Doorstop Interview, Canberra
Topics: National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence; Bill Shorten and Adani; Michaelia Cash

Simon Birmingham: Good morning everybody. Friday 16 March is the National Day of Action against Bullying, and the Prime Minister has now written to all Australian schools, encouraging them to participate in the National Day of Action against Bullying. We do this because we’re proud as a country that we already invest hundreds of millions of dollars in supporting youth mental health initiatives, programs like headspace, as well as delivering world leading laws in areas such as eSafety through the establishment of the eSafety Commissioner that provides the capacity for complaints about cyber bullying, for take down notices to be issued.

As a dad, as a dad of two young daughters, the stories of bullying, old fashioned schoolyard bullying and cyber bullying horrify me and scare me and just as I know they do thousands of parents across Australia. There’s no silver bullet for tackling bullying but we absolutely need to acknowledge that discussions, discussions that can be encouraged by days like the National Day of Action against Bullying, need to happen across the entire school community, between principals and teachers, parents and students. Everybody has a role to play in tackling these issues, in understanding how to promote tolerant, inclusive environments in schools and where there are problems how to make sure that those problems are identified, are tackled, individuals are helped and where necessary referred to authorities like the eSafety Commissioner so that action can be taken.

In addition to our work in this space there’s one other issue that I want to touch on this morning and that is I note the statements or the story today in coverage in relation to Mr Shorten’s trip up to the Great Barrier Reef. Now, it’s remarkable that Bill Shorten has had to declare this, only after his conversations with Geoffrey Cousins became public, despite the trip been taken a couple of months ago. More to the point though, the big issue is, is Bill Shorten for battlers in Queensland or the Batman by-election? Is he for the Adani coal mine in terms of seeing job creation or is it just green posturing? What on earth is the Labor Party’s position? Because it’s not clear to anybody because they’re trying to walk two sides of the street here, say one thing in parts of Queensland, a different thing in the suburbs of Melbourne. It’s time to come clean in relation to this project and speak with one clear position and tell people where they stand.

Journalist: Just on the bullying. Is Michaelia Cash bullying all of the young women who work in Bill Shorten’s office?

Simon Birmingham: No, I think anybody who’s watched Senate Estimates would see that questioning can be pretty robust, maybe even bordering on bullying at times. Michaelia Cash was dealing with a difficult situation. I think she acknowledged that she crossed a line which is why she withdrew those remarks.

Journalist: Would you be happy if someone was slinging mud at your staffers?

Simon Birmingham: No, I think my staff do a great job.

Journalist: Should she apologise formally?

Simon Birmingham: Well, Michaelia Cash acknowledged there in the hearing, that she crossed a line which is obviously why she withdrew those comments.

Journalist: Is this just another frustrating distraction? You know, you guys are trying to get the message across on various fronts including this stuff you’re talking about this morning and there’s another brain snap from someone.

Simon Birmingham: Well, the mere fact that it’s a distraction is why I won’t add to any comment on it.

Anything else? Excellent, thanks everybody.