000 preschool children across 2500 early childhood education sites around the country to engage more in science, to get that enthusiasm, and hopefully from that, to become not only little scientists today but big scientists in the future.
Question: How does a program like this lead in too, I guess you know, when you think in high school people studying physics or chemistry or something like that?
Simon Birmingham: Being inspired, interested is such a critical part of children deciding to stick with a subject and follow it the whole way through. So that inspiration that can occur at a young age, that establishes an interest, possibly sets in ambition; they’re the things that really drive kids to say: I’m going to stick at science because I love it, because it’s fun, because I can see that you can discover things that you didn’t know before.
Question: Just on another topic. What do you make of the fact that there seems to be a bit of a push for Peter Dutton perhaps for a leadership challenge?
Simon Birmingham: Peter Dutton is one of the great team members of team Turnbull and he’s a great contributor to our team.
Question: But he suggested that he might quit the Cabinet over the NEG and the energy issues. Is that really being a team player?
Simon Birmingham: Peter explained how the Westminster parliamentary system works and later today, I’m going to St Michael’s College to speak to a bunch of Year 12 legal studies students and I may well find I’m explaining the Westminster system there too.
Question: But you know, he didn’t have to make those comments. He’s obviously saying he’s got some issues and he wants to, perhaps, talk about them outside of Cabinet.
Simon Birmingham: I think that is reading far too much into the comments that- in the end, Peter Dutton has shown himself time and time again to be a great team member of Malcolm Turnbull’s team and I thoroughly enjoy his contribution working with him.
Question: What do you make of Tony Abbott’s energy plan?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I think Australians are sick and tired of politicians who want to pick fights over energy policy rather than deliver real solutions, practical solutions, that will be enduring into the future. And Malcolm Turnbull and the Turnbull Government is focused on delivering the National Energy Guarantee as one part of our energy plan because it has the potential and capacity to end more than a decade of uncertainty and instead to give Australia a decade plus of certainty into the future that will actually underpin investment in energy, ensure we have lower prices – $550 lower per household – into the future. That’s what’s critical to do to stick to a positive constructive plan.
Question: The Daily Telegraph reports that certain Cabinet Ministers are considering retiring, is there any truth to that?
Simon Birmingham: No.
Question: How destabilising is it though when you’ve got people like George Christensen saying they might cross the floor on the NEG issue?
Simon Birmingham: Well, I’d urge all colleagues to continue to work on how we ensure that every aspect of our energy policy is delivered in full. The NEG is just one. We’ve already delivered many in terms of reforms in the retail market, in transmission markets, in the gas market. And we have many more to come in terms of our action to implement the recommendations from the ACCC report that will see further support for energy generation to be built in Australia. But it has to sit alongside a stable framework that guarantees generation capacity; that guarantees reliability; that guarantees we meet our international commitments; that removes any uncertainty; and the National Energy Guarantee provides that framework, that stability that Australia needs for the future.
Question: Have you spoken to any colleagues who may be feeling disillusioned at the moment?
Simon Birmingham: Look, I am a very positive person and I try to share that positivity around all of my colleagues because we have a great story to tell as a government. We have delivered a strong economy that’s provided for record jobs growth; is bringing the Budget back to balance; is allowing us to give tax relief to Australians all across the country; is allowing us to make Australian businesses enjoy a more competitive tax rate; and allows us to invest in essential services with record-growing funding for our hospitals, for our schools, and wonderful programs like the Little Scientists one I’m here celebrating today. Thanks guys.