SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Can I start by noting that today is the final day for potential disallowance of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan? That means that this Plan, this historic reform, will come into law, will take effect and will be an important mechanism to improve the management of the Murray-Darling after, frankly, 120 years of mismanagement under a poorly designed structure, sadly, within our Constitution, so I’m very welcoming of that and happy to see it in place. I’m concerned that there appear already to be some delays in implementation and that the Government is already several months behind delivering on the Water Recovery Strategy that it planned.
On media reform, where I sit on both of the inquiries this Parliament is having, can I call upon the Government to put this matter to a vote today? We’ve heard all of the evidence during yesterday’s Senate inquiry and it is very clear that the Government is proposing an unnecessary new regulator, a poorly constituted new regulator, with sweeping powers that are completely unnecessary to regulate Australia’s media, especially for the first ever peacetime regulation of our print media in Australia’s history. These reforms are completely unnecessary. They are a breach of free speech in this country. They should be discarded with. Let’s end this debate, rather than seeing it prolonged, and let’s test whether the Government really has any support to enact these ridiculous reforms.
JOURNALIST: What did you make of Tony Windsor’s comments overnight? He seems to be casting some doubt on his continued support for the Government.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I note that Tony Windsor not only cast doubt about his support for the Government and not only cited leadership as a factor there. Tony Windsor also cited the ongoing election campaign as something that threatened his support. Julia Gillard started that election campaign. She’s given Australia the longest election campaign in our history. She has some blame in this regard and, frankly, it’s right for Tony Windsor to say we need a government that is not besotted with leadership issues, we need a government that is not in a permanent election campaign mode, we need a government that can get on with the difficult task of governing Australia. That’s what the Coalition stands ready to deliver as soon as we can possibly get to an election.
JOURNALIST: How much would a change of leadership in the Labor Party affect the Coalition’s election strategy?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The Coalition’s election strategy is to offer a clear and positive alternative vision to give Australia confidence confidence that we have a stable, secure government focused on managing our economy with our five pillars for economic strength underpinning a desire to return to balanced budgets, sensible economic management and deliver the type of government Australians want. We’re going to run a positive campaign. There’s plenty of failures of this Government, be it under Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd or the litany of failed ministers that have lined up in this Government, for us to point to but we’ll be presenting our alternative vision to the people, whatever the outcome of Labor’s leadership.
JOURNALIST: But you would prefer Julia Gillard at the helm, would you not?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: It’s up to the Labor Party as to who leads the Labor Party. I just wish the Australian people could get their chance to say who should lead Australia.