May 15, 2019




DAVID BEVAN: Good morning to our panellists, Simon Birmingham I think you’re on the phone, Minister for Trade, Liberal campaign spokesperson, Senator for South Australia, good morning to you sir.

SIMON BRIMINGHAM: Hello David, good to speak with you.

BEVAN: Sarah Hanson-Young, Greens Senator for South Australia and spokesperson on finance, trade and the environment, good morning to you.


BEVAN:  And Mark Butler, Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Labor Member for Port Adelaide and candidate for Hindmarsh, good morning to you.

MARK BUTLER: Good morning.

ALI CLARKE: So disappointed you didn’t say ‘uhuh’. Yes we’ll get to that in a moment. 

BEVAN: We’ll get to that in a moment, lets deal with this issue of the Prime Minister being asked about gay people going to hell. Now some people say this is outrageous you shouldn’t be asking questions like that. Other people saying I want to know what the personal beliefs are for a potential leader. Mark Butler what do you think?

BUTLER: I think there is a public and a private dimension to this. People have a whole range of religious and moral beliefs which they keep to themselves and guide their lives but there is also a public dimension, importantly, about how for example in this case, we deal with the position of gay people in our community. I think whether it is a question of your view about whether they deserve marriage equality and Scott Morrison thought they didn’t. Or whether you are willing to stand by a statement in the public arena that gay people are going to hell, the most public of public figures in the country, the Prime Minister, I think has a responsibility to say something about that. Now he walked past that standard the day before yesterday and I think was rightly called out on that by Bill Shorten.

Morrison has got form on this. He was part of a cabinet that decided to delegate responsibility around marriage equality to the people through a plebiscite. A position we opposed but that went ahead none the less. The Australian people voted overwhelmingly in favour of marriage equality, including in his own electorate of Cook, and then he walked out of the Parliament. As a member of the cabinet that had set up that process, after the result was clear, he chose his personal belief system over the result of the plebiscite across the country, in his own electorate.  

CLARKE: Just before we do go on with this discussion, in case anyone isn’t up with this, this is very big in the eastern states because of the whole idea of gay people going to hell was put out by one of our leading rugby union players, so that is why we are talking about this being in the public domain.

BEVAN: Simon Birmingham what do you think?

BIRMINGHAM: David, I think firstly Scott Morrison has made it clear he doesn’t believe that but there could be few graver or more desperate distractions from the Labor Party to try and latch onto in the closing days of the election campaign. The Prime Minister is a man of faith that is on the public record. He is not somebody who goes around seeking to talk about this faith and he certainly doesn’t seek to politicise his faith. I would think that most of your listeners would hope that their Prime Minister doesn’t seek to politicise their faith. I think the fact that Labor decided to start hitting the phones and making this an issue is a sign of a bit of desperation after Bill Shorten has had a bit of a scratchy election campaign and is falling to answer questions about his higher taxing policies and failing to actually be up front with people like the worker from Gladstone who asked him about tax cuts and of course he said he’d think about it when of course he is just going to put those taxes up.   

BEVAN: But is it okay to ask a Prime Minister that question, in your opinion?  

BIRMINGHAM: Well we are all public figures and we can all be asked any question but I don’t think is of particular relevance at this stage of an election campaign. The PM is not somebody who goes around talking about his faith in a political contest, it is quite the opposite. You tried to ask him yesterday morning David and he did not wish to obviously go down a path of saying how he viewed the election result as a matter of his faith, he talked instead about the fact that the election result was a demonstration of the will of the Australian people and that is the correct answer -

BEVAN: Well you say it’s correct, it is the safe answer isn’t it. Aren’t we kidding ourselves to think that our personal believes and our personalities don’t have a big role to play in running the country? Think of any Prime Minister over the last 30 years and you think of their personality and their personal beliefs and you can see how it has influenced the way the government has run – whether it is Keven Rudd, Bob Hawke, Paul Keating or John Howard or Tony Abbott?

