Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Minister for Finance
Leader of the Government in the Senate
Senator for South Australia
Date: Wednesday, 9 February 2022
Stacey Lee: Let's move to federal politics now. Simon Birmingham joins us this morning. Good morning, Minister.
Simon Birmingham: Morning, Stacey.
Stacey Lee: You've announced a package of measures to try and make federal parliament a safer place for women. Is this going to be enough to shift the narrative for the day because you're facing another day of heat with Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame speaking at the press club?
Simon Birmingham: Well, Stacey we're getting on with the job of implementing the recommendations made by the Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins. She handed down her report in the last sitting week of federal parliament for 2021 last year. And here in the first sitting week of 2022, we have seen the recommendation that there be an acknowledgement acted on yesterday with a very sincere acknowledgement and indeed apology made and a call to action. We will today be introducing legislation recommended by Commissioner Jenkins under her reforms. Backed in by a range of other areas with establishment of an independent complaints authority, training for members, senators and their staff and officers around workplace practises and conduct, as well as trauma informed counselling services that have been made available. We'll keep working through those recommendations, which we've established a cross-party working group to pursue. Because this, of course, goes well beyond the remit of any one party and is about the Members of Parliament, staff, operating across every party and independent and MP across the parliament.
Stacey Lee: Will you be attending the press club today?
Simon Birmingham: It's my intention to do so as long as Senate proceedings enable me to do so when I get some time.
David Bevan: Do you understand why Grace Tame in particular, but also Brittany Higgins, particularly Grace Tame, is so hostile towards the Prime Minister?
Simon Birmingham: Look, I'm not going to seek to try to judge motives there. I think yesterday the Prime Minister gave a very sincere acknowledgement for wrongdoings that have occurred across this parliament over a very long period of time preceding him that he has acknowledged that he, on behalf of the parliament and our parties, has apologised for just as the leader of the opposition and did likewise and other party leaders did likewise yesterday.
David Bevan: But do you think it's unfair? I mean, Scott Morrison is not responsible for a culture that's developed over decades, and he's been the prime minister for what is it, three years and under his watch under pressure. But he's responded to it. That's what politics is. These reforms have been introduced, which have never occurred before, and yet he's going to cop a lot of flak. He's not going to get a lot of thanks come lunchtime today.
Simon Birmingham: Look, I think listeners and voters will judge fairness and will judge on those sorts of questions. David, you're right, the Prime Minister has heard the messages that have been raised in this parliament. He established the review by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner. And we did so, though, working with other parties, in fairness, because we've always wanted to make this about responding as comprehensively and cooperatively as possible. And that's why we're also pursuing these sorts of acknowledgements yesterday. But even more substantially, the reforms that are occurring with new legislation being implemented today or introduced today that we're doing that equally in cooperation with other parties.
David Bevan: Can you count on the vote of South Australian Senator Alex Antic?
Simon Birmingham: That's a matter for Alex-
David Bevan: Well that's a matter for you because you're the Leader of the Government in the Senate, can you count on his vote?
Simon Birmingham: -as the government's Senate leader and as the longish serving senator nowadays, I never take any Senate vote for granted. They all come with their uncertainty and unpredictability because governments never have a majority in the Senate. And of course, individual senators will have their own views-
David Bevan: But he's a Liberal,
Simon Birmingham: -any given time. That is how he was elected, yes, David.
David Bevan: But you can't count on him.
Simon Birmingham: Well, again, I'll let Alex speak for himself.
David Bevan: Simon Birmingham, thanks for your time.
Simon Birmingham: Thanks.