Interview on ABC AM with Sabra Lane
Topics: SA State election result; Batman by-election

Sabra Lane: To discuss what the election’s mean for the national political scene, I’m joined on the phone by Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham the Minister for Education and Training and also Labor’s Mark Butler the Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy, thanks to you both. Simon Birmingham, first to you, Mr Marshall’s won a majority government, it follows a majority win in Tasmania near a fortnight ago. What are the lessons for the federal coalition?

Simon Birmingham: Well good morning Sabra, yes it’s a strong and decisive result by Steven Marshall, he will govern with 25 or 26 seats in South Australia compared to 18 or 19 for the Labor party. Coming on the back of Tasmania that’s great news, it shows that voters do want to focus in on job creation, on economic growth, on many of the fundamentals that are central to the Turnbull Government’s agenda. Each campaign of course was fought on their own issues and Steven and his team deserve their congratulations, their moment in the sun if you like, their opportunity to really forge a new future for South Australia, but it’s very exciting and we shouldn’t discount just how difficult it is to win in South Australia because this is the first majority Liberal Government elected since 1993 and so it has been a very long time between drinks and that’s in part been because of a very rigged electoral boundaries where we’ve seen multiple election’s at which we’ve got more than 50 per cent of the two party preferred vote and still failed to win.

Sabra Lane: And what does the result say about the electoral power of SA-BEST and the Australian Conservatives?

Simon Birmingham: Well I think it shows very much that personality cult parties have real limits. They really do and in this case SA-BEST has gone the same way as so many other minor parties. And you have to ask now looking into the future, what is the Xenophon party without Xenophon? No philosophy, nothing to bind them together or the voters to them. People may like Nick Xenophon but when they looked closely they couldn’t see any substance in his political party.

Sabra Lane: Now that the states are turning blue Senator Birmingham, that usually means it turns red in Canberra. How worried are you by that?

Simon Birmingham: Well I don’t think that is a clear sign at all Sabra but it certainly and Antony Green made this point last night, is remarkable to see Liberal Government’s winning from opposition while there is a Liberal Government in Canberra. It does go against the usual trend and so again I think it is something that is encouraging for us in Canberra and it of course is a sign of how well Steven Marshall and the state team did in SA but there has only been, I think this is the third occasion in the last 25 years where a opposition party has won government at a state level whilst their party has been serving in Canberra in Government.

Sabra Lane: Mark butler what are the lessons for Labor?

Mark Butler: Good morning. Well I think the result last night shows that in the end the time for a change [indistinct] on every long-term government just proved too strong but this was a campaign for which I think Labor can hold its head up high. We presented a strong, positive Labor vision and that’s reflected in the fact that we actually saw a two party-preferred swing towards Labor of about 1.5 per cent. Now we needed a three per cent swing in uniform terms just to hold government, we weren’t able to do that but I think we leave government after 16 years with our heads held highly. We were a very good government led by an outstanding Premier.

Sabra Lane: If I could pivot the result in Batman. Labor won despite a strong Greens push. What’s your take from the result?

Mark Butler: Well this a great victory for Bill Shorten and Labor but a real credit to Ged Kearney. I can’t imagine a better candidate that we could have run in that seat and she again ran a very strong positive campaign based on Labor values. Now, Malcolm Turnbull cynically sat the contest out hoping it would appear to see a Greens MP elected to the parliament and that didn’t come off. I’m not sure what he thought that was going to do to add to good government or the good functioning of the parliament. At the end of the day a strong, positive Labor campaign on Labor values by an outstanding candidate won the day.

Sabra Lane: And Simon Birmingham, as Mr Butler just mentioned then, the Liberals didn’t field a candidate in Batman was that a mistake?

Simon Birmingham: No not at all, the Labor party has held Batman since 1934, continuously. So there should be no surprise that they have managed to hold Batman again. That is always what we expected to occur and it would have been a waste of Liberal party time, money and resources for us to contest that which is why weren’t in that race.

Sabra Lane: Alright, Mark Butler, Simon Birmingham, thank you for joining AM this morning.