Subject: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
JULIE DOYLE: Senator, thanks for coming in. Let's start, it’s the day after now, what are your reflections on last night?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Julie, yesterday was a difficult day and of course challenging days lie ahead. It obviously is a very personally difficult time for Tony and his family and the party and the country owes a great deal of credit to Tony for the work that he’s done. But we equally have to get on with the job at hand and the job at hand is to make sure we put our best foot forward for, not just the party or the government, but for the nation and I am confident that Malcolm Turnbull is the man to do that. That he will be capable of guiding us through the challenging times we face in the global economy and positioning Australia for jobs and economic growth in the future, based upon the new industries and new opportunities that exist.
JULIE DOYLE: Why do you think change was necessary?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I think the government had achieved many things but it was clear we were struggling to convince people that we had clear plans for the future, and especially that we had a clear understanding of how we were going to position Australia as a successful global economy in the long term and to bring people with us on the economic reforms that are necessary to do that. If you look at the recent CEDA report that talks about the dislocation of jobs in Australia as a result of automation of robotics, of technology, it all demonstrates that we face really big challenges, and in my view, you put the best player on the field, the best team forward and Malcolm, I think, is best able to deal with those challenges, convince people that we have to confront them and take Australia in a more consensus driven way towards reforms in the future.
JULIE DOYLE: Is that what you saw as the problem with Tony Abbott? That he wasn't selling the message to the community? That it wasn't being sold effectively?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I think now is a time for respect and recognition of what Tony did and achieved and Tony did achieve good things and he led a good government but we need to be a great government and we need to meet and confront the challenges we face. I want to focus on the future and I am sure that is what the Australian people expect us to do.
JULIE DOYLE: Moving forward though, do you think the approach will be different now as far as the leadership and the way that the conversation is held with the voters?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Malcolm is a different man. He, of course, has learnt from his lifetime of experiences; growing up as a child of a single parent, building a business empire
from the ground up and being a successful entrepreneur. His previous time as Leader of the Opposition and he will have learnt from those failings, his time as a minister in the Howard Government, all of that I think comes together as a package now where he will be very successful in talking to the Australian people in a considered way, explaining to them some of the challenges we face, explaining to them the options of how we address those challenges and I hope and trust building more of a consensus in this building and across the Australian community of the types of things we need to do in the future to ensure that Australia is as prosperous a country in years to come as we currently are today.
JULIE DOYLE: How do you think then, you mentioned building the consensus in this building, how do you think politics will change moving on now?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well every leader brings their own style and approach to things but I think Malcolm is a leader and an individual who wants to talk about the big issues, who wants to talk about the serious challenges we face and his nature and his style of doing that will, I trust, be an inclusive one. It will be one where he is happy to talk to people of differing opinions and one where he wants to work through towards compromise outcomes that are achievable, that demonstrate as a government we can get the job done but do it in a way that really does build the most optimistic economic future for Australia where we are a high-tech advanced economy…
JULIE DOYLE: …Less partisan?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: …I hope we can see less partisanship in politics. I think that is one of the attributes of leaders like John Key or Mike Baird but I think attributes of leaders like John Howard and Bob Hawke, of being able to explain to the Australian people difficult reforms and bring them with those governments, the types of things I have confidence Malcolm can do and will do.
JULIE DOYLE: Looking at the vote last night, 44 MPs voted in support of Tony Abbott. So how does the Party move forward with such a large number of people who didn't vote for Malcolm Turnbull?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The party has changed leaders before and moved forward before. We have to recognise and accept that indeed we are a party that brings together liberal strains of thinking, conservative strains of thinking and out of that, out of those different philosophies and ideologies that come together, we are a party that represents, I think, the broad mainstream of Australian opinion and thought. That means we have differences. We shouldn't shy away from those differences of opinion but it means we can bring the differences of opinion in Australia together within the government and find the consensus approach. I am sure that Malcolm can build that consensus approach and we will be successful in the future.
JULIE DOYLE: Do you think though there’s a risk that some of those Liberal MPs will be disgruntled and will continue to make mischief?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, I would hope and trust all of my colleagues – and I am sure they do – want to see the government succeed, they want to see Malcolm succeed and we will be well placed in the future under Malcolm to enjoy that success.
JULIE DOYLE: What about the Ministry? Your position of Assistant Education Minister? What are you hoping for?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, I have no expectations and I will serve in whatever role Malcolm wants me to serve in. I think as a government, under Malcolm, we will be bringing together the party, the Coalition, with the National Party importantly, and from that building a better Government in future and making sure that Australia is well placed for the future. But I have had no discussions with Malcolm. That is up to him to determine what he does in the future.
JULIE DOYLE: Simon Birmingham, thank you very much
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Thanks, Julie.