Doorstop interview, Stirling
Topics: Mayo by-election.
Georgina Downer: Well it’s less than 24 hours until the polls open tomorrow and it’s been great to have Minister Birmingham here today, up in Mayo, in Stirling, talking to him about some of the issues that locals here have raised with me. The seat of Mayo which encompasses the Adelaide Hills, the Fleurieu and Kangaroo Island is really at a crossroads. We’ve had a huge amount of growth particularly in the Adelaide Hills and the Fleurieu which has brought with it some real challenges and what I am committed to doing is having a long-term vision, a real plan to deal with these challenges. And I can do that because I am part of the Liberal team, I’m inside that party of government and I have the ear of the Ministers here. I have been so grateful for the support of the Prime Minister and all the Ministers who have visited here, who have come to Mayo to speak with me and to locals about these challenges and actually get some things delivered already. It is has been great to be able to deliver on issues such as a $1 million traffic management plan around Hahndorf where we have some critical issues of traffic congestion around our key tourist town. If I’m elected tomorrow, I will be fighting for further upgrades to the south-eastern freeway, where we need $40 million of infrastructure investment in that critical road that tens of thousands of Mayo residents drive on every day. And I will be fighting for an upgrade to the Hahndorf interchange around that area as well. I will also fight for projects such as the redevelopment of the Goolwa Wharf because it is these types of projects that will grow jobs and grow the economy in our area. Because when I speak to people, the big issues there concerned about is there has been a lot of talk but little delivery with these infrastructure projects and they want someone who can deliver for them. That is what I am absolutely committed to doing, within the Government, within the Liberal party. I will be able to deliver much more for Mayo.
Simon Birmingham: Look it’s a thrill to be here with Georgina Downer today, the day before voters get to decide whether they want to take a seat inside the Government, have the chance to ensure that Mayo is represented as it should be with a strong and powerful voice in government that Georgina Downer would deliver. This is an occasion where voters can make a real difference in ensuring their community can have their concerns heard day in day out by a powerful, capable advocate. Georgina has run a fabulous campaign over the last 10 weeks or so, she has worked day and night to get around and meet voters. I’ve had the thrill of joining her on the campaign trail in Mount Barker, in Yankalilla, here in Stirling and of course the Prime Minister and so many other Ministers have come to hear from Georgina about the issues that matter to Mayo. To get her advocacy on behalf of the voters of Mayo and Georgina has outlined in that time a clear plan, a plan to invest and to fight for Mayo, for the voters of Mayo, and to ensure that Mayo will get the attention it deserves as part of the Turnbull Government. Now politics is always a choice and tomorrow voters will make a choice and face a choice, between Georgina Downer, highly intelligent, highly capable, skilled individual, a young mother, someone who has represented Australia overseas and served our country as a diplomat. Somebody who will be a powerful voice within government, not just for Mayo but for our state. South Australia needs strong voices within the party of government to make sure South Australia is heard and all South Australians should be wanting to see Georgina Downer elected, but particularly those in Mayo. It’s a choice stacking up against Rebekha Sharkie, somebody where it’s not entirely clear where she stands on the issues but it is clear that she has voted the majority of the time with the Labor party, with Bill Shorten. And it’s clear that Bill Shorten wants Rebekha Sharkie to win tomorrow, he wants that because she votes with him most of the time and Rebekha Sharkie being the member for Mayo puts Bill Shorten a step closer to being Prime Minister. If the voters of Mayo want to ensure they have a strong Liberal Government that can keep growing the economy, creating jobs, lowering taxes, balancing the budget, investing in the essential services that are so critical for our nation, then they should support the Liberal candidate in Georgina Downer to give them that strength in government as well as a strong local voice.
Journalist: What’s your response to some criticism, you talked about all the infrastructure projects you want to get action on, but some criticism that sort of funding and attention is only on Mayo now that it is no longer Liberal held that is now a marginal seat?
Georgina Downer: Look there’s been a lot of talk the last couple of years while Mayo has been represented from someone outside of the Government by someone who is a crossbencher but very little delivery. I’m about delivery. The history of Mayo is that we’ve had some really significant investments here over the course of 30 odd years of Mayo’s existence. Projects like the Heysen tunnels, one of the biggest infrastructure projects in South Australia’s history. It opened up the Adelaide Hills and the Fleurieu Peninsula. That was a visionary project that really changed life for the better up here in the hills. I want to see more of those types of projects delivered in the Adelaide Hills, in the Fleurieu and in Kangaroo Island. Because those types of projects, they are about developing our economy, helping businesses to do their business better to grow jobs and ultimately to create stronger and healthier communities.
Journalist: You’ve been on the ground up here for just over two months, you’ve got a sense of just how the electorate has responded to your presence. How do you rate your chances tomorrow?
