Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Saturday, 4 September 2021
Simon Birmingham: Thanks very much for being here today. I'm delighted to be here with the growing team that we are building for the next federal election of wonderful Liberal candidates. Our new candidates that we're taking to the election, in addition to a number of ongoing MPs. Some familiar and some who are being endorsed by the Liberal Party State Council at its AGM today. And we already have on our Senate ticket, Kerrynne Liddle. A strong indigenous woman, a woman with an enormous experience working across a number of different business and community sectors of minerals and resources, energy. Kerrynne is going to be a fabulous addition to our coalition Senate team, serving at number three on the Senate ticket and we look forward to seeing her election. Dr. Rachel Swift preselected earlier this year to replace the retiring Nicolle Flint in Boothby. Rachel, a Rhodes Scholar, a medical professional, and somebody whose skill and knowledge when it comes to epidemiology and managing diseases is a profound benefit at a time like this. A strong advocate working hard on the ground in Boothby already. Today, I'm particularly thrilled to be joined by two new candidates, Allison Bluck, our new candidate for Mayo. Allison is a finance professional with experience, working across Deloitte, CommBank as well as I can say, quite importantly, the Commonwealth Department of Finance for a number of years as well, a great entity to be working for. Allison, a resident in Stirling, very committed to the Hills and Fleurieu community and will bring real zest and drive to our campaign in May. And Amy Grantham, our new candidate for the federal seat of Adelaide. Amy is a very successful businesswoman, particularly in the field of medical technologies, founder of Cellmed, active in the local Adelaide community, and again will bring great drive and energy to the rebel campaign in Adelaide. Together, they represent the real diversity of grassroots liberal candidates, strong liberal women who are going to add to the growing base of our team and will be wonderful voices for South Australia. I'll invite Alison and Amy just to say one or two words, as our two new candidates, and then happy to take any questions.
Allison Bluck: Hello. Thank you so much. I'm incredibly excited to be announced as the Liberal candidate for Mayo. I'm really looking forward to getting out more into the regions and understanding what's on people's minds, not just for right now, but what's going to set us up in the future. We're really booming area. And I'm so excited to hear about what people have in mind to keep us thriving well into the future. Thank you so much.
Journalist: Are you up for the challenge it might be a bit of a long road ahead?
Allison Bluck: Absolutely. Yeah, definitely up for the challenge. I'm incredibly excited, as you might be able to tell. I have a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of passion for these regions, and I'm just absolutely up for the challenge. Thank you.
Amy Grantham: Thank you. I'm actually really proud to be the candidate for Adelaide for the next federal upcoming election, and I look forward to meeting all of you out there. My passions, I've been in the health care industry for 30 years. I love that side of the business. But I'm also about community support and looking after the people on the ground. So I look forward to getting everyone's feedback working with you and being at the next election.
Journalist: The seat of Adelaide is quite varied and it's changed a little bit over the years. What do you make of its make up at the moment? And do you think you've got a chance?
Amy Grantham: I absolutely do. I'm listening to the people out there on the ground. I've been very working very closely with our state electorates at the moment and I hear that environment, which is close to my heart, is one of those things that people really want. They want to protect the planet, and I'm a part of it. Health care and making sure we've got a solid health care going forward and jobs and job security. And with the great work with the Premier's been doing in the backyard. This is definitely for us, and I do think I can actually go forward positively to be at the end of the day the next member.
Journalist: Thank you. I'm Kerrynne, can I ask you a question while we're talking to the candidates. I noticed out front you sort of stopped at the protest when they were talking about indigenous workers. And you were listening in to what they were saying. What did you make of their comments of not having enough indigenous workers on construction sites and not employing enough indigenous?
Kerrynne Liddle: Look, I'm always interested to listen to the views of all South Australians. So I'm very happy to stop and talk to them or rather listen to what they were saying and to hear them. I've been working for many years of the areas of finding employment for aboriginal people and getting them into industries and across industries, so getting Aboriginal and Torres Straight Island people employed right across every single sector at every single level is a really important thing for this country, and that's what I'll be pushing as part of progress in that area.
Journalist: I'm guessing you didn't share the sentiments that the premier as the indigenous minister is not doing enough for indigenous employment levels in the state?
Kerrynne Liddle: I think there's always room for improvement. And I look forward to working with Steven as part of the federal team to help increase that number even further.
Allison Bluck: And number three, on the ticket, what do you think your chances are?
Kerrynne Liddle: Oh, look, I'm always keen to have it go. And I think people are up for the change in terms of jobs and employment across a range of sectors. I think I've got what it takes to convince people that it's really important to get a third senator up and that third senator is a liberal senator.
Journalist: Can I ask you about Mark McGowan has said Western Australia is likely going to keep its hard border with NSW, Victoria and Queensland for a few months, even after they hit the 80 per cent vaccine target. Has WA abandoned to the national plan, in your view?
Simon Birmingham: Look, it's Mark McGowan to speak for himself and his government. And the national plan is important about providing certainty to business and to all Australians. And so each state leader needs to think about how they are going to provide that certainty. And if they're not looking at an 80 per cent threshold for vaccination, then what is it that they're looking for?
Vaccination is the pathway for people to protect themselves, their families and their communities. As Dan Andrews has said about lockdowns, close to high thresholds of vaccination, he wouldn't be locking down to protect those who won't protect themselves. And so, of course, we want to give every Australian every opportunity to be vaccinated. An additional four million doses of Pfizer announced yesterday provide a great potential to really surge even faster with the vaccine rollout. That is seeing Australians turning out in numbers on a per capita basis higher than what the US or the UK ever achieved. It saw us get the last million people vaccinated in the space of just three days. And with that momentum, I think all leaders need to listen to the people. And I think the Australian people are voting with their arms, turning out and getting vaccinated.
