SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Yesterday in Senate Estimates it was revealed that this Labor Government has spent more than a million dollars of taxpayers’ money on focus groups, on polling and market research into their carbon tax; that they’re giving around $100,000 to the ACTU [Australian Council of Trade Unions] to help union officials sell the carbon tax; that they’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on campaigns to educate schoolchildren and toddlers about the carbon tax. All of this comes just on top of last week’s Auditor-General’s report in which the Auditor-General highlighted findings that last year’s carbon tax ad campaign was an ineffective failure. It’s time for this wasteful abuse of taxpayers’ money to end. It’s time for the Government to commit they will scrap the $10 million campaign they still have planned around the carbon tax and they will end these reckless grants to organisations to try to con people into supporting something that transparently is not good for them.
JOURNALIST: Don’t you think government deserves some taxpayer funded money on an education campaign to sell any sort of reform package? This is something that the previous Howard Government spent millions of dollars on, you know, advertising WorkChoices.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: And I’ve been critical of taxpayer funded advertising for some period of time, if you look at the record. In the end, governments should, of course, make sure people are aware of their responsibilities, should make sure people are informed of government decisions, but this is a blatantly political campaign around the carbon tax. There’s nothing that is informative about it in terms of people’s responsibilities. If the Government is telling the truth and only 500 companies actually have to pay this tax, well then, frankly, they should be able to inform people about it with 500 letters.
JOURNALIST: Just one on the polls, while you’re here. What do you put down the poll turnaround on? Why do you think the Coalition has… and Tony Abbott, in particular, has overtaken Julia Gillard again?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, I think there’s a lot to be said for consistent, strong leadership and, in the end, the Coalition has had consistent positions throughout the life of this Parliament ever since Tony has been Leader and we’ve provided strong leadership but, in terms of the polls overall, look, frankly, there’s probably two things I’d say – one is, if you were a member of the Labor caucus and you weren’t questioning Julia Gillard’s judgement before last night, you certainly would be questioning it this morning and, secondly, we just heard Bob Brown say, in relation to the Labor leadership and issues of potential change there, ‘wait until it happens’. Well, it sounds like Bob Brown’s made his mind up and reconciled himself to the fact that it probably will happen.
JOURNALIST: You guys knifed a couple of leaders in a couple of years – Brendan Nelson, Malcolm Turnbull, then Tony Abbott’s here. How come the coups that happen in your party rooms don’t get the sort of play that this one has?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I think everyone’s always recognised there’s a vast difference between what happens in opposition and the knifing of an incumbent Prime Minister.
JOURNALIST: What, out of Four Corners last night in particular makes you say that you think people should question her judgement more this morning, or what aspect of the show?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I think many people would question the Prime Minister’s judgement in participating in the show in the first place. She demonstrated that she could not give a straight answer to simple questions. In the end, this is a Prime Minister whose lack of policy judgement is only rivalled by her lack of political judgement.
JOURNALIST: Do you think she should have spoken, or do you think she should have appeared on the show or she would have been better off not?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I always think that Prime Ministers look better if they’re getting on with governing the country than internal navel gazing into woes in their own political parties. This Prime Minister seems to spend most of her time having to watch her back.
JOURNALIST: Will you guys commit to… if you were the next Government, would you commit to not committing taxpayer money to sell your packages, say, whether it be your clean energy package?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I would certainly hope that a Coalition Government would not be engaged in this type of wasteful spending.