BIRMINGHAM: Ask a leader about their views on policy issues absolutely. Ask a leader about how they interpret policy issues absolutely. Asking leaders direct questions about their faith or how their faith determines their decisions I don’t think -

BEVAN: How do you think the Catholic right in the Labor Party influenced the debate over same sex marriage for the last ten years? Poor old Julia Gillard we all knew she wanted same sex marriage but she couldn’t do it because she was hostage to the Catholic right in the Labor Party?

BIRMINGHAM: And that’s all history because happily we have same sex marriage in Australia, legislated in the term of the last Parliament. It’s done, it’s law. I think the issues that this election is going to be determined on, on Saturday I hope will be the policy issues for the next three years. There is such a vast gulf between the major parties in terms of policy positions at this election. We have policies to lower taxes for Australians; Labor has policies to raise taxes for Australians. We have policies that will create more jobs; Labor has policies that will create fewer jobs. Let’s actually talk about what is on the table and being offered up for the next three years that will shape the lifestyle of Australians for the next decade.

CLARKE: Sarah Hanson-Young?    

HANSON-YOUNG: Look I understand why the question was asked because it is an issue of public debate and discussion right now, and it has been for weeks. I’m amazed actually that the political leaders weren’t asked this much earlier to be honest. This was a big issue three weeks ago.

BIRMINGHAM: They were at the debate.

HANSON-YOUNG: Yes right okay.

BIRMINGHAM: Bill Shorten dodged it.

HANSON-YOUNG: That is why it is important that is why it is being debated. I was on a plane a couple of weeks ago and the person I was sitting next to said “oh by the way what do you think about this rugby player who has said this? And I had to engage in that conversation that is what we do as politicians. That is what we do as people out there in the public eye who are not just representing the views of our community but actually engaging and leading the public discussion on some of these issues. I understand why the Prime Minister was asked this. I also have some sympathy with the idea that the last couple of days of an election campaign what is it that the community wants to be hearing from our leaders on. I don’t think anyone believes that Scott Morrison believes gays should go to hell but it would have been better if he just answered that question first up and dealt with it. The reason he didn’t I’m not sure but that is why this has continued. I’d prefer we got back to working out how we save the planet before we stuff it up because of climate change. 

BEVAN: Okay Boothby, privatising trains. Now this is a state issue but Labor is going to make a lot of mileage out of this aren’t you?

BUTLER: The state Liberal Party has a fantastic record of privatising essential services – Modbury Hospital, the state’s water system, power.

BEVAN: So does the state Labor Party?

BUTLER: Which essential service have we privatised? A health service?

BEVAN: The lands title office -

BUTLER: A utility?

BEVAN: You sold off the Repat?

BUTLER: This Government has completely failed to deliver on any of its promises around privatisation. Particularly the privatisations of the 1990s that were supposed to deliver better consumer outcomes in water and power and they have been a complete disaster. No one would trust this Government to make anything other than a complete hash of this and why they haven’t ruled it out immediately is bizarre.

This Federal Government also has form in trying to encourage, incentivise through the offer of money state governments to privatise light public transport services. So I think there is a question about what Simon Birmingham’s view of this is. 

CLARKE: Well let’s go to you now Simon Birmingham?

BIRMINGHAM: Well we’re not going to jump to a scare campaign from Tom Koutsantonis who David rightly pointed out privatised the Motor Accident Commission, who privatised Forestry SA, who privatised the Lands Title Office having stood there as a Labor Treasurer signing great big pledges saying he would never privatise anything. So the hypocrisy there from the Labor Party is enormous, particularly from the state Labor Party in SA.

The South Australian state government is obviously having a look at how they run the rail system more efficiently and effectively. All they have said is they are not taking options off the table. Now they will make their decision in the coming months or years, I don’t know when they will do that that is a matter for them. This election on Saturday is not about the state government’s consideration of train services. The Federal Government doesn’t run the suburban train services of Adelaide, the state government does. They will run their process and what people need to think about on Saturday is who is going to govern Australia for the next three years and whether or not they can afford the bill of the higher taxes that Mr Shorten is proposing that will hurt thousands of retirees across Boothby, thousands of people saving for their superannuation, thousands of people who want to get ahead in terms of their retirement.

