KIERAN GILBERT: Let’s go now to… we’ll bring in Liberal frontbencher Senator Simon Birmingham, who joins us from Adelaide. Senator Birmingham, thanks for joining us this Saturday evening. I want to ask you first of all… your reaction to the opinion polls today… you’ve got to be encouraged by them – the Galaxy and the Nielsen poll.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Kieran, I think it’s been evident for a long time that Australians are keen to see a Government that can put the economy back on track and deliver a plan for a strong and prosperous economy for Australia and what I hope Australians are seeing, and certainly what people are telling me on the ground at the end of week one of this campaign, is they know the Liberal Party is delivering a plan and rolling out the policies that can restore business confidence and restore consumer confidence and create the environment where we can grow our economy, grow jobs again and get the right sort of conditions and that’s what this week’s company tax cut was about; it’s what, of course, getting rid of the carbon tax is about; it’s what getting rid of the mining tax is about; it’s what getting rid of a billion dollars’ worth of ‘red tape’ is about – jobs and economic growth and getting the prosperity we need.
KIERAN GILBERT: I want to get… I want to go into that. I want to look a bit more closely at the Coalition’s economic arguments this week. We’ll do that in a moment but, first of all, just on that… on the polling, it’s the… do you concede now, well, it’s Tony Abbott’s to lose, isn’t it? He had a good first week, solid first week, and the numbers have consolidated for the Coalition.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Kieran, I’d much rather be in our position than the Labor Party’s but that’s, of course, because we’re a united team who’ve spent three years working on our plan and our policies and our direction, whereas the Labor Party have just grabbed hold of Kevin Rudd, put all their eggs in the Rudd basket and are running essentially a five-week campaign leading up to the election and then a five-week campaign during the election. That’s no way to run a country and I think what the Australian people are recognising is there’s stability, there’s unity and there’s a real plan for the future on the Coalition side and that’s really what we’re determined to deliver on.
KIERAN GILBERT: Where was the unity, though, in the message on… well, on your costings? Joe Hockey has said for weeks and including in interviews with us and with AM Agenda on Sky News… he made it clear that the Coalition didn’t trust the Treasury numbers and that the Pre-Election [Economic and] Fiscal Outlook, which is due out on Tuesday… that you were sceptical about it, that you wouldn’t base your costings on it because you’re worried that the Government was going to bully the Treasury and then yesterday Tony Abbott said ‘oh, well, the PEFO’ – as it’s known – ‘is going to be the best estimate around and we’ll base our numbers on it’. It just seemed to be a bit all over the shop – the message.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Kieran, it’s the only estimate that we’re going to be given, so of course we have to base our numbers on it. What Joe has made clear is all our policies will be rigorously and thoroughly costed through the Parliamentary Budget Office – the new facility that was established in the last Parliament – and that we’ve already identified some $17 billion worth of savings that allow us to deliver tax cuts and pension increases without having a carbon tax, that allow us to deliver a cut to the company tax rate which can really drive investment and incentivise Australian businesses to invest and create more jobs for the future, so we’re quite confident that we have the right mix of policies and that they are backed up by clear costings and arrangements to make sure that we can deliver our policies and get the budget back on track as well.
KIERAN GILBERT: But is there going to be a bottom line put out there? Again, there seems to be a bit of confusion here from… between Tony Abbott and Mr Hockey.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Kieran, obviously, we…
KIERAN GILBERT: Will you put a forecast budget bottom line?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, Kieran, we will make sure that all of our policies are there, in totality and fully costed and fully funded and, of course, exactly how they’re presented will be released in the final weeks and days of the campaign, as is always the case. Once all your policies are out, you release all of your costings to match up with them. That’s what governments and oppositions have done for eternity and that’s, of course, what we will do this campaign as well but they will be fully costed, they will be fully funded and we will be tracking to bring the Budget back under control far sooner than Labor as we, of course, have historically done whenever we have been in government.
KIERAN GILBERT: Senator Birmingham, only about a minute left but the debate tomorrow, the Leaders Debate. What’s… well, Tony Abbott’s just got to try and avoid any gaffe, doesn’t he?
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Tony will want to be positive, outline our plan for jobs, show the sort of vision he’s demonstrated in Aboriginal Australia today. I mean, Tony is a man who wants to deliver for Australia jobs and prosperity for all Australians but also really tackle some of the most socially disadvantaged areas of Australia like those indigenous communities and I think what we’ve seen today is a real coming forward of a future Prime Minister in Tony.
KIERAN GILBERT: Senator Birmingham, thanks for being here this Saturday. Enjoy the cricket tonight.
SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Thanks, Kieran. I shall do. You too.