Interview on ABC Radio Adelaide with Ali Clarke and David Bevan
Topics: By-election in Mayo

David Bevan: Good morning, Simon Birmingham.

Simon Birmingham: Good morning David and good morning Ali.

David Bevan: So is this about big ideas, is it about getting the Downer’s back into Parliament or is it about getting your local road and school crossing fixed up in Mayo?

Simon Birmingham: Well we’ll be asking the people of Mayo to think long and hard about who they want to have govern the country. Now it’s never easy for government’s to win by-elections back in a sense, seats that we don’t hold mid-term. But we’ll contest this by-election vigorously and we’ll be asking the people of Mayo to back a plan that’s delivered record jobs growth for Australia, that is seeing strong investment in businesses that are growing and employing more people and that has now got us to a position where the budget is coming back into balance faster than expected and we’re able to offer tax relief to Australian’s starting with those on the lowest incomes.

Ali Clarke: So you’ve opened nominations for pre-selection, in fact there is an ad in the paper if anyone wants to put their hand up for it but if Georgina Downer puts her hand up and maybe if she is selected, would you prefer to have somebody who hasn’t been living in the state and in the electorate, up against someone like Rebekah Sharkie who is clearly campaigning every single day she has been in that community.

Simon Birmingham: Well the Liberal Party will have our usual open pre-selection process in which anybody who is a member of the Party is free to nominate and in which the 600-plus local Liberal Party members spread across Mayo will get to come together and vote on who that candidate is. Now if Georgina Downer is selected I’m sure she’ll be an outstanding candidate and ultimately if she is elected for the Member for Mayo she would be a very passionate advocate for Mayo and a powerful future leader for South Australia. She’s got skills having represented Australia overseas in our diplomatic missions, she’s been an articulate advocate for better links, stronger links with Asia as a Director of Asialink, she’s been a Director of different not-for-profit organisations in the arts sector and I think she’d have a lot to give.

Ali Clarke: But she doesn’t live there and she hasn’t worked there for quite a number of years. I mean am I just old fashioned in thinking that should have some sought of play in politics now?

Simon Birmingham: You would be pretty hard pressed to say Georgina Downer who grew up kicking balls and playing sport around Mayo–who has been strongly engaged with the electorate–doesn’t have a very strong understanding and synergy with the people of Mayo, and would be a very powerful advocate for the seat and for the state if pre-selected but it’s an open contest and there may be others who put their hands up. We’ll have a Liberal candidate pretty soon and then we’ll contest that election hard in terms of arguing for the parties policies and indeed highlighting the fact that on a number of occasions Rebekah Sharkie has voted with the Labor Party and the Greens in favour of higher taxes, against different national security measures and she’s never ruled out supporting Bill Shorten to potentially become the Prime Minister.

David Bevan: Is Mayo a funny old electorate. It’s not like Hindmarsh or Adelaide. She might not have been there for close to 20 years but she’s a child of the Adelaide Hills and they welcome her back, is that the line you’re going to run?

Simon Birmingham: Well I think we should welcome all South Australians back in terms of wanting to come back to our state…

David Bevan: One at a time, we’ll offer each one of them a $200 000 job in Parliament.

Simon Birmingham: Getting them to come back is great and now in the case of Georgina, she wants to come back and potentially represent the electorate where she grew up, where she has very strong ties, that of course is up to the party pre-selectors first and then the voters of Mayo second. But we will make sure that firstly people understand the great skills and capabilities that she would bring to bear as someone who has worked in Australia’s embassy in Tokyo, helping to ensure Australian citizens are able to access…

David Bevan: She’s very well qualified.

Simon Birmingham: She is very well qualified, she’s been able to help Australian businesses grow and access trade opportunities overseas. These are the types of things that she would bring as a representative to the people of Mayo. But importantly there are policy differences at stake here and those policy differences are that the Liberal Party has a plan for lower taxes on individuals, families, households as well as businesses because we’ve managed to bring the budget back into balance, because we’ve been able to carefully manage the way in which the nations finances are administered and they’re important reflections on the fact that our plan is working and we’re delivering on it and we would hope the people of Mayo will back us to do so in the future.

Ali Clarke: Simon Birmingham, Liberal Senator, thank you.