SABRA LANE: One of those tipped for a promotion in the first Turnbull ministry is the Assistant Minister for Education and Training, South Australian Senator Simon Birmingham.
I spoke with him earlier.
Simon Birmingham thanks for talking to 7:30.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good evening Sabra.
SABRA LANE: You were tipped to get a promotion this weekend. Has the Prime Minister contacted you yet?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well no, Sabra and I'm sure you'd understand that even if he had I would be leaving such discussions for him to announce. We all serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister and I'll serve in whatever capacity he deems fit.
SABRA LANE: Is the expectation that Turnbull supporters will be promoted and those Tony Abbott loyalists will be demoted?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: No not at all. I expect that we will have a ministry that, as it always has, represents the broad-church of the Liberal Party that brings together those Liberal and Conservative traditions but, most importantly, that puts the best people on the field for a Government that will be full of energy, we'll be looking for how we can build the best and most optimistic vision and future for Australia consistent with the vision that Malcolm Turnbull has as our new Prime Minister, one in which we are seeking to adapt as a nation to the many areas of economic and technological disruption that we face and to build and create and foster new industries and new jobs to a really bright future that's right this country can have.
SABRA LANE: Scott Morrison's revealed today that Tony Abbott offered him the twin jobs of Deputy and Treasury in a last-ditch bid to save his position. Did it surprise you that he was prepared to throw Joe Hockey under a bus?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: They're matters for Tony and look I think at present we should all be respectful of the fact that Tony did a wonderful and amazing job for the Liberal Party in many ways. We have a Government that has achieved some good things but we clearly need to do more and do better to convince the Australian people that we are setting Australia up well for the future and I think in Malcolm we really have put forward a leader who will excel and will demonstrate to the Australian people that he understands the type of challenges we will face in a global environment, he understands the challenges that will come from the dislocation of jobs caused by robotics, by automation, by new technologies and from that we have to adapt and really make sure our advanced manufacturing industries, our technological industries, our ICT sectors, our medical research industries, all of those high-tech, highly-skilled sectors are at the forefront of our thinking as a nation.
SABRA LANE: Was it just the fact that Mr Abbott couldn't communicate your message effectively or was it something else?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I think there are a number of factors that brought those of us who supported a change to thinking that it was necessary. None of us wanted to do it but we determined that it was important for the future of the country as well as the party and I think those factors involved the sense of vision for Australia and the direction we want to take the country in, an ability to build consensus around reforms that are required to take the country in that direction and I think Malcolm is the best leader the country can have at this time to face these challenges and to build that consensus for the future.
SABRA LANE: What did you make of the interview that Scott Morrison was subjected to this morning?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Happily, I've been busy in Adelaide today and I haven't heard it but, look, radio shock jocks play their own games on their own shows at times. That's up to them to explain how they conduct their interviews. Scott is a wonderful member of the Liberal team. He of course did an outstanding job in securing the nation's borders when he was Immigration Minister, he made great progress over the last little while as the Social Security Minister in relation to delivering a number of important reforms and reforms that have made savings against the Budget bottom line and I trust in whatever role he takes on in future he'll make an excellent and outstanding contribution to the country.
SABRA LANE: Opinion polling will show later this evening that Liberals will pick up the seat of Canning tomorrow. Did the switch to Malcolm Turnbull effectively extinguish that as being an electoral risk?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I think we've always had an outstanding candidate in the seat of Canning and we're very confident that that candidate has done absolutely everything possible to win that seat. It really has been a local race. I'm sure there will probably be a swing against the Government as there always is in these circumstances and particularly after a difficult week like the week we have had but I look forward to welcoming Mr Hastie to Canberra, hopefully in the not too distant future.
SABRA LANE: In your portfolio, how likely is it that there will be a complete Federal takeover of vocational education and training given the continuing stories of fraud?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: There's still some way to go in terms of federation reform but I think is a big opportunity we have in terms of how the federation works and trying to seize the chance to have a similar approach to vocational education and training to that which we have to university funding. Back in the 1980s the Hawke Government implemented the type of model for university funding that mixes student loans through the HECS system with Government subsidies and that of course has come to be well understood by parents and families and universities alike as well as employers. Paul Keating in the 1990s tried to do likewise with vocational education and training only to be shot down by the Queensland Government and Kevin Rudd at the time. I think this is a good time to revisit it. I'm pleased that the Premier's indicated they're in-principle support to doing so at the meeting to discuss the federation a couple of months ago and I really do hope we can progress it so that we can have vocational training which is so critical to delivering the skills of the new economy, sitting alongside the university sector in terms of the way it is treated.
SABRA LANE: Minister, thanks for your time tonight.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Always a pleasure, Sabra.