SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  The Labor Government is now throwing good taxpayer money after bad. It’s learnt nothing from the home insulation debacle. It’s now at a situation where they’re letting the same people involved in the home insulation debacle run solar programs, run set top box programs. This is a case of utter madness. You have the Government that brought us the insulation debacle letting the same people get involved in the same type of fraudulent use of taxpayer money. You have a situation now where the Government’s incompetence is hurting taxpayers by wasting taxpayer dollars, it hurts consumers who get a raw deal and it hurts these industries who lose credibility. There are many hundreds of decent businesses in insulation, in solar, in set top box supply, who want to do a good job but the Government, by allowing and encouraging profiteering, is simply developing a situation where they encourage people to come in, Johnny-come-latelies to come in, hang a sign on the side of their car and offer a service just so they can invoice the taxpayer and make some quick cheap profits. The Government needs to take action in this regard. They need to have tougher standards. They should be ensuring that in accrediting people to invoice the taxpayer these are people who are qualified, who are skilled, who have experience in the industries for the job they’re doing, not people who jump from one generous Government program to the next generous Government program.
JOURNALIST:  What was your first reaction when you saw that I guess three directors are now changed schemes and working on solar and the set top boxes?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  Oh look, I think anybody would be shocked to learn that you have the same people who delivered a dodgy program for the Government previously being allowed to deliver more dodgy services on the taxpayer teat again. This is the madness of it all. The Government has learnt no lessons from the ‘Pink Batts’ scandal, they haven’t tightened criteria in regards to these programs, they’re letting the same people through the door and the same people will end up causing taxpayers, consumers and industries the same harm.
JOURNALIST:  Are you jumping to conclusions calling them dodgy this time? Considering they’re running legit businesses now, is that too harsh?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  We do know in the solar space that there have been investigations. There have in fact been people who’ve been pulled out of that program, so we already know there are issues there. We know there are dozens of complaints in the set top box [program] that have been recorded by local MPs – some 60-odd that the Government won’t say what these complaints were about in the set top box scheme – so there’s evidence there are problems in all of these schemes and what you have is the Government creating these schemes, being overly generous in opening up a scheme that encourages profiteering. This is the heart of the problem here – the Government creates a scheme that encourages profiteering, encourages people to come in for a quick cheap buck rather than people who care about the sustainability of building a business and building an industry for the long term.
JOURNALIST:  What’s the solution to the problem?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  The solution is for the Government to learn the lessons from their past mistakes, for Government to actually put decent standards in place and where people have been found to be dodgy in accessing a Government funded program previously, they should be excluded from similar programs for a period of time – five years, ten years, whatever it is – but there should be far tougher, far more stringent guidelines for people accessing Government funds.
JOURNALIST:  What do you think of the latest newspaper polls which show that Tony Abbott is now more popular than Julia Gillard and that Kevin Rudd’s three times more popular in Queensland?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  Well, I think you have a situation where Kevin Rudd was the Prime Minister who brought us the ‘Pink Batts’ disaster, Julia Gillard’s the Prime Minister who’s learnt absolutely nothing from it so we’re seeing a bad Government just getting worse no matter who the leader of it is and for Australians I think, frankly, giving them a choice between Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard is a bit like giving people a choice between a flu or a migraine – you don’t really want either of them.
JOURNALIST:  Simon, in the newspaper this morning it says that the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists has decided to pull out of the process of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. They said they’ve lost confidence in the process. What do you think of them pulling out?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  Look, I’ve championed from day one for the Basin Plan to be independently delivered, based on science, and that’s what needs to happen, so the Government, when it releases an updated Plan in a couple of months’ time, needs to guarantee its independence, it needs to guarantee it’s based on robust science and the concerns of the Wentworth Group will need to be addressed in that regard so the Government needs to answer concerns about whether it is working on robust science. It needs to be a fair Plan, it needs to be balanced, it needs to take into account economic considerations, South Australia’s Riverland, upstream irrigators, the whole box and dice but it also needs to be balanced on credible evidence.
JOURNALIST:  Back on the issue of the Newspoll [Galaxy poll], are surprised by the results showing there’s support for Kevin Rudd?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  Oh look, I think that in the end if voters are given this choice, it’s a bit of a Hobson’s choice. In a Newspoll question, or any type of poll question, when it’s ‘Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard’, what we’re seeing from Queenslanders and people across Australia is concern about this Government, concern that it’s gone off the rails and in the end it was Kevin Rudd who took it in the wrong direction, Julia Gillard promised to fix it, she hasn’t, both are to blame for the state of the Government, both are to blame for the state of the budget, for the state of issues like border protection, both are to blame for these types of programs that are open to abuse of taxpayer funds and so in the end, both stand I think condemned by the Australian people because they have failed to deliver effective government for Australia.
JOURNALIST:  Tony Abbott’s popularity is rising in Queensland. Do you think this shows that the situation with the hung parliament hasn’t worked?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  I think Tony Abbott is outlining views and vision for an alternative Government. He’s been out there all year with policies on mental health, with policies on welfare-to-work transition – actual initiatives that are demonstrating to people that the Coalition is ready to return to government, ready to pick up and return Australia to a situation where we have a credible Government delivering credible policies for Australia rather than a bad Government wasting taxpayers’ money, lying to people at elections on issues like the carbon tax. That’s not the way to govern. It can’t be a surprise for Labor that when you lie to the voters at the election, learn no lessons from your mistakes and waste money repeatedly, people want to toss you out.
JOURNALIST:  What he hasn’t done, though, is given a definitive reply to the budget in how he would bring it into surplus. Will that be happening?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  We will give absolutely fully costed policies to the next election, just as we did to the last election.
JOURNALIST:  Why the delay?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  We don’t know when the next election will be, so you cost your policies for when you’re going into an election campaign. That’s the logical time to do it.
JOURNALIST:  Is it hard to criticise this budget, though, without having a definitive response?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM:  There’s plenty of scope to criticise this budget. It’s a pretty friendless budget – nearly every economic commentator in the country criticised this budget.