Subject: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull; Submarines


MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Simon Birmingham is a Liberal Senator for South Australia, welcome to the program Senator.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning Matthew, David and listeners.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Were you spooked by the polls and also the threat posed by Nick Xenophon and that was what got you and Chris Pyne behind the Turnbull coup?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: No Matthew, I wouldn't use that word but I do think that we did have to face the reality that there was a chance of a Shorten government that I think would be terrible for Australia, but more importantly I think as a party, as a government, we always have to put our best foot forward and the challenges that Australia faces in the future are quiet complex and whilst we had done and have done good things as a government and delivered on many of our commitments there's a lot more to be done and particularly to face up to some of the economic disruptions the world faces, dislocations of jobs with technology changes and South Australia, as we know, with the highest unemployment rate in the nation it is at the forefront of feeling some of those impacts and I think Malcolm is best placed to lead Australia, to face those challenges and to bring the Australian people with us on those changes required to do so.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Right, what was the key turning point for you, Simon Birmingham, there must have been a moment when you thought “look, we can't let this go on”, what was the turning point for you and please can we not, I know you've done your, and I think it's fair to say I’ve let you do that even though we try not to have monologues, but you've had your monologue about the state of the economy and all that sort of thing I'm asking a direct question?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Sure Matthew, but I would say I don't think I can nail a single moment. I think for me and it's a bit like, frankly, how my interest in politics evolved as a young man. I think for me it was a steady and growing increasing concern about whether the governments messages were being heard, whether we were doing all we could in terms of putting forward all of the right policies for Australia's future and whether we were going to be able to get the support required to implement those types of policies.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Why should we think now that South Australia will be any better placed under a Turnbull government then it was under an Abbott government because we were told he started to listen, people like you and Chris Pyne and Jamie Briggs got him listening and finally worked out that things weren't to flash in South Australia.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well I think Malcolm has an instinctive and deep understanding of the type of challenges that an economy like South Australia faces and, as I said before, we are at the forefront of the changing jobs and the loss of old industries and old parts of the economy and we do need to make sure that advanced manufacturing flies into the future and that South Australia is a part of that.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: How would a millionaire living in a hipster seat in Sydney have any innate understanding of the struggles that the people of South Australia are going through?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: let's put that in context Malcolm is a self-made millionaire-

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Ok, well that doesn't matter does it?-

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Who started his own businesses and managed to generate jobs for thousands of Australians in doing. He grew up as the son of a single parent Dad, the schools he attended were largely on scholarships as his father worked to put Malcolm through school and Malcolm had scholarships to do that. So yes, Malcolm is a very successful person today, but that success is because he is bright, he’s intelligent, he’s worked hard in life, he’s been entrepreneurial, he has done all the sorts of things we want Australians to do in the future and I think his background is one where he understands what it's like to come from a position of hardship and he wants to help more Australians come out of that position of hardship and enjoy success in the future.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: You'd have to say though, would you not, that Tony Abbott who I think is even struggling to pay his own mortgage, is probably in a, was in a, better position to understand the troubles of ordinary Australians than, as I said, a multi-millionaire living in a hipster seat in Sydney.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I don't accept that, I don't accept that Matthew, as I said before, I think that Malcolm’s background is a diverse background, but I think what Australians want most from their leader is, yes, someone who understands their problems which I am confident Malcolm can do, but also somebody who understands the challenges of the future and can help convince them to support the types of policies that we need to face those challenges.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Chris Pyne obviously has put the word out that he’s going to be the next Defence Minister, he may have gone a bit early. You can see a bit of a rear-guard action fought by the incumbent at the moment, does that send a signal though that South Australia will get subs that were originally promised?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I think one of the clear promises that Malcolm has made to the party room and to the Australian public is that he will run a government with proper process and so I don't think there is any pre-determined outcome on the submarines, I'm sure he will listen to all of the expert advice, but what I do know about Malcolm and follow the proper process in terms of decision making, but what I do know about Malcolm is he is passionate about developing advanced manufacturing industries and those types of sectors that would benefit from an Australian submarine build and that makes me incredibly hopeful and positive about where he will likely go on that issue.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: So the current process where really it's all bets off for the submarines. You think under a Turnbull government it will be, look, there's huge benefits to having a home submarine industry with all of the technological and blue collar and white collar jobs that flow from that?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The potential industrial and economic transformation that a project like that can do building on the continuous ship building announcement that's already made is evident and so I am very hopeful and consistent with Malcolm's desire, I know, to create those types of jobs and develop those types of industries that we do get a good outcome.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: So, is this the end of the so called competitive evaluation process? That's the key point, the one Nick Xenophon made that it's a farce and this Prime Minister, Prime Minister Turnbull has to walk away from that.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: No, I think what Nick is missing there is that we actually need to know what type of design of submarine we are actually going to build and the competitive evaluation process in getting design bids from Germany from France and from Japan is having a look at the best design and the most capable submarine. It’s asking them all to provide bids for an Australian build as well as for a hybrid or an off shore build. So, that process itself is designed to get us the best value for money, the best defence capability and if there is a question as to what level of Australian industry involvement you have and how you optimise it. To throw that out the door would set us back considerably and then you would say “whose submarine are we going to build? How are we going to build it?” So Nick has been pretty foolish if he thinks we should just ditch the whole process and go back to square one. There is a way through this that can get us to build in Australia as well of course making sure we don't lose time, don't lose momentum with the best defence capabilities.

MATTHEW ABRAHAM: Senator, thank you.