• Transcript, E&OE
Topics: New SA Senator Andrew McLachlan, Radioactive waste, Bridget McKenzie.
01 February 2020

Simon Birmingham: Thanks very much for coming along. I’m thrilled, first and foremost to be here with my friend and incoming South Australian Senate colleague Andrew McLachlan. The Liberal Party State Council has met this morning. They’ve gone through a democratic process, of grassroots party members coming together, to hear from different candidates to question those different candidates and has selected Andrew to serve as South Australia’s newest senator. I am confident that Andrew will be an outstanding senator for South Australia. Bringing with him a background in law, in business and finance and serving our country in Defence Force, volunteering in St John’s Ambulance and of course having served as a member of the legislative council and President of the Legislative Council. He will bring deep parliamentary experience enabling him to hit the ground running. As a member of Steven Marshall’s government, Andrew knows the priorities for South Australia inside out and I’m sure he will fight for South Australia, as a member of the Morrison government while making a contribution a deep rich contribution to the success of Morrison government. And to our policy development in crucial areas aligned with his experience such as Veterans Affairs, mental health and other priority areas of interest.

I’m conscious that there are many other issues running today. Of course as trade minister we note the fact that Brexit has happened overnight and I stand ready to move as quickly as we possibly can to make sure that Australia gets an ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreement with the United Kingdom. And that we deliver that to give our farmers, businesses, more access to the UK, more opportunity to sell goods and services. And flow investment in both directions. In South Australia we also have the announcement of selection of the site of the storage of low level radioactive waste. This has been a long and highly consultative process. I thank the Kimba community, in particular for their engagement and support for this decision as I do all of those communities who have been engaged in the process to date. We will continue to work very carefully through the processes attached to this. It is a long overdue step to be able to get to a point of identifying the site that has the support of that community and now we will move through the legislative process and other measures necessary to make that a reality.

On the issues of corona virus. This morning the Chief Medical Officer convened his state and territory colleagues yet again. And we continue to work very closely following the full advice of public health professionals in terms of the protection of Australians, the safety of Australians. Whilst obviously Australian tourism minister I also continue to engage closely with all of our affected industries in Australia, to help them work through what are very challenging and difficult time. I’ll let Andrew say a few words and then he can take questions in relation to his new Senate appointment and I’ll happily deal with any other matters of the day.

Andrew McLachlan: It’s a great privilege to be selected by the Liberal Party to represent the state in the Senate. It’s a very exciting opportunity for me. A little sad in some ways leaving my state colleagues but I will continue to work extremely closely with them to advance the interests of the state. And is always very exciting for an individual to represent not only their state but the country on the national stage.

Journalist: Andrew, it was a pretty overwhelming win. Is this a win for the moderates of the Liberal Party?

Andrew McLachlan: I’m not sure what the result was. I haven’t had the opportunity to learn. So you’re letting me know. I don’t comment on that on the vote. Every liberal decides for themselves, in our party and if the vote is.

Journalist: Obviously you’re taking over the spot of Cory Bernardi who defected from the Liberal Party and formed his own party. Can the state Liberals be guaranteed that they have your loyalty in this position?

Andrew McLachlan: I’m a longstanding party member. Who has served the party not only in the grassroots level but also held a series of appointments in the party. And I’ve also served the Liberal Party in the State Parliament. My loyalty can’t be questioned.

Simon Birmingham: I have no doubt that Andrew will finish his parliamentary career in the Senate as he starts. And that is as a member of the Liberal Party.

Journalist: Cory Bernardi’s obviously quite a controversial figure, are you expecting to follow in his footsteps, or will you be toeing the line?

Andrew McLachlan: Well as a newly minted senator perhaps next week I’m planning to avoid controversy as you can understand and just work hard.

Journalist: What was your pitch to your colleagues? What do you think got it over the line?

Andrew McLachlan: I spoke about my contribution to the state particularly in defense and volunteering. And it’s up to them to decide what parts of my contribution to society the community and the party they liked. And I’m thankful that they me.

Journalist: Thank you.

Andrew McLachlan: Thanks guys.

Journalist: Can we get you on some other issues?

Simon Birmingham: Sure.

Journalist: We’ve. Learned that Matt Canavan has announced that Kimba will be the location for the national. radioactive waste dump. Why sneak that through on a Saturday and announce that when there are protests being held in Kimba tomorrow?

Simon Birmingham: Look this has been a very long process. It’s a constant an issue that has dogged the country for decades. In terms of where low level radioactive waste may be stored. And finally where to the point where after an engaging in a consultative process and I give them credit in particular to Matt Canavan. For the work that he has done in the local communities, to make sure that they were informed, that they had a say, they had a ballot. And that they’ve chosen to be a part of this. And that they understand all of the issues attached to it and the opportunities for the local community. And we are now at the stage where having done all of that work were able to determine one single site, just outside of Kimba. And we can move forward with that site, through all of the proper processes.

Journalist: Almost half of the community they don’t want it. How are you going to overcome that bad blood in that community there?

Simon Birmingham: The public ballot was undertaken provided a very clear result in favor of supporting this proposal. And I thank the Kimba community for their engagement and their support for it being built and established in Kimba. And of course consultation doesn’t end here. We will now continue to work particularly with that community around Kimba to make sure that their confidence in this project, which they have demonstrated already, is maintained right through its construction and operation.

Journalist: Can I ask you about the sporting scandal that’s been hanging around for a while now? Last night it was revealed the Prime Minister’s office had emails and the Prime Minister’s Office was involved in the scandal. What is the Party doing about this now? Surely it’s time to vote for Bridget McKenzie?

Simon Birmingham: Well the proper process is being followed in terms of ministerial vote with the head of the public service, the Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, conducting his review. I’m not going to predict the timing of that review I’m not going to politicize this independent work, impartial work. That should be allowed to run its course and be handed back to the Prime Minister as soon as it is completed.  But not until it is completed.

Journalist: Just one more question about the Interconnector South Australia and Victoria, with transmission towers going down in the storm. South Australia is now, an electricity island. We have no way of getting power in and out. There’s only one way of getting power in and out. Is the Federal Government working on this? What can be done?

Simon Birmingham: The Australian Energy Market Operator is engaged with all of the relevant states and territories on it. I’m aware that state and territory energy ministers have spoken. The Premier and I discussed it this morning. And every effort is being made to govern and to ensure that energy security is there for both South Australia and Victoria. And importantly for key sites who are highly energy dependent as part of their operations.

Journalist: State government is- well South Australia will be 75 per cent renewable energy soon and that seems to be at odds with the will of the Federal Liberal Party. Is there still a battle between the State and Federal Liberal Party about renewable energy versus coal?

Simon Birmingham: Not at all I’m absolutely thrilled with the commitments that Steven Marshall has made in terms of continuing to develop renewable energy in South Australia. And crucially those commitments align very much with the work that we are doing as a government. And to provide for the storage solutions every the Snowy 2.0, The Battery of the Nation project in Tasmania. And many other pumped hydro projects across the country. Which are essential to make sure that we can have such high levels of renewable energy but also have the reliability that such storage solutions will provide.