BEVAN: Wages is a big issue this election campaign. Labor has promised to increase wages it is also, we understand that Bill Shorten is teasing out the detail of this today, is promising a new tribunal which will deal with unpaid wages up to $100,000 and Bill Shorten thinks you can sort most of these out in a day – seriously? You’re going to have somebody who is coming into a tribunal and says Company X owes me $100,000 and they are going to sort that out in a day? Mark Butler?

BUTLER: I noticed Jennifer Westacott, the CEO of the Business Council describe this as a very sensible proposal on Fran Kelly’s program this morning. This is an area that I have quite a bit of experience with having worked in many of the industries where this wage theft is most rife. Low paid service sector industries, contract industries like cleaning, security, hospitality and suchlike. These are workers who are living day to day, week to week, they need their money quickly and they can’t afford drawn out legal proceedings. Having a small claims tribunal I think is a very sensible way to deal with an area that is growing, a dynamic that is growing in the labour market of wage theft. This should be welcomed by employers. When I was working at the trade union representing these workers it was employers complaining about this as much as the workers who are having their wages stolen. Employers in highly competitive industries like contract cleaning, contract security or hospitality, when they see the employer down the road getting a competitive advantage because they are stealing the wages of their workers they rightly get very angry as well. This is an increasing problem. It is not something this Government has done anything about and I think this, as Jennifer Westacott said, is a very sensible proposal.

BEVAN: Simon Birmingham?

BIRMINGHAM: There are some small claim matters that can be resolved in those types of expedited court proceedings. I think the track record here of Labor was when they were last in office they cut both staffing by about 20 per cent and funding by 17 per cent to the Fair Work Office who is the advocate in many cases for employees who have gone through a process of finding they have been underpaid or some other workplace malpractice. Obviously making sure people have such issues resolved as effectively, cost effectively and efficiently as possible is critical for both employees and employers. There are sadly some who make claims that don’t stack up, so it has to be a rigorous process but also one that is cheap for both sides. It is always painful to hear that employers decide they will settle a case because it is cheaper than fighting a case even though they think they haven’t done anything wrong. So making sure both sides have support.

CLARKE: Sarah Hanson-Young?

HANSON-YOUNG: I think the issue here is wages themselves are stagnant and too low and if people aren’t getting what they deserve, what they’ve worked for is just outrageous. I know in the contract industries this is happening more and more, particularly younger workers and they don’t know what to do. They don’t know whether they can ask their boss, well hang on a minute you haven’t paid me for three weeks what is going on and yet you are asking me to come in tomorrow. There is a power dynamic that is unfair and there are a whole lot of issues that go around that. I know here in Adelaide there are a number of workers in the construction industry for example who are being ripped off on a regular basis and we need to clean that up.

I just want to go back to this issue of public transport though if I could. I just find it outstandingly unbelievable that we have a suggestion from the Liberal Government here in South Australia that we would privatise our public transport network. In the era of climate change we should be investing in public transport. We should be investing in public transport and it is not just an issue for the State Government. Whoever wins on Saturday if they care about transitioning to a clean, green economy we have to have a huge investment in public transport and South Australia will get none of that if we have the Liberal Government here in SA saying no, no, no we are just going to privatise it. Every single time we privatise a public service it turns to crap, without doubt, and it is time we actually stood up for public service and make sure we had investment into those essential services. 

BEVAN Now I’ll just ask Simon Birmingham to respond to this one because this is a barney between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party – and Don Farrell from Labor is going to give us this version after 9 o’clock and that is the issue of handing the Crows $15 million to shift from West Lakes to the Aquatic Centre. Simon Birmingham is this right you are going to match Labor’s commitment to give $15 million to the most successful sporting club in the state?

BIRMINGHAM: Well David I think Labor is matching our commitment to fund what would be a rebuild of the Adelaide Aquatic Centre -

BEVAN: Why are either of you giving them money?