Georgina Downer: Look, I’ve had a really great experience over the last couple of months campaigning here in Mayo. There has been really positive feedback about the Coalition Government’s agenda, we’re really focused on a lot of the concerns that people have raised with me like cost of living pressures and talking to people about things like the income tax cuts that the Turnbull Government was able to get through Parliament just recently where on average people here in Mayo will have $530 back in their pockets. People are really excited to hear that type of agenda coming through. That the issues that they’re concerned about are being addressed by the Turnbull Government. In that long-term visionary way so I’m pleased to be a part of this team that is able to deliver those type of policies that really make a difference to people on the ground. But also what I do really hear from people in the community, they raise with me a lot of concerns about are the voting record of Ms Sharkie while she was representing people here in Mayo over the 22 months. That she did vote with Labor 58 per cent of the time while she was in Parliament and then after Nick Xenophon resigned from the Senate she voted with Labor 76 per cent of the time. And while she was in Parliament too she didn’t even vote at all, she abstained over 10 per cent of the time. They asked the question, what does Ms Sharkie stand-for, has she done some type of deal with Bill Shorten. If she is elected tomorrow, where will her vote go? They think the signs are that they’ll probably go with Bill Shorten. Bill Shorten is quite clearly backing-in my opponent, in this by-election, his candidate, the day he was pre-selected said he had no chance here, he was going to support Rebekha Sharkie in her campaign to be re-elected. Bill Shorten when he was here a couple of weeks ago, all but endorsed Rebekha Sharkie’s candidacy. The signs are clear that a vote for Sharkie is a vote for Shorten. Rebekha Sharkie is Bill Shorten’s candidate…
Journalist: So are you saying Rebekha is a fraud almost?
Georgina Downer: I’m saying that her voting record speaks for itself. She has voted since Nick Xenophon left the Senate, 76 per cent of the time with Labor.
Journalist: Rebekha Sharkie used to work for Jamie Briggs, she once worked for Isobel Redmond. Isn’t it a bit misleading to say that she is effectively a Labor MP?
Georgina Downer: I think people in Mayo deserve to know the facts and I think her record speaks for itself. While she was in the Parliament for 22 months she voted 58 per cent of the time with the Labor party. And when Nick Xenophon resigned, since then she voted 76 per cent of the time with the Labor party.
Simon Birmingham: Let’s look at some of the issues. Very clearly Rebekha Sharkie voted against tax relief for small businesses, she voted against stronger border protection measures, she voted with the Labor party to weaken Australia’s borders, to keep taxes higher. This is a very Labor agenda that Rebekha Sharkie has voted on in the past. And of course voters ought to ask the question of themselves, If Rebekha Sharkie has voted with Bill Shorten so often in the past, and Bill Shorten wants Rebekha Sharkie to win tomorrow, what will Rebekha Sharkie and Bill Shorten do together in the future? They’ll support higher taxes, they’ll support a situation that jeopardises our economic growth, that jeopardises jobs growth, makes life harder for the many thousands of small businesses across South Australia and right here in Mayo.
Journalist: Senator, the Prime Minister spent a lot of time in Longman and Braddon in the last couple of weeks. We haven’t seen him in Mayo for quite some time. Has he given up on Mayo?
Simon Birmingham: The Prime Minister has been to Mayo three times during the campaign, three times during the campaign and the Prime Minister has spent a lot of time on the ground here in Mayo with Georgina. This week we’ve seen Peter Dutton here as well and of course a string of Minister’s because we want to ensure that the voters of Mayo hear very clearly the choice they have, and the choice between Georgina Downer, a highly capable member of the Turnbull team who will be a strong voice in government or Rebekha Sharkie who simply is Bill Shorten’s choice and preferred choice as candidate because she votes with him the majority of the time.
Journalist: Senator, is anything other than a win here tomorrow a failure for the Government?
Simon Birmingham: This campaign has been a success because Georgina Downer has worked so hard, because she has been so committed in her engagement with the voters in articulating the issues that matter to them, in ensuring that as a Government we hear those concerns and people ought to support her so they continue to have that strong articulation of their concerns and the issues that matter to the people of Mayo.
Journalist: Will you stick around if you’re not successful tomorrow, for the general election, early next year we’re told. Is that a definite?
Georgina Downer: I’m in this campaign to win tomorrow and I’ve put everything I can into it. I’ve been supported by hundreds and hundreds of volunteers in this effort, as well of course from the Turnbull Government team and the state Liberal team here. There has been a massive amount of cooperation between the new state Liberal team and the Turnbull Government and I want to build on that as a strong representative here in Mayo. My intention here is to be successful tomorrow and of course run next year for re-election as the member for Mayo.
Journalist: Because you realise if you don’t, pending pre-selection of course, but if you don’t, you damage the Liberal brand even further?
Georgina Downer: My intention is to run next year and hopefully as for re-election as the member for Mayo.
Journalist: Do you feel like you’re the underdog in this though. When you look at the polls, they’re hugely in Rebekha Sharkie’s favour?
