Subject: (NSW Election Result)


KIERAN GILBERT: This is AM Agenda, thanks very much for your company. With me now, the Shadow Human Services Minister, Doug Cameron and the Assistant Education Minister, Senator Simon Birmingham. First to you, Minister, the result at the weekend, a clear win to Mike Baird; should this give the government a bit of, encourage the government to have a bit of backbone when it comes to reform federally?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well Kieran I think it is a great result for Mike Baird and the entire Liberal/National team in New South Wales. It is a real demonstration that the public will support good government over bad politicking, which is really what the choice boiled down to in New South Wales, a government that had been sound in its delivery of good policy and had a clear plan for the future that involved difficult reform but it was reform that was well explained, that was well put to the electorate by the coalition team and in particular by Mike Baird contrasted by a fear campaign, scare mongering, basically a tinge of racism even to the Labor campaign against the Mike Baird plans for the future and I’m very, very pleased that New South Wales despite the concerns about the policy, embraced the reform.

KIERAN GILBERT: But Minister it was also a government that was upfront unlike, your critics say, the Abbott government…

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well Kieran look, there are always lessons I think in terms of how campaigns are run out of any election campaign and we though, have been very clear that there are some difficult policies that we already intend to take to the next election. The long term plans in terms of how we adjust the indexation of various government payments in to the future are measures that are not being implemented in this term of parliament; they are commitments for the future to try to get the trajectory of government spending down and they are measures that we will try and take to the next election. You just heard Josh Frydenberg talking about the white paper and relation to taxation which will inform the policies we take to the next election as well.

KIERAN GILBERT: Senator Cameron, to you on the New South Wales election result, you’re from that town, from Sydney, and I guess a couple of issues hear; first of all, Martin Ferguson was critical of the Labor campaign, your former federal colleague. There are some calls for him to be expelled from the party despite him making the relevant remarks at a book launch. Would that be overdoing it? What’s your take on that?

DOUG CAMERON: Well there’s a whole anger against Martin Ferguson from Labor party members. That came through time and time again on every booth I attended at the weekend. Though there is a process in place, Martin Ferguson is entitled to a fair hearing. That hearing will take place in Melbourne and then there are appeal processes. So let’s see where all that leads but, I must say that I think he has burnt a lot of the capital that he ever had as a member of government. 

KIERAN GILBERT: Ok. I’m very interested in your take on this issue that Simon Birmingham alluded to, and that is the campaign against the sale of poles and wires “a tinge of racism” is the way I think Senator Birmingham put it, others have called it outright xenophobia as part of the CFMEU campaign and it’s been part of the swing to the government in the seat of Oatley in Sydney where I think it’s, from memory, the biggest Chinese population of any seat in New South Wales. 

DOUG CAMERON: Well look, in terms of individual seats like Oatley, you have to do the proper analysis. Let’s see what the analysis is when that’s been done by the party secretariat. On the broader issue, privatisation of the power industry was not popular in a whole range of areas. Labor gained another 500,000 votes that we didn’t have at the last election. Swings of up to 14% in some seats like the Blue Mountains so it wasn’t a lay down position for the government, the Baird government in terms of privatisation, genuine problems, genuine concerns and the business sector will be queuing up to buy the power industry. Why? Because it is a long term return on investment that the government could have continued to have.

KIERAN GILBERT: Were you comfortable with the campaign in its entirety though?

DOUG CAMERON: Yeah, I don’t have any problems with the campaign. Look, we were coming from a very, very low base; we are now a real alternative government but an 8% swing…

KIERAN GILBERT: …What about the claims of racism?

DOUG CAMERON: Look, you get all this nonsense coming through; I think it’s a proper position if state owned enterprises are going to take over our utilities in this country that we should have a debate about that, there should be a discussion, there will be different points of view but that’s not racism, that’s not xenophobia, that is about having a proper debate.

KIERAN GILBERT: Ok. Senator Birmingham, your response to all of that? It’s part of the democracy according to Senator Cameron and others who have defended this campaign from Labor.

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Look, it was an appalling campaign, particularly the union driven ads that targeted Chinese investment, which is so critical to Australia’s future, to have a positive investment relationship with China. It was really a case of Labor throwing the rulebook out when it comes to election campaigns in particular to a responsible approach to campaigning in Australia and putting at risk investment in Australia in the long term and then we saw the same thing of course in relation to the coal seam gas sector where the Labor party were happy to go out on a limb, to basically throw out the rulebook, to jeopardise investment, to put New South Wales in a position where you could possibly see gas shortages in to the future and all for what? So the Labor party could help the Greens win some lower house seats? In seats that didn’t even have CSG elements to them? It really was a ridiculously irresponsible approach when it comes to investment and business certainty from the Labor party…

DOUG CAMERON: …Look, from a coalition who has Barnaby Joyce and the National party to be criticising Labor for taking up a position on this issue is just nonsense. Look at what Barnaby Joyce has said in the past, look at what the National party has said in the past, don’t lecture me about…

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: …Doug, it was Luke Foley in the New South Wales Labor party saying they would basically tear up investment certainty. They would say no matter how much a company has invested, they would be ruling out that company being able to progress with their investment…

KIERAN GILBERT: …Let me go to Senator Cameron, the issue here is as well, you can respond to Senator Birmingham, in terms of the CSG issue, it just showed you how vulnerable Labor is on the left flank from the Greens. It looks like they might end up with 4 seats in the legislative assembly.

DOUG CAMERON: Well Labor has always got to take a position, we are the alternative government, we just can’t go out and say anything on any issue and this is something again that the secretariat, that the party will have to have a look at in the wash up from this election. The bottom line is that the name Liberal was never used in this election, this was about a presidential campaign by a very popular premier. That’s what got the Liberals over the line on this. It wasn’t about Liberals and I cannot believe that Josh Frydenberg, this morning, said that they would take their policies to the people, that they always do it. Well tell that to the pensioners that have had their pensions cut, tell that to the people in hospitals, tell that to the people in education. This is a government that lied to the Australian population prior to the last election and now they’re trying to reinvent themselves. This is a reinvention by the Liberals so they cannot be trusted.

KIERAN GILBERT: Senator Birmingham, just finally to you, only about 30 seconds left. 

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well Kieran that’s a classic example of the Labor party overreaching in relation to pensions, not one change in this term of parliament, and the type of changes you’re talking about, pension trajectory, are changes we are taking to the next election, taking to the next election, Doug Cameron. Well, Doug Cameron, you’re the one who cited pensions, that’s a reform taking to the next election, exactly what Mike Baird did.

KIERAN GILBERT: Senator Birmingham and Senator Cameron, Thankyou both for your time.