SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Today I understand that the Water Minister, Tony Burke, will release some updated modelling in relation to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. I welcome this and I hope that, in releasing it, it will take us one step closer to ending what has been 120 years of argument between the states and what has been now five years of delays and missteps by this Government in its management of the Murray-Darling process. I also call on Mr Burke, while he’s in the mood to release information, to release all of the legal advice that surrounds the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. We actually need to know what we can expect in terms of where the court challenges will go for this Plan and to give some certainty to the irrigators and to the communities who rely upon the Basin that, when this Plan is handed down, we will have some closure on the matter and some certainty for the future because at present what we see is that environmentalists, irrigators, the South Australian Labor Government are all threatening to take it to the High Court. Let’s end the debate about that. Let’s release the legal advice and make it clear that the Plan and the Water Act are based on sound legal principles.
JOURNALIST: Do the Coalition have Margie Abbott to thank for the bounce in Newspoll today?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I think Margie Abbott did a wonderful job last week and there is no doubt that she is a wonderful asset to Tony at home and, indeed, demonstrated just what a great Prime Minister Tony Abbott could be last week. I don’t really want to comment on the polls per se, aside from to say one thing: that it demonstrates what I hear in the community day in and day out as well and that is that people are sick and tired of a government that wants to play personal politics ahead of helping Australian families; they’re tired of the political berating of Tony Abbott; they’re tired of the petty politics; they’re tired of the game playing where you see minister after minister come out to attack personally Tony Abbott; they want us to talk about the issues; they want us to talk about the cost-of-living pressures on Australians and that’s what the Coalition is fixated on doing.
JOURNALIST: Labor’s Left seems confident there are members of the Coalition who would also support a rethink on the cuts to the Parenting Payment. Where do you stand?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I think we need to do our best to, firstly, get the budget back under control and this, of course, is a measure that has some impact there and we need to do everything possible to help get Australians back into the workforce. We will be, of course, judging the application of this reform on the basis of how it works in getting Australians back to work and how the Government helps get people back to work.
JOURNALIST: So why support the legislation [Social Security Legislation Amendment (Fair Incentives to Work) Bill 2012] now and then watch it in process? Why not make it as good as it can be now rather than watching it roll out there?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, we hope that the application of this will deliver for the Australian people a greater incentive and a greater motivation to get people back to work. It’s important, I think, that children do grow up with role models and parents who are working. That is a really fundamental thing and that’s what I hope we can achieve through this legislation and I hope the Government, in a rare moment, gets this one right.
JOURNALIST: What’s your view of the text messages that have now been published, between Peter Slipper and James Ashby?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I think they are offensive, they are grotesque and, frankly, Peter Slipper clearly has no place in the Speaker’s chair any more. We need to see from this Government some leadership when it comes to the Speaker’s position. Julia Gillard put Peter Slipper in the Speaker’s chair. She should kick him out of the Speaker’s chair. That’s what we should see here. She should condemn his remarks. The Coalition have condemned his remarks towards women. Julia Gillard should do likewise. Thanks, everyone.