BIRMINGHAM: All South Australians get to go in and get to swim there, improve recreation facilities for South Australians and local sporting clubs. Essentially this is a $60 million plus redevelopment proposal. The Crows will spend far more than $15 million building their headquarters, their facilities. What we propose is to provide support for the community facility aspect that goes in there in terms of giving us a new modern aquatic centre and all of the community benefit that flows from that. I note the Labor Party said they were going to come on board and match it. Don seems to have already got into a slanging match with the former Lord Mayor about the parklands issues. They are ones for the Crows, City Council and others to sort out. I spoke some weeks back to the current Lord Mayor about the community benefits there in terms of those improved recreation and aquatic centre facilities that we would expect to see there for the public.

BEVAN: We’ll let Don Farrell answer that because he is coming on the program after 9 o’clock.


CLARKE: We will point out that that grunt was one of pain from Mark Butler when Simon Birmingham said the Crows were the most successful -

BUTLER: I did argue in Shadow Cabinet, not that I usually divulge this, that the relocation should be to Broken Hill.

HOSTS: (laughter)

BUTLER: I lost that debate so Don Farrell’s position is the position of the Labor Party. I’m happy to support that.

CLARKE: Now in front of you, and Simon Birmingham we will get you your piece of paper, we want to get some predictions from you so we have a piece of paper for you we would like you to predict what is going to happen on Saturday. 

BEAVAN: So Mark Butler, Sarah Hanson-Young, Simon Birmingham we have to trust us that you will send us your prediction, how many seats is your own party going to win?

BUTLER: I thought we were writing it down?

BEVAN: Yeah write it down.

BUTLER: I’m not telling you.

BEVAN: No you’ll write it down.

BUTLER: I’ll write it down.

CLARKE: And you’ll seal it.

BUTLER: You can check it next week that’s how it works.

BEVAN: You can trust us.

BUTLER: No I can’t.

BEVAN: Alright no you can’t (laughing) but do it anyway. Now while you’re doing that, it is only a number it shouldn’t take too long, we learnt yesterday that Mark Butler has a career after politics as an Elvis impersonator.

CLARKE: For those that missed it we’ve got a little bit – actually we don’t we’ll get you to do it live.

BEVAN: We understand he actually does a Puccini as well but that’s for later. Sarah Hanson-Young your party trick is what?

HANSON-YOUNG: I’m pretty good at the limbo.

BEVAN: Okay are you going to show us?

HANSON-YOUNG: I’m happy to show you.

BEVAN: Okay we came prepared because we have a stick.

CLARKE: I have the camera running.

HANSON-YOUNG: I’ve got to limber up you know.

CLARKE: Alright one side is held up by David Bevan and the other side is held by Mark Butler. The jacket is coming off Sarah Hanson-Young, the limbering is happening right now. The music is playing Sarah Hanson-Young away you go.

HANSON-YOUNG: (does the limbo)

Everyone cheers.

CLARKE: Congratulations Sarah Hanson-Young you are a very good limboer. Simon Birmingham what is your special party trick please?

BIRMINGHAM: I think I just need a drink after all of that. There is still a few days to go before I can!

CLARKE: Do you have a party trick, c’mon? We understand that it has something to do with singing as well?

BIRMINGHAM: I think I can do very bad karaoke. That’s more of a confession than a claim.

CLARKE: I mean we’re happy to play a song or you can just take it away Simon Birmingham?

BIRMINGHAM: (Laughing) I think it definitely requires a drink to warm me up Ali.

BEVAN: Awwww.

CLARKE: Responsible as always. Why don’t we finish where we started, Mark Butler?

BEVAN: That’s right Mark Butler you do Puccini as well as Elvis. Give us a few bars of Puccini?

BUTLER: (Sings Puccini)

Everyone claps.


BEVAN: It’s like Donkey it’s shutting him up that’s a problem.

Everyone laughs.

HANSON-YOUNG: I thought he was going to go all the way to the newsbreak.

BIRMINGHAM: I think you could have Mark Butler on for a sing off at some stage.

BEVAN: We are going to have to organise this!

CLARKE: We will certainly find out who will be doing the party tricks for real after Saturday. Thank you very much to all three of you. That was the final Super Wednesday before the election. Thank you to you all.