Interview on Sky News Live with Tom Connell
Topics: National Party Leadership; Company tax cuts

Tom Connell: What about Michael McCormack, do you think he will ever have the profile of Barnaby Joyce?

Simon Birmingham: Well if Michael McCormack does emerge as the Nationals party leader, I’m confident he will do an outstanding job. I’ve known Michael for many years– visited his electorate on a number of occasions, he is a man of calm and considered approach–he is a man of strong principles and values, and I’m sure he will be a strong advocate for rural and regional Australia as indeed many prior National Party leaders have been, whether that’s Tim Fischer or Mark Vaile or John Anderson or Barnaby Joyce and of course Warren Truss as well, and of course he will join with strong rural and regional Liberals who are strong representatives for country Australia as well and that’s what makes the Coalition such a powerful advocate for regional Australia.

Tom Connell: Maybe more of Warren Truss, than a Barnaby Joyce perhaps, but he has already spoken about wanting to bring small business back into Cabinet, is that a good call?

Simon Birmingham: Look ultimately, small business has a strong voice at the Cabinet table today in Michaelia Cash–and of course amongst every single Cabinet Minister frankly in the Coalition Government who views themselves as having a responsibility to be aware of¬–be engaged with small businesses, but the particulars of portfolio arrangements will be sorted rightly between the new National Party leader and Malcolm Turnbull.

Tom Connell: What about the ongoing damage, we had Andrew Broad yesterday talk about this leak, the sexual harassment claim against Barnaby Joyce, that it was leaked out–he said a Liberal MP had seen this at early stages–an indication–an implication that this had been leaked from your side of the Coalition, any response to that?

Simon Birmingham: I heard Andrew Broad on Radio National just a short while ago, and what Andrew was at pains to make clear is that many people were apparently aware of the content of that complaint, and therefore to suggest that it came from one particular source would be jumping to conclusions when there were many sources of where it could have come from.

Tim Connell: Right, so he was walking that back a bit was he?

Simon Birmingham: Well I don’t know what Andrew said last night, I heard him interviewed this morning and what he was being very clear was he was not pointing the finger of linking that at anybody. He was very clear that it was a serious matter, that of course the woman if she desired confidentiality¬–as is apparently the case–ought to have had confidentiality–but that a number of sources did have that information so it could have come from any one of those sources.

Tom Connell: Barnaby Joyce of course stepping down, formally happens at 8am but we’ve got Senate Estimates this week and questions still being asked. What about the fact there was an inquiry into Susan Ley and her expenses issue, no inquiry at all into Barnaby Joyce, and what happens for example with the various jobs given to Vicki Campion?

Simon Birmingham: Tom, I’ve spent the last week out in the community, and I have to say people want this issue over and done with. Barnaby Joyce has provided the circuit breaker by resigning, he has acknowledged that there were of course some failings along the way, and really they want to see the Government focused on the job of governing. Now for 99 per cent of the Government that is exactly what we have been doing over the last few weeks, this is now the chance for 100 per cent of focus of the Government, but also hopefully for the focus of the nation and the commentariat to come back to the policy issues that matter, and the policy issues that matter are about how we continue to sustain record jobs growth in Australia, that we build on the 403 000 jobs that we created last year. How it is that we can create an environment where companies have got greater freedom to be able to lift wages and drive wages growth alongside that jobs growth, that’s a big part of our policy.

Tom Connell: Well just on to that then, let’s get on to some policy. The company tax cut it’s been ruled out now by One Nation, it’s dead in this Senate isn’t it?

Simon Birmingham: Well no Tom, we will keep talking and working with all the crossbench parties, we of course wish that the Labor party would recognise all of the things they said in the past in favour of company tax cuts–that company tax cuts do drive wages growth and economic investment and therefore jobs growth as well–that Labor would be true to the Paul Keating principles that Chris Bowen has variously defended and Bill Shorten himself had previously argued for, but if they’re not going to be true to those principles then we will keep working with the crossbench because this is a way that drives investment growth, jobs growth and wages growth.

Tom Connell: The way it sits; you’ll take this to the next election at a huge cost over a long period of time, for something that voters are just hearing the Senates not going to support it, it’s an interesting election winning strategy isn’t it?

Simon Birmingham: Tom, it’s important in Government to do the things that are in the best interests of Australians and it’s in the best interests of Australia to ensure we have a strong economy, that we have strong levels of investment, strong levels of jobs growth and wages growth and this is a way that of driving that to make sure we remain competitive as a country and we won’t resolve as a Government from doing what we believe is in the best interests of the country, just because other political parties might take a different opinion.

Tom Connell: Alright, well you might have a new Senate to deal with. Who knows what the future might hold. Simon Birmingham thanks for your time today.

Simon Birmingham: Thanks very much Tom.