Subject: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
LINDA MOTTRAM: Senator, good morning to you.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning Linda and good morning to your listeners for the second time in two days.
LINDA MOTTRAM: For the second day in a row. Now yesterday you weren’t buying in. Today, you’re not saying I don’t think, who you voted for, but you are a friend of Malcolm Turnbull’s aren’t you, you voted for him didn’t you?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, I have been a long term friend of Malcolm’s since before he was Leader of the Liberal Party many years ago. Yes, I supported Malcolm yesterday. It was with a heavy heart to do so in terms of, of course it’s a difficult day, and it’s a difficult time for Tony and his family. Tony has been, in many ways, a very good Leader of the Liberal Party and a very good Prime Minister. But I did make the judgement that change was necessary, and the majority of my colleagues did, because it is important that Australia puts its absolute best foot forward to deal with what is a world of very complex challenges in terms of the economic dislocation of jobs and disruption of industries that’s occurring. I think Malcolm is incredibly well placed to do that. I was very heartened to hear your caller, Leanne, before and her reaction to the change.
LINDA MOTTRAM: Sure, so you know, the communication thing’s obviously one of the points that Malcolm Turnbull has made, but will he be any more of a unifying figure than he has in the past when he was tossed out as Liberal Leader because he divided the party?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well I hope and trust that Malcolm, like everybody, has learnt from the lessons of the past. I am confident that he has. He I think is a man who has learnt through many different experiences in his life. Growing up as the son of a single parent, somebody who has been a starter of his own businesses, somebody who has been engaged as a Minister in the Howard Government, and seen what good government, and how to run a good government, looks like. I think Malcolm has a wealth of experiences and, yes, his time as Leader before is one of those. I trust from that, and am confident from that, that he has learnt how to make sure he brings the party with him through difficult decisions, but is also, indeed, a great communicator, who I think can talk to the Australian people about the type of challenges we face, talk to them about some of the difficult decisions we might have to make in the future, and hopefully bring about more of a consensus approach and make politics as much as possible about the future of the country and the betterment of the lives of all Australians, which, after all, is why we all go into this game in the first place.
LINDA MOTTRAM: Alright but I mean, it’s divided ranks isn’t it? I mean, there is going to be a lot of bitterness, a lot of very strong supporters on the other side of Tony Abbott. They’re going to be angry and it is not long until the Federal election, assuming the government goes full term. How long do you give Malcolm Turnbull to unify?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The party came together under Tony quite quickly after he took the leadership. We’ve seen changes before where the party does come together. In the end what binds us together are Liberal values and our belief in generating jobs and opportunity for Australians, and in creating a competitive environment and economy for Australian business to prosper and to make sure that we are able to actually be the country that in future is able to enjoy the high standard of living that we have today because we are able to compete on the world stage as we see many of the changes that are happening around us. I am confident the party will, as it’s done before, come together again and deliver great government for the country and build upon the strong legacy that Tony Abbott has left.
LINDA MOTTRAM: Malcolm Turnbull says he will stick with policy settings as they are. But there were a lot of broken promises that Australians were unhappy about, flip-flopping between a budget emergency or not, so confusion there, and retreat from some hard decisions as the polls have continued to slump. There will need to be policy change won’t there?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Of course we will be looking at the type of policies we take to the Australian people between now and the next election. That will be informed by expert opinion and advice, by the conversations that we all have with members of the public and the conversations that Malcolm has with industry and business leaders and others, about how to generate the wealth and opportunities and jobs that we want to see created around Australia. Malcolm has committed to making sure it’s a government of proper process, that is consultative and consensus driven. So that means when it comes to changing policies, he will talk to his Cabinet colleagues and he will engage in those discussions. We won’t see rash or rushed decisions.
LINDA MOTTRAM: Sorry, but to be fair there was a very large gathering of business and other community leaders recently called by two newspapers because there was such frustration in business about a lack of direction, a lack of confidence, in the government. Some of the items on the agenda are pretty clear from their perspective – you know, increase the GST, deal with penalty rates and make some cuts and that’s unpopular. Don’t those things need to happen quickly?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well I think that recent reform summit does provide a good blueprint to look at and talk to those industry and union and other leaders about, just as yesterday, indeed, we had a thoughtful contribution from Deloitte Access Economics about what tax reform could look like. All of these major contributions are things that we need to take seriously, but nor should we rush action in a way that divides people. I think the strength that we have in Malcolm is not only someone who understands the complexity of the challenges we have, but somebody who can explain that to the Australian people, and hopefully take them on a journey where people support the types of measures we need in the future, and that’s so important. There’s no point just talking about reform. There’s no point trying to ram it through. You’ve got to build the consensus in the community that allows you to have the consensus in the Parliament. John Howard was very successful at that. Bob Hawke was very successful at that. And I believe that Malcolm Turnbull is the type of communicator and leader and thinker who can be very successful with that too.
LINDA MOTTRAM: Well a few steps to go before you get there. Off to Government House later on, and then you’ve figure out who gets what jobs. There’ll be a few victims I would imagine. Do you think Joe Hockey can survive as Treasurer?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Linda, they are all entirely calls for Malcolm as the new Prime Minister. He will structure his front bench to put what he thinks is the best team on the field to deliver the policies Australians need. I’ve not engaged with him in conversations about who that should be, who should be in those roles. They’re judgements that he’ll make over coming days in consultation with his colleagues. Once again, he has been clear that he’s not going to rush any of that. He will make sure that he talks to colleagues and makes those decisions after this Parliamentary sitting week is finished.
LINDA MOTTRAM: Ok, Simon Birmingham, thank you for your time once again.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: A pleasure, Linda.