CARRIE BICKMORE: I think everyone knows that life throws you curveballs and that families come in all shapes and sizes and I think that’s why it struck a chord, because there’s so many people living in, you know, ‘non-traditional’ families in Australia. We tried to get Tony Abbott to come on the show tonight. He declined our offer but we have another vocal Liberal who has decided to join us, Simon Birmingham. He works alongside Cory Bernardi as a South Australian Senator. Simon, what did you make of Cory’s comments?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, I don’t personally agree with the comments. I can’t say that I’ve read his book but, from what I’ve seen reported, I have some real concerns with what’s been outlined and certainly the way that it has created offence for a range of Australians, be they single parents, homosexual or gay couples – a whole range of people who I think have concerns about the way the reporting and commentary of this has evolved and, indeed, some of the words that have been used.

CHARLIE PICKERING: You’re right, Simon. We spoke to David Chalke, today, who knows a lot more about the facts and figures of families. Here’s what he had to say:

DAVID CHALKE: … families are changing, families are different and we cannot rely on the old-fashioned notion of family being composed entirely of ‘mum, dad, married and children’ … what we have to do, however, is to make allowances within our society and be open to the fact that there are different forms of family and they have to be treated differently and we may need to provide extra resources from the community to help these new family forms

CHARLIE PICKERING: Surely, the traditional element of families that we need to focus on is parents loving children and, whatever form that family takes, that’s what we need to promote?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Absolutely. Look, my parents divorced when I was two. I like to think that my mum and step-dad did a pretty good job and, indeed, I spent about six years living with my grandmother and, you know, there are plenty of examples around Australia of grandparents doing wonderful jobs at present raising children, as well, from a whole range of different circumstances and reasons, so we need to be very conscious of how we provide the right support, build up and support those people who are trying to do the right thing and make sure that we really do focus on how we can change the ways for people who are doing the wrong thing.

TODD SAMPSON: So, Simon, just on that, why do you think, then, Cory used ‘traditional families’ in that way, knowing that what he was actually referring to was a nuclear family?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, you’d have to ask Cory. I’m not going to speculate on what was in his mind as he wrote those words but what is important to appreciate is that his views are his views. The views of the Government, as Tony Abbott has made very clear, are quite different and his views do not reflect the views of the Government. They don’t reflect my views and they don’t reflect the views of the vast majority of MPs from all sides of the aisle.

CHARLIE PICKERING: Well, you say that, though… you say that this doesn’t represent the Party and that the Prime Minister has distanced himself from the views, yet the Party continues to back him as a candidate for the Senate… you make the Senate because the Party chooses you to receive the vote and go to Canberra, so why does the Party keep giving him a ride?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, we have open pre-selections run by our members and our members choose who’s on the ticket. The same members who pre-selected Cory pre-selected me. Now, they’re obviously an eclectic bunch in terms of what they take into account in those factors. I wanted to come onto the programme tonight because I think it’s important to make sure, in all of the commentary that’s occurred, it’s very clear that there are many, many people across all sides of politics who accept and understand the pressures on modern families, the different constructs of modern families, the dynamics across modern families and want to see us build up and support all of those parents doing the right thing and where politicians and public policy needs to focus its efforts are on parents doing the wrong things and how we help them change their ways and get better outcomes for those students who are missing out on all of the good things in life, on parents who read to them, on parents who encourage them to exercise, on parents who put healthy food on the table – they’re the things and the debates we should be having about bad parenting versus the vast majority of people who do their best and are great parents.

CARRIE BICKMORE: Good to chat to you tonight, Simon. Thanks for your time.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: A pleasure, guys.