Interview on FiveAA Breakfast with David Penberthy and Will Goodings
Topics: High Court rulings and continuing the business of government




Simon Birmingham:                Good morning guys.


Presenter:        Now look, setting aside the atmospherics of how all this looks, I wanted to ask you as someone who has really overseen the passage of a lot of key legislation, how confident are you, Simon Birmingham, that so many of these decisions, so many of these Bills that have passed with the support of Barnaby Joyce, are going to survive legal challenge by the Labor Party or the unions?


Simon Birmingham:     Look I’m very confident in that sense, when it comes particularly to legislation. Ultimately the Parliament, I am confident, will see any decisions made by the Parliament upheld. I’ve got no doubt the Labor Party, organisations like GetUp! will want to egg on legal challenges to administrative type decisions, not necessarily decisions of the Parliament, but administrative decisions made by the Minister of the day.


I doubt that there’ll end up being a problem there either and it will just be a case of them, yet again, seeking to play more politics with this situation which is a very strange situation which has come about which really nobody could have or would have foreseen months or years ago. Lord only knows, through the 117 years of our federation how many people have sit in our nation’s Parliament with dual citizenship scenarios that they were unaware of until this whole saga came about.


Presenter:        In retrospect, was the Matt Canavan approach of stepping down from Cabinet the right one? And have Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash jeopardised things that they’ve voted on by virtue of the fact they didn’t follow suit?


Simon Birmingham:     Well no not necessarily and I see the stories the Labor Party’s pushing around the media this morning go all the way back to a period far closer to the last election, so, of course, it was always going to take some months once the matter became public, for the High Court to have its hearing, to resolve it and so forth, we as a government wanted to keep getting on with business and that’s exactly what we did but Barnaby Joyce and Fiona Nash sat there at the Cabinet table as we designed the National Energy Guarantee to seek to really put downward pressure on electricity prices to deal with things that Australians care about far, far more than they care about the entrails of the Parliamentary workings.


Presenter:        Senator, they care a lot about how much they’re getting paid. And the fact that Barnaby Joyce, his vote was absolutely pivotal on the passage of the penalty rates bill, is there a risk for the government it looks like you’ve played dirty pool by using the vote of someone who, constitutionally, should not have been there in the first place, to make a decision that’s going to affect people’s take home pay?


Simon Birmingham:     No look the approach that’s always been taken in terms of Parliament is that the members of the Parliament are deemed to be members of the Parliament so long as they are there and that’s exactly the approach taken on this matter. In the end in the Senate, pairing arrangements have been applied for the Greens who weren’t there, Matt Canavan was paired, so in essence their votes were all still reflected in the composition of the Parliament. There’s no doubt the people of New England voted for the National Party at the last election – the Labor Party got seven per cent of the vote in New England at the last election so they were hardly a walk-up start. It’ll be fascinating to have a by-election there to see if Bill Shorten can even turn up and put his face to the voters of New England but we’ll see how all of that plays out.


But what we’re focused on remains policies of the day, getting on with seeing the Energy Guarantee implemented, continuing work to create jobs growth and across the country we’ve seen phenomenal success, some 328,000 jobs created over the last 12 months alone.


Of course, not strong enough here in SA which is why there are a range of state-specific factors we really must be addressing at the next state election.


Presenter:        Senator Simon Birmingham, thank you very much for joining us this morning. Message there, Will, seems to be that it’s business as usual.