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Doorstop, Australian National University

11 July 2017

Subject: Signing of Australia's partnership with the European Southern Observatory, Malcolm Turnbull

E&OE

ARTHUR SINODINOS:
I have been here today at the ANU for the signing of our 10-year partnership with the European Southern Observatory.

It is a very exciting stage for Australian astronomy and taking it to the next stage. The Partnership will be using the telescopes in Chile, which are among the best in the world to expand the reach of what we can do in terms of our research into space and a fantastic opportunity not only for Australian astronomers but also Australian industry. There are all sorts of spin-offs and applications occur when you get involved in big science.

And we need to collaborate with other countries – you cannot do this all on your own and Australians are very sought after because of our level of scientific skills and high level of research standards.

So it’s a very exciting partnership as you could see for those in the room, it is very exciting for Australian astronomers and we want to imbue the community with that excitement.

Those of you who saw the recent Stargazing on the ABC would have seen the way it engages the community on the whole. Space really excites the imagination, so there are fantastic things to come from this partnership.

JOURNALIST:

Minister, the PM’s speech overnight – what is your reaction?

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

I thought it was a very good speech, what he did was to lay out the philosophical principles of the Liberal Party, the fact that it is a broad church with conservative and liberal streams and has been over time.

It was in Menzies’ time, it was in Howard’s time – it was called a broad church – and when Tony Abbott was Prime Minister he talked about the sensible centre.

And the Prime Minister made the point that as a party we don’t stand still, we also do change and adapt over time and the best of conservatism is when you preserve the best of the past while adapting to the future.

He also made the point that there is no contradiction between taking a strong stance on national security and promoting individual freedom. In fact, you cannot have proper individual freedom unless you have good national security because people cannot be free if they are not secure.

It’s a matter of balancing all those considerations, but really they are related and consistent with each other rather than contradictory.

JOURNALIST:

You were John Howard’s chief of staff, do you think he would agree?

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

Yes, I think he would. It’s a broad church with liberal and conservative tributaries and I think the other thing he would say is that the things that unite the Liberal Party are bigger than the things that divide us.

And as a party we should always look for those things that we have in common. In John Howard’s time what was important was that having come out of 13 years of opposition everybody in the government, whether they came from a conservative background or a small l liberal background, the overriding objective was how do we work together to advance our cause and to stay in government.

JOURNALIST:

But do you agree that the foundations of the Liberal Party were in the centre of a progressive party?

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

The point that Menzies was making was that it’s progressive in the sense that we preserve the best of the past in a conservative sense, but embrace the future as time requires, otherwise you don’t go on to contribute.

JOURNALIST:

Some see this as a way of quietening the conservatives and it is causing quite a stir. Do you see it that way?

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

If you read the text of the Prime Minister’s speech it was very much about that balance in the party and the role of the Liberal leader is to be the leader of the whole Liberal Party and not of one sub-section or another.

And Malcolm Turnbull is doing that. Some people accuse him of being too much on the right and others accuse him of being on the left. The fact is that across policy he does what is required in the national interest and ultimately it is not about us and our internal discussions and philosophy – as interesting as that might be – ultimately it is about what is concerning our everday fellow Australians – cost of living, the need to have housing affordability, the need to be promoting as many jobs for as many people as possible.

JOURNALIST:

How do you think the speech will be received by your other colleagues in the party?

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

I think that is up to them. The point that I am making is that the things that unite us as a party are bigger than the things that divide us and ultimately our focus has to be on people out there.

That is also the great lesson of John Howard’s time in government.

JOURNALIST:

Should this be playing out on the world stage? This is internal politics.

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

Well the speech in London was a speech overwhelmingly about national security and the fact that pursuing national security we do not jettison our commitment to freedom and the individual.

And also it was to a think tank so it had a philosophical basis to it. So I think the Prime Minister can be trusted to cover all of that in the context of talking about national security and freedom.

JOURNALIST:

The latest poll shows a switch when it comes to the issue of a plebiscite..

ARTHUR SINODINOS:

The poll I saw in the Australian indicated that 46 per cent of people favoured a plebiscite as opposed to a parliamentary vote. My point is this: We went to the election with a commitment to have a plebiscite and what we are asking Labor and the other parties to do is to actually give us the opportunity to implement our promises.

Australians get cynical when political parties…break their promises. We are trying to keep our promise. They get cynical …