Simon Birmingham: Thank you very much for coming out on a sweltering Adelaide day. Tomorrow I will leave to travel to Jakarta, Indonesia for the signing of the Australia Indonesia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. This is an agreement that will provide deep strengthening of the strategic ties between Australia and Indonesia, not just our economic ties but over time it will ensure that we have deeper, richer, cultural, diplomatic security ties because of the strengthening of those economic ties. This agreement is going to provide more opportunities for Australia's grain growers, horticulturalists, cattle producers, our education providers, health and financial services sectors, as well as provide more opportunity for Indonesia in their tourism industry, in attracting more investment, in ensuring that they can upskill successfully their workforce. It is a win-win agreement that will result in better economic ties and closer strategic ties between Australia and Indonesia and I'm very pleased that we have been able to conclude negotiations, bring this agreement to the point of signing, and I hope and trust it will be a smooth process for it to be ratified and brought into force in both countries.

Could I also touch on the resignation announcement from my great friend and close South Australian colleague Christopher Pyne. Twenty-six years is an amazing run in anybody's terms and nobody should be surprised that after serving 26 years in the Australian Parliament, serving in the executive of four different Prime Ministers, delivering of course enormous results for his electorate and the state of South Australia that Christopher has chosen to call it a day. And place on the public record, my thanks and appreciation on behalf of the South Australian Liberal family for Christopher's work and effort, tireless dedication to advocating for this state and fighting fearlessly for liberal values and causes throughout those 26 years in the nation's parliament. But, everything of course must come to an end at some stage and I respect and recognise that after 26 years this is a perfectly reasonable decision for a member of parliament to take. Christopher still has some young children as well as some older children, I pay tribute to his wife Carolyn, his children Barnaby and Eleanor, Felix into Aurelia who have given so much in terms of allowing him to serve the nation to serve our state and to serve the Liberal Party. I can inform you that just a little while ago the State Executive of the Liberal Party in South Australia met and agreed to immediately open nominations to preselect a new Liberal candidate for Sturt. Those nominations will be open until Friday the 8th of March and a pre-selection will be conducted on the 23rd or 24th of March to ensure we have a candidate in the field swiftly, quickly, able to deliver of course, ongoing representation of the standards of which Christopher Pyne has delivered. I am confident that the local Liberal members who choose a candidate will choose somebody with the political smarts, the drive and determination to be able to continue to successfully represent Sturt, represent South Australia and get the results for our state.

I also want to reassure every single South Australian that Christopher Pyne may be going but your South Australian federal Liberal representatives will continue to fight for you. We will make sure as we have, working alongside Christopher, that the benefits of the Liberal government's record investment in naval shipbuilding in South Australia are fully realised. … All of the additional taxes they will deploy on retirees, on businesses, on investors, on savings. That's the threat to South Australia's economy, Liberal members will keep fighting to ensure that threat doesn't materialize and that we keep getting great results for SA.

Journalist: Do you think the leadership spill have anything to do with Mr Pyne's decision to retire?

Simon Birmingham: It’s for Christopher to speak about how long he may or may not have been thinking about these things. But after 26 years in the national parliament it is of no surprise to anybody that Christopher would be thinking about his future and I think none of us can begrudge him the right to step away after 26 years and indicate that it's time for somebody else to have a chance. Ultimately, this is a great opportunity for renewal of the Liberal team in SA, to start training somebody else who will be able to ultimately be a cabinet minister, deliver the same types of results that Christopher has for our state and ensure that we are well-placed for the future.

Journalist: The opposition is out there today saying one bites the dust. What's your response to that?

Simon Birmingham: Bill Shorten's got five members of his shadow ministry who are retiring at the next election. …

Journalist: Is it a good look?

Simon Birmingham: For Bill Shorten to have various members of his front bench retiring? Look I don't seek to judge the motives of all of the different labor MPs including five frontbenchers who are retiring at the next election. Just as I respect the personal decisions that have been made by all of the Liberal or National MPs who are not going.

Journalist: There are several ministers though that are leaving is this the first time in your career that you've seen this many ministers flag, that's it, I'm done I am not standing next election.

Simon Birmingham: You get these types of waves of renewal, all of the time in politics and that's what's happening in the Labor side. Shadow Cabinet members like Kate Ellis and Jenny Macklin are calling it a day. A raft of other shadow ministers like Doug Cameron and others going off into the sunset. That's their decision, I respect their decision, … Instead, he ought to as I have, applaud all of their services. I applaud the contribution as I have publicly before that Kate has made as member for Adelaide I respect her decision, I respect Christopher's decision, they've all made a great contribution to our nation.

Journalist: There is some speculation yesterday about James Stevens being a potential candidate to take over from Chris Pyne. Do you know much about that?

Simon Birmingham: Look that would be a matter for James in terms of whether he decides to nominate but James is somebody who has immense capabilities. He played a critical role as Steven Marshall was chief of staff in leading the state Liberals out of 16 years in the opposition wilderness. He is known to be a relentless campaigner and if James were to be preselected I have no doubt that he would be a brilliant candidate and Member for Sturt.

Journalist: The Coalition has been judged a lot, partly on the lack of women at the forefront, do you think that there's a few possible female candidates in South Australia that might be able to put their hand up for Sturt?

Simon Birmingham: There may well be and each and every candidate of course should feel free to have their go. … This will be determined by hundreds of local Liberals here in the electorate of Sturt, gathering on the weekend of the 23rd and 24th March to hear from the candidates, to question the candidates, and to select the person who can best advocate for the people of Sturt in South Australia. That's the Liberal way, giving our members a fair dinkum say to choose the best candidate for the job.

Journalist: Is it hypocritical of Steven Ciobo leaving after causing instability during the leadership spill?

Simon Birmingham: Again, I'll let Steven speak to the reasons as to why he is going. I again respect the fact that Steven Ciobo has made a contribution to our nation as the predecessor in the trade portfolio. He played of course a role alongside Malcolm Turnbull in his relationship with Prime Minister, with the President of Indonesia and he played a role in terms of the negotiation of the Indonesia Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and I recognise that contribution, and in other ways that Steven Ciobo again over a long parliamentary career. Steven was there when I got there many years ago and it's not unreasonable for him to decide to call it a day either.

Journalist: Just getting back to Minister Pyne quitting, I'm just wondering do you think that a month is enough really to turn it around with a new campaign your party colleagues will endorse someone at the end of March and then effectively you might have five or six weeks max to get that person out there and try and win votes over, there might be a bit of disillusionment there is a lot of folks out there like Christopher Pyne himself, disillusioned about what happened with the former prime minister?

Simon Birmingham: I have complete confidence in the campaign machine of the Liberal Party in South Australia and particularly here in Sturt. I have full faith that Christopher Pyne will campaign relentlessly day in and day out for the election of the Liberal candidate in Sturt, and for the re-election of the Morrison Government. Christopher Pyne came to Parliament in 1993 in an election where an opposition proposing a new tax, lost in a surprise in an upset. I predict Christopher Pyne will retire in 2019 in an election where an opposition proposing $200 billion plus of new taxes, loses in an upset. Thanks guys.


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For a full transcript please visit www.senatorbirmingham.com.au/news/interview-transcripts/

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