Subject: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull; Submarines


DAVID PENBERTHY: We are going to talk now to the South Australian Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham who is currently the Assistant Minister for Education and Training but all that is probably going to change very quickly as a result of Malcolm Turnbull’s elevation last night. Senator Birmingham, thank you for your time

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning Penbo and listeners.

DAVID PENBERTHY: A lot of our listeners are saying that it is their job, not yours, to hire and fire prime ministers. And that after the events of last night you guys are now the same as the ALP in having knifed a first-term Prime Minister. What would you say to that?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Penbo, I understand that emotions would be running high. It was a very difficult day in Canberra yesterday. We have a Westminster system of government in which there are two checks on the leadership of the country: one of those, of course, is the people through elections but the other is the election of the leaders of our political parties that form government. And yesterday the Liberal Party took the decision that it was important to change the leader so we are best placed to face the economic challenges that Australia has to deal with in the future. That we will have in Malcolm Turnbull a leader who understands the type of disruption that will occur to jobs and the economy from automation, from robotics, from new technology and through all of that we have to make sure as a country that we are developing the new skills and the new businesses and new industries that create those opportunities and of course it is no more pronounced anywhere than probably in South Australia where jobs and the economy and needing to make sure that we diversify our economy is critical for the future.

DAVID PENBERTHY: How much of this was just pure and simple about self-preservation, particularly here in South Australia? Where you guys walking towards the abyss with Tony Abbott as leader?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, it’s always important in politics that you bring people with you. When clearly we have not been as successful as would hope to have been as a government in building consensus and generating support for economic reform that’s why, as one factor, the leadership changed. That we do need to get that consensus and have the conversation with people about the types of challenges that Australia faces, the types of economic disruption that we will have to confront and the types of reforms that will be needed to overcome that. That’s, I think why, Malcolm will succeed as a leader because he will calmly and thoughtfully explain to people some of those challenges and he will be able, I hope, to bring people with him on that reform agenda.

DAVID PENBERTHY: Aside from the question of self-preservation, was any of this about self-promotion? Because, we, we just heard from your Liberal colleague, the South Australian Liberal Senator and conservative Cory Bernardi, who made a sort of dark comment about ‘we will see who gets promotions, we will see who is rewarded with thirty pieces of sliver’. It seemed to be a fairly pointed comment aimed at yourself, aimed at Christopher Pyne, who also reportedly made a late and decisive switch away from Abbott to Turnbull. Is that, is that, part of your thinking in doing what you did?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Emphatically no, Penbo. I can say with complete honesty as I have never had a conversation with Malcolm about my role within the government. That it is not something that weighed on my mind at all. This is a change that I believe those who voted for it made in the best interests of the country first and foremost. The South Australian Members and Senators, I think they made it in the best interests of South Australia in terms of the real economic challenges that we face in SA and of course in the best interests of the Party that we represent. To make sure that we don’t face a situation where Bill Shorten becomes Prime Minister of this country and threatens not only the future economic reforms we need but those we have already secured, such as the China Free Trade Agreement which is so important and which he is recklessly opposing.

DAVID PENBERTHY: And just finally, Simon Birmingham, on subs. I think a lot of people couldn’t care less about the politics but are very excited about the idea that we might actually get a positive outcome on the submarines, do you think that will be in line with the pre-election promise to build the twelve subs right here in SA?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, Penbo, Malcolm has made a very clear commitment that he wants to follow proper processes in government; be consultative, engage the Cabinet in decisions and so I am sure he will go through all those proper processes in relation to submarines. But what I do know is that Malcolm is a leader who is passionate about developing industries, like advanced manufacturing, and that gives me great hope in terms of what the submarine decision will be because a submarine build in Adelaide would of course stimulate our advanced manufacturing industries and really help to create some of those new jobs we need into the future. As I’m sure that will be a factor that weighs on his mind that he will go through the proper processes and look at where this decision is up to at present, get all the right advice from the Defence Chiefs and then come to a considered decision.

DAVID PENBERTHY: Senator Simon Birmingham, thanks very much for joining us this morning