JOURNALIST: We’ll have an opening statement chat with Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham and the Labor member for Adelaide Kate Ellis. We’ll start with you if we can Birmo. Now, this Newspoll this morning, I guess, the logic of changing leaders last year when Tony Abbott was replaced with Malcolm Turnbull was that you wanted a better communicator, you wanted a better salesman to restore the Coalition’s standing in the polls yet, possibly surprisingly you go into this campaign as something of an underdog given the result this morning 51-49 Labor’s way.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning guys. Look every Australian election is a hard-fought battle and this one will be no different. Every election comes down to just a couple of percentage points either way but this election does pose a really strong contrast between Malcolm Turnbull, who’s outlined clear economic plans which will see us as a country transition to be more innovative, to focus on developing more advanced industry such as our defence sector, to keep taxes as low as possible to encourage investment. Versus Bill Shorten who is very openly pursuing a higher taxing higher spending agenda which can really threaten that economic transition that we need to undertake. They’re the battle lines for the election. The choice is quite clear and I’m confident that Malcolm’s vision for Australia’s economy is his record as a self-made individual who has a strong commitment to growing Australian businesses and industry, is one that South Australians in particular will embrace recognising the real challenges that our economy faces that needs to focus on jobs and growth in this state.
JOURNALIST: Kate Ellis it probably surprises you people in the Labor Party that given the chaos that marked Labor’s recent term in government that you guys enter this campaign in a winning position. But that Newspoll this morning still shows by a factor of two to one Malcolm Turnbull outstrips Bill Shorten as preferred Prime Minister. Is Bill Shorten the sort of the lead in the saddle bags that Labor carries into this election campaign in terms of his popularity?
KATE ELLIS: Well, not at all. I know that we’re incredibly proud of the way that we have been unified over the past three years but also that Bill has led us to get on with the job of coming up with positive policies for the Australian public and I think that is what is very clearly on offer at this election. We have – the Labor Party offering positive plans and to put people first, and a Liberal Party which we’ve seen again in their last Budget which is about vested interests and only looking after the top end of town.
JOURNALIST: Senator Birmingham, could I put a question to you with regard to what sorts of ammunition the Coalition or the Federal Government has in the bank to sustain a campaign of this length? We’ve already heard your position on education, defence, obviously taxation as well, I imagine there’s a statement coming on health, but what is left in terms of big ticket items to be rolled out in the course of this election campaign?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well the last thing Australia needs at this time is for election campaigning as usual, just as the Budget last week wasn’t really a Budget as usual. It’s not about a long, whole shopping list of promises and items that can be giveaways along the way, it really is about [Indistinct]…
JOURNALIST: [Interrupts]…But that’s not because you don’t want that sort of campaign, it’s surely just because those things have already been announced?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well no it’s because we face an economy that’s in transition that’s facing real challenges as to how we’ll get strong economic growth into the future and that needs determination to keep taxes low and to focus on ensuring that Australian businesses are best positioned to grow into the future. And it’s because we face of course continued Budget deficits that occurred when the Rudd Government blew all of Australia’s savings and left us in a position with ongoing deficit and debt problems. And that means there’s not money to give away, there aren’t lots of random promises that can be made. But we do have to have a really strong and focused commitment to growing the economy, and that’s why the type of tax measures we’ve outlined which [Indistinct]…
JOURNALIST: But that’s all been in the Budget so will there be anything new on that front?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well of course there’ll be minor, new announcements over the course of the campaign, there always are. But people shouldn’t expect this to be a giveaway campaign. We want to make sure that Australians understand that we have a strong economic plan for the nation, that that plan is centred around developing science and innovation in our economy around ensuring that industries like our defence sector here in South Australia are supported to grow, and the taxes are fair and kept as low and simple as possible. We’re looking at a Labor Opposition that’s proposing $100 billion in new taxes, new taxes on investment, new taxes on property, higher taxes on income. These are not things that support economic growth, these are areas that would suppress economic growth and hurt the capacity for South Australia’s economy to recover and to see jobs growth in the future.
JOURNALIST: Kate Ellis I don’t think election posters are a particular, popular thing at the best of times. This morning though, with the writs not yet issued, they seem to be particularly unpopular. Why are yours up before the 16th?
KATE ELLIS: Well ours started going up once the Liberals started putting up theirs up on Saturday, we thought they might have inside information and as soon as the timetable was announced by the Governor-General yesterday in regards to the writs, we’ve stopped putting posters up. But I do think this is another example of the need for us to have a real discussion in South Australia about the future of election posters. My personal view is I agree with the community. I think they’re a nuisance, I think that they’re time-consuming, they’re expensive and they don’t do it in other states and territories the way that we do it here in South Australia. They don’t have them plastered all over every stobie pole. I know that Michael Atkinson has previously put forward his view that he thinks we should have the discussion about if not banning them, then at least reducing them. I should say this is not the official Labor view, but it is definitely my personal view that I think election campaigns should be fought on ideas and on policies. I think it is a massive distraction to the community, but also to the campaigns themselves. We should be focusing on what’s best for our local areas, not on getting up ladders and getting it in the middle of what looks like will be pretty stormy conditions to place larger than life pictures of my or anybody else’s face all over the place.
JOURNALIST: Just finally a question both of you Birmo and Kate, we were saying at the start of the show, the rise and rise of Nick Xenophon means it is pretty much almost impossible to predict what is going to happen here in South Australia with lower house seats. Do you both agree with that assessment and how are you going to combat the Xenophon threat? Start with you Birmo.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look Nick Xenophon is an effective politician who gets lots of media coverage for his gripes along the way and that of course poses some threat. But what I would be urging and encouraging South Australians to do is to think about the stability of government in Australia, to recall the difficulties of the minority Labor government period and the risks that brought about, the difficulties we’ve had with an uncontrollable Senate over the last few years with lots of stray and different interests. And the risks of minor parties, like the Palmer Party or the Hansen Party, where when they carry the leader’s name we often then see once other people are elected it all falls apart at the seams soon after.
JOURNALIST: What about you Kate?
KATE ELLIS: Well I think we’ve seen that Nick Xenophon polls incredibly strongly in the upper house previously and there’ll be a big focus on that. What the big unknown is how his candidates – who people aren’t as familiar with and may not know their views, their backgrounds – will poll in the lower house. I do absolutely agree with your assessment that it means that it’s very unpredictable what could happen in any of the seats across South Australia. We could end up with some very surprising results, and to answer the question ‘what do you do to combat that?’, my view is you do what you always do and that is try and focus on being the best local representative that you can and try and put forward why it is that you’re the best person placed to represent the community and to have the community know what they’re getting. We’ve heard from particularly the Xenophon candidate that’s running in Kingston, there are some pretty unconventional views which have come forward which I think people would be shocked if they end up having a local member of Parliament with those views. That is the risk, that it is the unknown quantity that you’re getting. So, we do what we can, but you’re right eight weeks is a long time and anything could happen and a campaign where we have Xenophon candidates running in lower house seats across South Australia means that it’s very very unpredictable.
JOURNALIST: Labor’s Kate Ellis and Liberal senator Simon Birmingham, thanks very much for joining us on FiveAA Breakfast.