SIMON BIRMINGHAM: For 12 days now Tony Burke has been the missing man of the Murray-Darling. Today we learn that he’s finally, tonight, going to meet with some irrigator and industry groups. We’ve got to ask the question, where has he been for these 12 days? Why hasn’t he been out there talking to the communities whose livelihoods are on the line?
Today in Senate Estimates, the Water department and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority will both appear. We will certainly be pursuing with them why it is that this Government has released such a flawed report, why it is that this Government has botched such an important reform process as the Murray-Darling Basin reform, why it is that they haven’t managed to progress billions of dollars of infrastructure spending in the three years they’ve had to get the job done. These are all important questions and they’re questions that Tony Burke has not been willing to front up and answer until now.
JOURNALIST: Senator, we’ve got the debate on Afghanistan starting in the lower house today. What do you think about Alexander Downer’s calls for … (unclear)?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I haven’t had a chance to look at Alexander’s comments in detail, I have picked them up off the wires… I think we need to be seeing the job through in Afghanistan and that is a case of seeing it through to a satisfactory conclusion where we are leaving Afghanistan in as stable a position as possible to defend itself, to care for its people and most importantly to not be a haven for terrorists. We’ve never negotiated with terrorists in the past, I don’t believe we should be negotiating with terrorists into the future.
JOURNALIST: If it takes another nine years, though, to secure the peace in Afghanistan, should we stay there for another nine years?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We need to do our best to get the right job done in Afghanistan and that job is to leave the place in as secure a position as possible, not just for the Afghan people but for the rest of the world.
JOURNALIST: And how long should that take?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, that is a matter of judgment, and it’s judgment that has to be exercised by military and political leaders and judgment that I’m not going to put some sort of rigid timeframe around.
JOURNALIST: It is a fairly grey area though, you know, when you say as secure as possible, do you think we need clearer objectives … (unclear) … something that could come out of this debate?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I think the objectives are fairly clear and the objectives are for a stable Afghanistan, a stable nation that provides certainty and security not just for the people of Afghanistan but the people of the world. Now, there’s a judgment as to when that is achieved, when Afghanistan can be left to fend for itself in that regard, but we’ve seen a relatively successful withdrawal from Iraq despite, of course, the pessimistic predictions of so many people. Hopefully we can see the same thing in Afghanistan in the not too distant future.
JOURNALIST: As a Senator for South Australia, are there any concerns you have about the new [immigration detention] centre?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The fact that this centre is being dumped in a small Adelaide Hills town with absolutely no consultation to the people of that town, the people of the Adelaide Hills, the people of South Australia, is an outrage and people are very, very concerned. I’ve heard already from the community of Woodside, right throughout the Adelaide Hills, and they’ve got every reason to worry about the fact that this centre is being imposed on them with no consultation about what it will mean for their schools, for local services, for the value of their properties… there are genuine concerns there and of course most of all it just highlights the failed policies of this Government in regard to border protection that they’re having to build beds rather than protect our borders. Thanks everyone, cheers.