Journalist: The prime minister said he wants Australians reunited by Christmas, does premiers like Mark McGowan, making decisions like that jeopardise that plan?
Simon Birmingham: Well, again, all premiers need to give certainty to their electorate, to their communities. And that certainty is best served by sticking with the national plan, by acknowledging that when every Australian who is over the age of 12 has had the opportunity to be vaccinated. When we've hit those very high rates of 80 per cent, what is it that they are waiting for at that point in time?
Journalist: This plan was agreed on some months ago before we saw these large levels of COVID in some states. Do you think it should be readjusted to be dependent on what state you're in, whether it's COVID, COVID there, or is COVID free?
Simon Birmingham: So the plan indeed has gone through multiple levels of remodelling, reanalysis and the Doherty Institute has presented to the last couple of meetings of national cabinet talking them through what the plan means in light of the changing circumstances in New South Wales and Victoria. And of course, the plan has always been clear that it's not just a case of a 70 or even at even 80 per cent ripping off every protection measure in place. It's been about putting a safe plan for reopening, but also keeping in place protections that enable us to manage that reopening in ways that control the spread of COVID.
Journalist: Was it a bit easier for the states to agree to targets like 70 and 80 per cent and removing lockdowns before we saw these big levels of COVID? And do you think once we actually get to those vaccination targets, they'll be as happy to remove their borders if it means inviting COVID into the state?
Simon Birmingham: States and territories all need to recognise the reality of the world in which we live. COVID-19, is endemic throughout the world. The Delta variant is endemic throughout the world. And the reality of that is that we are all going to have to continue to find ways to manage it and to live with it. Vaccination is the number one tool at our disposal to enable us to do that. Nobody is going to be able to keep COVID-19 out forever. That's just not going to be possible when it is so endemic across the globe. So getting those high rates of vaccination is the number one tool. And from there, following the scientific and health advice as best we can.
Journalist: The Moderna vaccine has been approved for children over the age of 12. What's this going to mean for our rollout now?
Simon Birmingham: This is yet more good news for the pace of the vaccine rollout. It will enable families to look at particularly pharmacy based options as Moderna will be made available across many Australian pharmacies. Now, this is a plan that has already got some 9000 or so distribution points to get a vaccine across Australia. People can see their GP, they can go to a state based hub, and increasingly they can go to pharmacies. And the Moderna choice will then make it easier to go to a pharmacy as a family and be able to get vaccines for children aged 12 to 15 or for anybody over the age of 16 in the future.
Journalist: A UK reports come out saying children aged 12 to 15 shouldn't get vaccinated. Are you concerned that's going to instil fear in parents?
Simon Birmingham: We have very thorough processes in Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration. People should have confidence that at every step we have taken the time of going through proper assessment approval processes, unlike parts of the world that hadn't managed to suppress COVID-19 as successfully as Australia. We didn't shortcut approvals. We didn't put in place emergency approvals and whilst that means that there was a little bit of an extra wait, it should provide extra confidence to people that the drugs approved by Australia's TGA have been through rigorous testing for the age groups they're approved for.
Journalist: A couple of questions about WA politics, if you don't mind. What does the party make of Vince Connolly's move to challenge Ian Goodenough?
Simon Birmingham: Vince and Ian are both hard working MPs, a seat has been abolished in Western Australia. And that means that we have more MPs trying to fit into fewer electorates. I think this, I'm sure, will be a fair contest between the two. I wish each of them well.
Allison Bluck: Given the popularity of Mark McGowan and WA. Is the party worried about how it is going to go at the next election?
Simon Birmingham: And for many decades now, Australian voters have shown an ability to discern between federal elections and state elections. And federal election will be one in which they can choose the Morrison Government, where we have demonstrated our ability to keep Australia's economy strong, to grow record numbers of jobs, or Anthony Albanese, who is still leading a Labor Party that has many addictions to higher taxes that threaten those jobs growth in the future.
Journalist: It's great to see the party preselecting more women in seats. When do you think the party's going to get on board with preselecting women into safer seats? All of the women you have here are in marginal electorates are electorates which have recently considered marginal. And the third number on the Senate ticket. When do you think you'll be preselected people in safe seats, females in safe seats?
Simon Birmingham: Well, whilst we take nothing for granted in a seat like Boothby, I also note that it is a seat that we have held continuously for something like 50 or 60 years. And so this is a seat that is always had a Liberal MP and having Rachel Swift elected there and replacing Nicolle Flint will be important. And I think it's also crucial to see that where we've had that turnover in this state, the South Australian Liberal Party has stepped up and responded preselecting women on their merit in fields that are often very competitive and have been doing so in state seats that are safe seats which have fallen vacant recently, places like Schubert, as well as indeed the newly created or newly redrawn electorate of Frome. These are seats that we should absolutely expect to win, bringing new women into state parliament. And I'm sure as we see turnover in our federal ranks in years to come, the pattern of grassroots Liberal members choosing merit basis, strong, capable women will continue.
Journalist: Is there merit discussion within the party about men that get preselected? Whenever we talk about women, its women selected on merit, but we never hear it. When you talk about men preselected.
Simon Birmingham: My pre-selections have always been done at the grassroots, by Liberal Party members coming together and choosing any candidate on merit. The good thing we're seeing now is far more women putting their hand up, engaging and happily because we've got more putting their hand up and nominating more are also being preselected. Thank you.