(David Speers: Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham… he is one who has been supporting Malcolm Turnbull but was not in the Senate chamber for this afternoon’s, well, no vote… there was no eventual vote as it turns out in the Senate. Simon Birmingham, why were you absent from the chamber first of all?)  David, good afternoon. I wouldn’t read too much into the fact that I wasn’t in the chamber at the time that the Leader of the Government in the Senate was giving a speech attacking the Liberal Party. I did not support the Government gagging this debate today. In the end, the Government is playing politics with this issue as they have at every stage and their move to gag the debate today was another case of the Government playing politics. We saw more than 100 hours of debate on the Howard Government’s changes to native title legislation… we saw more than 70 hours of Senate debate on the Howard Government’s changes to the GST and to our tax system. There have been just I think about 16 hours, Minister Penny Wong said, of debate in the committee stage of this fundamental change so obviously there are dozens and dozens and dozens of amendments to go and obviously the Government is just playing politics by trying to force a vote on this now and indeed they’re doing so again by bringing the House of Representatives back on Monday when it is patently clear that this legislation will not be resolved in the Senate by Monday and will not be ready for a vote in the House. (Speers: When it does eventually get to vote – Monday or Tuesday, presumably some time next week – will you vote for the amended emissions trading scheme?) David, I will support the position of the Party Room in that regard. I’ve always supported the position of the Party Room and I will continue to do so on this issue. At present, the position of the Party Room is clear that we are supporting an amended emissions trading scheme, but what has become evident during this week is that this ETS has been so incredibly divisive – divisive not just in the Liberal Party which is there for all to see, but divisive throughout the community as well, that clearly we are taking a long hard look at what is happening in the community, what is happening among Liberal supporters and I say to them we are hearing your concerns, thinking about how best to address those concerns, we know that the amendments we are proposing clearly haven’t satisfied everybody and that we need to find a constructive way to ensure that the Liberal Party does stand for action on climate change but stands for the type of action on climate change that unifies Australia, not divides Australia. (Speers: So at the moment, in your mind, the Party Room position is in some flux?)  Well, the Party Room position is, David, the Party Room position but obviously we have, you’ve just revealed, a letter requesting a spill motion to be heard yet again on Monday. That’s disappointing that people continue to make this a leadership issue, but of course we’ve had a spill motion already in the last week. If that’s carried it is possible that the Party position will change. What I hope is that next week we can unify the Liberal Party – unify the Liberal Party both around the leadership and around the issue of climate change, the need for strong action on climate change, but find a formula, find a way, that ensures that we can take a position that all of our supporters and most Australians accept and support.   (Speers: Yeah, okay, but Senator a lot of your colleagues are committing one way or the other what they think on this, whether they’re for it or agin it. Now you were for this scheme, the amended legislation, but now that there is uncertainty about where the Party stands it sounds to me like you’re not willing to commit one way or the other, you’re waiting to see what the Party Room does. Is that a fair assessment?)  David, I said I’ll support the position of the Party Room on this. I said that in the debate we had in the Party Room on Tuesday before it was clear which way this would go and that will continue to be my position if the Party Room position changes, but what I highlight is that I don’t think anybody could have expected or recognised the extent of division that was going to exist not just within the Liberal Parliamentary Party but within the wider community and that is something that we have to hear, we have to take into account, to unify the Party and to unify our supporters. We need to be thinking about those issues over the coming days. (Speers: Let me ask you about the leadership. Will you be supporting a spill for the leadership when the Party Room meets on Monday morning?)  I don’t personally believe that a spill of the leadership is necessary. I believe and hope that Malcolm can find a formula that allows us to unify people and to unify the Party. Malcolm is a great man and great leader but it is obviously the choice of others who have moved for a spill and we’ll see what happens. (Speers: So to survive, though, he would have to change his position on the emissions trading scheme?)   I think Malcolm is going to have to of course find a means that ensures he heals the wounds of the Party and to continue as Leader he needs to bring the Party together. Whoever is the Leader needs to bring the Party together. We cannot have a divisive Leader of the Liberal Party. Now, I’m not saying that Malcolm has been that, but obviously the Liberal Party is divided at present. We need to heal those rifts and we need to ensure that we actually get the Party together and get back on track. (Speers: But would delaying a vote on the emissions trading scheme until next year… would that heal the wounds?) David, I’m not necessarily saying that we delay a vote. Certainly that is one option but what I am saying is that we need to find a long term solution for the Liberal Party’s policy position on climate change – a solution that we can take to the next election and beyond, one that actually is supported by all Liberal MPs and supported by the vast majority of our supporters throughout the community and voters. That’s the type of policy program we need to put together, and we need to spend some time working to put that together over the not just days ahead but indeed the weeks and months even once this ETS debate is dealt with one way or another. (Speers: Alright, a couple of quick questions just to wrap up.  Would you like to see Joe Hockey throw his hat in the ring?)  Joe Hockey is a fabulous parliamentarian and a fabulous leader in Australia. He one day may be a fabulous Leader of the Liberal Party. That’s up to Joe. Malcolm is the Leader and Malcolm, I trust, will of course, with his strength and passion on this issue of climate change and in leading the Liberal Party, will I’m sure do what he can hopefully to unify the Party into the future. (Speers: And a final question. The fate of this bill, the fate of the legislation … can you honestly tell me now there’s any chance of it being passed this year or is that now impossible?) Nothing’s impossible in the Australian Senate, David, or the Parliament of Australia – that’s what we’ve seen this week. (Speers: Alright, Senator Simon Birmingham, good to talk with you, thanks for joining us.)  Pleasure.