Interview with Sabra Lane, AM Program

Topics: 2019 Federal Election.

20 May 2019

Sabra Lane Trade Minister Simon Birmingham joined me earlier from Adelaide. Simon Birmingham, welcome back to AM.

Simon Birmingham Hello Sabra, great to be with you.

Sabra Lane How confident is the government of having a majority in its own right in the Lower House?

Simon Birmingham Well according to the current count we are ahead in 77 of the 151 seats. Obviously every vote will be counted as you would expect the AEC to do. But we look to be in a good position to form a strong stable government for the future.

Sabra Lane Has the government contacted Bob Katter and Zali Steggell about what they would do if it’s a minority parliament?

Simon Birmingham Well look I will leave that to Scott and the leadership in terms of discussing at what time we engage with independents. I’m sure that we will speak with all of them to make sure that the parliament functions with the maximum degree of stability and cooperation.

Sabra Lane How quickly will the parliament be reconvened given the Coalition wants its tax package through quickly?

Simon Birmingham We will look to bring the Parliament back before the end of June. Now of course exactly when will depend upon the return of the writs and so we will take advice from the Electoral Commissioner in that regard. But we have of course our plans for lower taxes that we want to see legislated. We equally want to get on with delivery of our legislation around social media controls to protect particularly young Australians better in the future, but all Australians from some of the misadventures that can occur on social media. We want to make sure that our future drought fund and our support for farm invaders gets the support that it needs fought through the Parliament to make sure those farm invasions are stamped out and that farmers can have safety in confidence, as well as of course getting on with seeing our plan for first homebuyers implemented to.

Sabra Lane How much of a refresh will this next Morrison ministry be given that there are quite a few vacancies Ministers for Jobs, Industrial Relations, Women, Indigenous affairs?

Obviously there will be a few new faces into the ministry. With those retirements that took place of the election, and that’s a good opportunity for the Prime Minister to reshape the ministry as he chooses. But he’s got a great team to choose from right across the Coalition party room and I have no doubt that we’ll have a very competent and capable ministry that can deliver on our agenda, not just specific areas of legislation that I spoke about before but of course our plans to make sure that we continue to create strong jobs growth around Australia, to deliver the promise of 1.25 million additional jobs.

With Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull now out of Parliament, does that mean the ideological wars are over within the party?

Simon Birmingham There is I guess, always an element of generational change at every election and also when some of the significant leaders or figures of the past move on. I have no doubt that the team that is around Scott, that we are a very close knit team who work very effectively together and I am sure that we will be able to take a strong and united government forward.

Sabra Lane Can you move beyond the culture wars and many voters are pretty sick of the energy wars, will they end in this Parliament?

Simon Birmingham I am confident that the government will deliver on our energy policy settings to drive down power prices but also our commitment to meet the Paris targets. And we need to make sure that those Australians who doubt our commitment in relation to meeting climate change targets are convinced that they do see that we meet and exceed in this term of Parliament, the 2020 commitments that were made and that we can point to the real progress in implementing our $3.5 billion climate solutions fund so that they can see that our 2030 targets are also on track, and they have confidence in us to act there, regardless of some of the doubts they may have had in the past.

Sabra Lane How much of a problem is that given that you’ve pointed out that many people doubt the sincerity of the government in tackling this and given that many people also remember Scott Morrison carrying that on coal into parliament?

Simon Birmingham There are lessons out of any election result and of course the vast majority of lessons sit on the Labor side where there’s been a clear rejection of their policy approach that they took to the last election and the fact that Australians, the quiet Australians as Scott Morrison dubbed them, rejected the pundits in the polls and the commentators and the expectations that Labor would just be elected they instead voted for smaller government lower taxes for backing themselves in terms of their opportunity to get ahead. But there are lessons for us as well Sabra and those are lessons that I think we need to learn and to make sure that in areas where the electorate had its doubts that we worked doubly hard to address them. We have the policies to make sure and the commitments to make sure that on climate change we act and we just need to make sure that Australians believe us in terms of seeing the outcomes of those actions and seeing that we’re genuine about those outcomes.

Sabra Lane Just quickly on you and you happy to stay as Trade Minister and will there be a leadership change in the Senate?

Simon Birmingham Look I fully expected that I’ll be continuing to work with Mathias in the Senate leadership and equally in terms of my portfolio. Trade is critically important to Australia’s future. Of course I’ll serve as the Prime Minister determines as we all will. But it’s a portfolio that I love and there’s still much to do in terms of growing Australia’s exports even further into the future.

Sabra Lane Simon Birmingham thanks for joining AM.

Simon Birmingham My pleasure Sabra.