Subject: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
KIERAN GILBERT: Joining us this morning is someone who is a frontbencher in the outgoing Abbott government, will, you would expect, remain a Minister in the Turnbull government; good morning Senator Simon Birmingham.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Good morning Kieran and David.
KIERAN GILBERT: So quite a big, well historic twenty-four hours in Australian politics; your thoughts this morning as the Liberal party seeks to regroup and heal as you move ahead?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: It was an historic day and these always are, of course, and these are difficult days and we should respect the fact they’re difficult for Tony, they’re difficult for those who are close to Tony and that he is a good man who did his absolute best and achieved many good things during his time in the Prime Ministership, but it is also an exciting new opportunity for Australia. We have a Prime Minister coming in now who is passionate about the opportunities Australia has in the world of technology and the world of advanced manufacturing, the opportunities for Australia to be a global leader in knowledge industries and I am very excited about the prospect of what it is that Malcolm can deliver and the way in which I think he will engage with the Australian people in a thoughtful and considered manner and take them with him and with the government on this journey.
DAVID SPEERS: Simon Birmingham, the voters did elect Tony Abbott as Prime Minister only two years ago and your side of politics made great hay at attacking Labor for tearing down sitting Prime Ministers the people had elected, so what do you say to the Australian people about why they don’t have the man they elected Prime Minister anymore?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well David, we are in a Westminster parliamentary democracy. There are two checks on the leadership of the country as such, there is the check of elections and there is the check of the governing party and that is the way the system works. Ultimately, I think the Australian people this morning won’t care much for the process and won’t care much for how it happened-
DAVID SPEERS: No, but they’ll care for the reason why you have done this.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: They will care for the reason; they will care most importantly for whether we have even better government in the future and even better vision for Australia-
DAVID SPEERS: So what’s the reason?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The reason, David, absolutely is that as a government, as a party we felt, individuals like myself felt, that we did need to better communicate with the Australian people. We needed to bring them with us on journeys of economic reform that could position Australia to deal with the global challenges we face. With the fact that we do face ever increasing competition within our region, that the dislocation of jobs that will occur from automation and from new technologies is enormous and we need to position Australia well for that, but we need to have honest, considered and detailed conversations with the Australian people-
DAVID SPEERS: Apart from conversations, though, and that’s great and you’re right that you need to do better at that, but will there be any policy change?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Of course, David, over time there will be, but one of the things that Malcolm has made crystal clear already is that he wants to follow proper process within government, that he wants to make sure he builds the arguments and the case with the Australian people. So, this won’t be about just rushing out and announcing a hodgepodge of new ideas as policies, it will be about making sure we develop the strategies and the plans that position Australia to create jobs-
KIERAN GILBERT: We had Kevin Andrews on the programme earlier and he said that he’s willing to serve in the cabinet; he’s made it very clear he wants to stay as Defence Minister. How important is it for the new Prime Minister, the incoming PM, to ensure he is inclusive, that the rhetoric around the broad-church is matched with keeping the likes of Kevin Andrews and other conservative elements of your party within the cabinet?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: John Howard was a Prime Minister who recognised that the Liberal party is a broad-church bringing together conservative strains and liberal strains of thought and I’ve got no doubt that Malcolm Turnbull will be as conscious as John Howard was of doing that and achieving that. Now, frontbench positions themselves are, of course, the gift of the leader, the gift of the new Prime Minister. How he chooses to structure his frontbench is up to him, but I have no doubt that it will comprise people of conservative philosophical view and of liberal philosophical view and of more pragmatic blends of in-between across that broad-church, across that spectrum of ideas, but of course, as a party our strength is in our diversity and we need to harness that, we need to come together now, harness that strength of the diverse representation we have across Australia and make sure that we are putting our best foot forward for the Australian people.
DAVID SPEERS: Simon Birmingham, I tipped you last night for promotion to cabinet, is that on the cards?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: I have had no such conversations with Malcolm, David. I have no expectations; I love my current role. What this is about is a better government, an even better government for the Australian people and that’s what matters, not what role I have, Kevin Andrews has or anybody else.
KIERAN GILBERT: Senator Birmingham, thanks so much for your time as well