David Speers: Trade Minister Simon Birmingham thanks for your time this afternoon.

Simon Birmingham: Good to be with you.

David Speers: Are you sorry to see Julie Bishop go?

Simon Birmingham: Well I am, but I entirely understand that after 21 years in the Parliament Julie would be thinking about her future. So the announcement doesn't really come as a surprise. Many will reflect upon Julie's many achievements, the firsts that she has as a first woman to hold the Office of Foreign Minister, the first Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party but I also think we really need to be focusing on the substantial elements of her achievements too as Foreign Minister delivering the comprehensive foreign policy white paper that is guiding our nation today, and in years to come through some of the most complex foreign policy challenges we've faced in a long time. Her work with the New Colombo scheme that is for decades to come, going to leave thousands of stronger people-to-people connections within our region, between Australia and other key influential nations around the region that will ensure we have stronger economic, cultural diplomatic, business ties. All of those elements I think are a very strong legacy that Julie leaves that she should be very proud of, and will leave Australia a better country.

David Speers: She was also the first female to put her hand up in a leadership contest in the Liberal Party, but of course performed fairly dismally attracting only 11 votes and a lot of people couldn't work out those watching on why that happened. Why did that happen?

Simon Birmingham: Well members were making a decision about the long term future of the party at that time and in choosing a leader who I trust in Scott Morrison will lead us for a long time into the future. A fresh, young team for the future with Scott and Josh in those positions and we're seeing already the strength of leadership that Scott is able to deliver. The fact that of course he came to the position having held the Treasury role having prior to that held the immigration role and bringing those economic and security aspects together…

David Speers: I appreciate that, but here is someone who had been your deputy leader for 11 years, an outstanding foreign minister as you describe it, a moderate like yourself. Why couldn't you vote for her?

Simon Birmingham: As I say David, these are decisions where you have to think about the long term and what's going to be right for the long term. It was an incredibly difficult decision and I'm not going to hedge bets on that at all.

David Speers: Personally?

Simon Birmingham: Personally, a very difficult decision. I have the highest of regard for Julie and she is essentially a South Australian, she represents a Western Australian seat, she lives in Perth but in the end her home and where she grew up is in the Adelaide Hills and I have nothing but the highest regard for her. But the decision was what's going to be best for the long term future of the party.

David Speers: And was she lost to the government at that point do you think?

David Speers: Obviously Julie made the decision to not continue in the ministry, Scott had offered her the opportunity to stay on as foreign minister, she chose to go to the backbench and that's why I'm not surprised today that she has been thinking about her future and after 21 years in this Parliament, that's something that none of us can begrudge her doing. I know that whatever Julie Bishop goes on to do she won't just have left a lasting positive legacy for our country in her time in this place. But the next thing she does she will do with the same sort of exceptional skill that she has with every other job.

David Speers: It's another senior woman leaving the government. Does that hurt?

Simon Birmingham: I hope that in coming preselections we'll see of course some other wins and really what we want to see replacing Julie in her seat is somebody who can bring the same type of potential that Julie Bishop had 21 years ago. Now who that is we'll see how the field unfolds. Julie indicated herself in the Parliament today I saw that she's had many highly capable people speak with her and I trust we will get somebody with that type of great potential and skill set for the future.

David Speers: And just finally and maybe this is a small point but she finished her remarks, you went in the House for this…

Simon Birmingham: I was in Senate Estimates by then I saw the start of her remarks.

David Speers: Well let me finish, she went straight to the doors didn't stick around to hear the Prime Minister Scott Morrison in what was a generous tribute from the PM. What did that tell you?

Simon Birmingham: Well I didn't see that and you're putting this to me the first for the first time, I don't know what Julie was off to do maybe she had family or others to speak to and deal with.

Media enquiries

  • Minister's office: (02) 6277 7420
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555