Georgina Downer: I’ve always thought I was the underdog, I’m running against someone who is basically an incumbent, it is always difficult when you’re running against an incumbent and it’s always difficult, history has shown for government’s to win these by-elections. So, I expected this would be a difficult campaign but it’s been a really fantastic time out here in Mayo and I’ve had a great reception in the community. People want someone who can be that strong voice for them in Canberra who has a long-term vision and the trouble with Ms Sharkie and she said it herself today in the papers. She has some ideas for the here and now but she does not have that long-term vision. People here in Mayo want someone who has that plan for them for the long-term who has a vision about how we can make this about stronger and better community, how we can build the jobs here in Mayo, here in South Australia. Because for too long we have not had the job creation and opportunities here. I want to turn that around. Steven Marshall is leading a Liberal Government here in South Australia, that is absolutely committed to turning that around. I want to be part of the Federal Liberal team here in South Australia that is backing in South Australia, that is backing in jobs in South Australia, ensuring that this is already the best place to live in Australia but that there are opportunities for people to live here in South Australia and in Mayo of course as well. It’s the best place I think to raise a family, that’s why my husband and I are so thrilled to be here raising our family in the Adelaide Hills. I’m absolutely committed to this community that raised me and that it’s helping me raise my children.
Journalist: What is the feel from the people in the pre-polling booths. Is it tighter than what you thought?
Georgina Downer: We’re having a great reception on the pre-poll booths. Pre-polls been going for almost three weeks and I think the numbers are about 15 000 people who have been through the pre-poll and it’s been a really great reception. There has been a lot of positive energy from my volunteers and people coming to the polling booths but as I said there have been those concerns raised as people come to the polling booths, they’ve been asking the question about what was Rebekha Sharkie doing in Canberra for 22 months voting with Bill Shorten and the Labor party 58 per cent of the time. They’re wondering why when Nick Xenophon left she upped that to 76 per cent of the time. They’re very concerned about the voting record and they’re very concerned about the prospect of her being elected tomorrow and what she will do with Labor next.
Journalist: You keep talking about these concerns but another poll out this morning has you behind 59-41 which is essentially an identical result to the previous three or four polls. I mean have people just stopped listening to this message of yours?
Georgina Downer: The concerns people are raising with me happen on a regular basis, they are very concerned about Ms Sharkie’s voting record, they’re very concerned about when Nick Xenophon left the Senate that that voting record with Labor went up to 76 per cent of the time. They want someone who will be a strong voice for them, who will stand up for them in Canberra and what you do in Canberra is you’re doing as a representative of your community and I take that extremely seriously and it’s my 100 per cent commitment to be that strong voice for people in Canberra and the people here in Mayo deserve only that and I will of course be part of the party of government, able to deliver on the long-term vision I have for this area.
Journalist: Has this campaign been as hard as you expected it be now that you’re on the ground? Has it been as hard as you thought it would be?
Georgina Downer: Well I grew up in politics, I have a very good appreciation of the challenges that representing your community do present but I also know that representing your community, that it really is the ultimate service you can give and it would be a huge privilege to be elected tomorrow by the people of Mayo to represent them in Canberra. There really is no greater privilege than presenting your community and that you don’t take that on lightly. It’s not an easy task, you’re there for 107 000 odd people who put you there. You need to be taking this job really seriously and you need to be able to withstand the pressures of the job. I’m up to it, I don’t shy away from the challenges, I don’t shy away from criticism, I’m open to debate, I’m open to listening to people in fact I’m 100 per cent committed to listening to people, because this by-election is all about the people of Mayo and making sure they have that strong representation in Canberra. And of course what I bring is that ability to deliver on a vision for people here in Mayo.
Journalist: Senator, I just want to go back to your earlier response. You said essentially this campaign would have been a success even if the Liberal’s don’t win?
Simon Birmingham: The way that history is against the Government in each of the by-elections tomorrow is that it’s around 100 years since a government has one a by-election off of an opposition party and effectively here we are facing an opposition party in Rebekha Sharkie who is Bill Shorten’s candidate here in Mayo. So we are absolutely proud of the effort that Georgina Downer has put in here, as indeed has Brett Whiteley in Braddon and Trevor Ruthenberg in Longman. They’ve all worked incredibly hard to make sure that the voices of their communities have been heard by government and that the voters have been given a clear choice. But we shouldn’t underestimate the scale of the challenge, because the history says that government’s don’t win by-elections, don’t get swings to them in by-elections but indeed it goes in the opposite direction. Georgina though has put in an incredible effort, she deserves victory tomorrow and the voters of Mayo need to think long and hard about the choice before them. It is a choice between backing an independent who votes with Bill Shorten and would put him one step closer to being Prime Minister and will put the Parliament one step closer to instability versus Georgina Downer a strong liberal candidate somebody who will be a powerful and articulate voice of Mayo, the people of South Australia and who will be an influential part of the Turnbull Government who will make sure that every concern of this electorate is heard in Canberra. Thanks everybody.