INTERVIEWER: Minister, can you confirm, Anthony Albanese says this is money was promised, then Tony Abbott didn’t like it so it was shifted to freight at Goodwood, now Malcolm Turnbull likes trains, its coming back to be used for this purpose, is that a fair timeline?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well I’m surprised Anthony Albanese is being so negative about a project that is universally welcomed, I think, by the State Labor Government, by the partners down there at Flinders University, at the Tonsley innovation precinct and so forth. This is a project where there is some Federal infrastructure funding that was freed up out of some design changes in relation to the Goodwood freight project. The State Government advocated for funding to go down here to the Tonsley arrangement at Flinders, it of course, compliments the extensive investment we’re making in upgrading South Road down there with the Darlington project, the $620 million Federal commitment…[Indistinct]
INTERVIEWER: [Interrupts] Can you just clarify, because of the caretaker provisions, this money can’t actually be released until after the election, if you are re-elected?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well of course we are talking about an infrastructure project, you don’t expect dollars to flow the very second of the announcement if there are contracting works to be done and all of those types of things…[Indistinct]
INTERVIEWER: [Interrupts] No, no I mean in terms of the actual money. I’m assuming you’d need to be in actual Government, not in caretaker mode to release the money.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Governments can release money during caretaker mode if they have the consent of the opposition. So, if there were a need for contracts to be signed or money to be released, then those sorts of things can occur if we work through it with the opposition of the day. So, in a sense, if there were to be a need for it to happen right now, the only thing that would stand in the way would be Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten.
INTERVIEWER: Could you lose Boothby?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I don’t believe so. I’ve got a really positive feeling about the reaction Nicole Flint is getting on the ground. She’s advocated hard for this project, she’s working hard as a candidate. I don’t think that there is anything unusual about the Prime Minister or a Liberal leader visiting Boothby in an election campaign…[Indistinct]
INTERVIEWER: [Interrupts]…She’s changed her spots, hasn’t she Nicole Flint? Because only a year ago she was writing in the Advertiser as a columnist really fuming about the fact that money is spent on projects like this while the country, where she lives, was starved of funding for safe roads. She said “recent events remind us that there are two distinct classes of citizens in South Australia. Those who live, work and travel in the city and those who live, work and travel in the country” I suppose now she is in the city she sees things differently, is that a fair call?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well Nicole is advocating hard for the electorate of Boothby, which is the electorate that she is running for and she has worked hard on this project which is good news for jobs in the Tonsley innovation precinct, good news for Flinders University and good news for South Australia in terms of yet another infrastructure project coming to SA and another very big Coalition $1.7 billion infrastructure spend we’ve got happening on the North-South corridor.
INTERVIEWER: Are you having any talks with Labor about any preference deal? Even on a very informal level over drinks? Maybe a Chablis somewhere? A Sav Blanc? I’m not sure what your tipple is, Minister. About a preference deal to freeze Nick Xenophon out in, maybe in Port Adelaide and in return, in Sturt or Mayo?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well of course I used to work in the wine industry pre-politics so [indistinct] as long as it is good South Australian wine. But no, neither I, nor anybody that I am aware of have sat down over a drink or otherwise to talk to the Labor party about preference deals in relation to Nick Xenophon. We’re focussed on our positive message in SA, selling the message of jobs and growth and the investment we are putting in to the State and maximising the Liberal party vote and convincing people that they shouldn’t take a risk with Bill Shorten, nor should they risk continued instability with unknown Nick Xenophon candidates.
INTERVIEWER: He’s a tricky fellow, in terms of the politics, Nick Xenophon isn’t he? Because one of our spin cyclists made the point that no matter how hard you try to hit him as a political opponent, he just seems to absorb it and grow bigger.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: This election is a different one for Nick Xenophon because South Australians aren’t being asked to vote for Nick. Nick Xenophon will get re-elected at this election, his vote would have to drop by more than 75% for him to be at any risk. So, South Australians don’t need to worry about whether Nick Xenophon will be there after the next election. They are being asked though, to vote for a bunch of unknowns and that comes with a whole lot of risks because as we’ve seen with Pauline Hanson’s party, with Clive Palmer’s party those sort of personality based parties rarely hold together after they have elected other candidates because the candidates themselves go off on their own little flight [indistinct]. Who knows what the Xenophon candidates would or wouldn’t do.
INTERVIEWER: So would you rather deal with a whole bunch of Labor people than Labor and a mixture of Xenophon independents? It would just make it easier for whoever wins the election to get on with the business of governing.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well if we look back over the last couple of electoral cycles the nation was racked with instability when the Greens tail wagged the Labor dog during the Gillard years…[Indistinct]
INTERVIEWER: [Interrupts]…Minister we are going to run out of time. Are you saying that you’d rather deal with Labor and Liberal or Labor and a Coalition and anything else is just messy?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well we’d rather deal with coherence and, unfortunately, with lots of different independents in the Senate, there has been terrible incoherence over the last three years.
INTERVIEWER: So if you are going to have a minority Government, you are a lot better getting Liberal defectors which Mike Rann and Jay Weatherill had done because at least you can depend on Martin Hamilton-Smith, former Liberal leader, you at least know that he’ll back you up if you’re a Labor Government.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well I’m not sure you’d trust him at all given his track record, but we want to make sure we get a majority Turnbull Government. The only way that South Australians can be confident that they will get the shipbuilding jobs, the infrastructure investment, the jobs and growth this State needs is to have a Turnbull Liberal Government re-elected.