Topics: Donald Trump’s indictment; 

09:35AM AEDT
Friday, 31 March 2023


Laura Jayes:  Let’s go now to the Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister, Simon Birmingham. He joins us now from Adelaide. This is his usual spot. We usually speak at this time on a Friday. Simon Birmingham, but I’ve got to say today is a little different. What’s your take?


Simon Birmingham: Well, it’s certainly big news, LJ. There’s no doubt about that. And your coverage is demonstrating that now this is an American domestic, political and judicial matter. So, it is for their system to work out. As is always the case, the Australian Government, be it a Labor one or a Coalition government, will work with whomever the American people choose to make their president, be it a Democrat or a Republican. And we demonstrated that previously in working effectively with Donald Trump. The current administration here now working with the Biden administration to deliver upon AUKUS. But of course, it’s big news and I expect we’ll get lots of commentary and coverage as the big events in American politics always do.


Laura Jayes: Certainly does. What does this say about, do you think, the American political system and the judicial system, are you glad to be an Australian today when you look at what’s happened here?


Simon Birmingham: I am glad to be an Australian every day. I think there are some fundamental differences across our systems and the Australian system that does ensure that we have clear differentiation and delineation from judicial processes versus the executive arms of government or the legislative arms of government. They’re very important and the fact that we don’t have politicisation of offices, be they judges or prosecutors or those types of roles, I think helps to give people greater confidence in terms of the non-politicisation of our system and that is a very positive attribute for our system. And it means that the type of commentary that you can see waged now about whether or not somebody’s making decisions in a judicial or a legal process is a Democrat or a Republican. And what that means for how they then engage in those processes, we don’t get that here. And that, I think, is a good thing. The American system is a strong system. It’s a robust system. It is, of course, stood the test of time and had many things thrown at it over the years. But ultimately, I like our system and yep, I’m very happy to be Australian.


Laura Jayes: Does it look to you like the judicial system has been essentially weaponized for political purposes?


Simon Birmingham: Well, that would be me being drawn into then the political debate in the US and as the Shadow Foreign Minister, I’m not about to do that. Their system is their system. They will have their democratic processes, they will have their domestic political affairs, they will have indeed their judicial affairs and where that might involve Australia or an Australian at some point in time well then Australia has Australian interests to look out for. But this is a case between Americans and it’s for Americans to sort out.


Laura Jayes: Yep, fair enough. I’ll give it one more crack, but perhaps you won’t bite on this one either. Donald Trump as an enormous figure in the United States, he’s derided his celebrated and everything in between. What do you think about him and what does that say about where America is at? Or even more broadly, could you broaden that out to Western democracies?


Simon Birmingham: Well, there’s no doubt that that Donald Trump is certainly a figure that is polarising for many, many people. Now, I’ve met him. I’ve sat at a dinner table opposite him and I’ve worked as a government that found ways to work with him. And he came with very strong, firm views to those types of deliberations. But we would find ways through effective engagement with him and with those working around him to get the outcomes that we needed for Australia. He’s not the first American president to be polarising or divisive, but in the modern era he is certainly one that I guess with social media landscapes, and I think a diversification of the way in which people get their news and information, the polarisation is perhaps even greater.

And so, if there is a global trend that I take out of the way, I perceive and see US politics at present, it is that in Australia and many other countries, people’s engagement with news and information is more diversified than ever. But often it’s leading them to get news and information from sources that reinforce their existing views, that reaffirm their prejudices. And so, in that sense, you don’t get the contest and the challenges that, frankly, good democracy entails. People should be willing to have their ideas contested, to have their views debated, and to actually listen to the other side, to test where that comes from. And I think we do see across all range of democratic countries now, one of the challenges is that through different online media, through different sources, people can go and just listen to one set of opinions constantly and only have that view or that prejudice reinforced.


Laura Jayes: Simon Birmingham, always good to talk to you, particularly today. It is an historic day for the United States. Appreciate it.