Standing up for Canberra

Transcript: Interview with 666 ABC Breakfast

SUBJECTS: Captain Chaos Tony Abbott; Liberal infighting; Queensland State Election

PHILIP CLARKE: It was an amazing result in Queensland over the weekend. You must have been surprised? Everybody else was.

GAI BRODTMANN, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR CANBERRA: Yes, it was an extraordinary result, a great result for Queensland Labor and I want to congratulate Annastacia Palaszczuk and her team. I was actually up there on Saturday. I went up there to help out with my former colleague Yvette D'Ath, who is now the member for Redcliffe. And I handed out how to vote cards at the Humpybong Primary School. It was just fantastic being up there and being a part of the atmosphere and vibe. And just getting a sense of what Queenslanders were focusing on.

CLARKE: Liberal Senator for the ACT Zed Seselja is with us as well. Morning Zed.

ZED SESELJA, LIBERAL SENATOR FOR THE ACT: Morning Phillip.

CLARKE: You must have been surprised by the Queensland result too?

SESELJA: Oh look I think Annastacia Palaszczuk is surprised by the Queensland result. I don’t think anyone going into Saturday would have expected a change of Government. So obviously it was a result that none of us picked.

CLARKE: Anyone calling you this morning saying which side are you on?

SESELJA: No.

CLARKE: Angus Young when I spoke to him earlier said changing leaders is the wrong idea. Is that your view?

SESELJA: I think its Angus Taylor but –

CLARKE: Did I say Angus Young again?

SESELJA: You did. ACDC is coming back. Yeah look Angus is right; you know we have seen what’s happened with the previous government when they got into the habit of changing leaders. We’ve seen it - if you go back to the previous NSW Labor government - it was changing leaders all the time. I don’t think that does anyone any favours. I think what we need to be doing is to be making sure at this mid-point in the term that we’re evaluating what’s working, working on the things that aren’t, ensuring that we’re listening to the Australian people when they’re telling us certain things and making sure that our policies are always improving. And also acknowledging in the situation where we don’t have the majority in the Senate that there will be policies that we want to get through that we simply can’t. And that’s the sort of thing that needs to be done and that’s the sort of thing I’m sure the Prime Minister will be outlining.

CLARKE: You’ve got the Queensland result though Zed and you’ve also got a Fairfax poll that’s out today which just confirms again what the polls have been telling you for some time - that Mr Abbott is on the nose and the party’s well behind. So you can’t leave that situation to run forever, can you?

SESELJA: Well you certainly don’t leave it and I’m sure the Prime Minister’s not and neither is the Government. What I will say though, I’ll make this point, many people have written off Tony Abbott before. I remember him being written off in ’07. After the 2007 election I remember people saying that he could never be leader. I remember people saying when he became leader that he could never become Prime Minister, yet he took us to an historic election victory. He led us very capably from Opposition into government and I believe he is the man to lead us forward right through to the next election and beyond.

CLARKE: Bill Shorten has not been saying much Gai Brodtmann, he doesn’t need to does he?

BRODTMANN: Just going back to your point, I think this is less about the leader and more about bad policies. Policies that actually cut into the social fabric, policies that work against and attack what Australians value and hold precious. Policies that attack our universal healthcare system, policies that deny access to university for working class kids, for those who can’t afford it, policies that cut pensions. This is less about leadership Phillip and more about bad policies, broken promises and a lack of trust, arrogance - these are all very strong messages that we got from the Queensland election.

CLARKE: Zed are you happy that this PPL policy is going, is being dumped today?

SESELJA: Well look we’ll wait and see what is actually announced. It does appear that it’s likely to be at least shelved for the time being –

CLARKE: Is that something you’re pleased about?

SESELJA: Well certainly if you look at the reality – we can’t get it through the Senate. That’s a fact. And the other reality is that we have a massive budget deficit to deal with and so things that may be a good idea sometimes have to be put off until you get the finances in order. I heard Wayne Swan saying earlier that this is a battle of ideas, not about the leader. Well I agree to some extent. The issue at the moment is that when you talk about a battle of ideas, the alternative government hasn’t put forward any ideas. There is not one policy that they’ve put forward. They’re good at saying no at the moment, they’re good at saying well that’s not the way to fix the budget deficit that they created but they haven’t put anything forward. I would say Phillip that in six or 12 months’ time, as more pressure is put on the Opposition to actually outline what their prescription is for fixing the mess that they created, I suspect that the polls and mood in the electorate will be in a very different place.

CLARKE: Fair point. Gai Brodtmann?

BRODTMANN: Well Bill made this clear yesterday on Insiders; we always made it clear that in our first year we were going to be holding the government to account. We were going to be holding the government to account on attacks to those values – those very precious elements that Australians hold dear like universal healthcare, like access to universities for all, like pensions and keeping up with the cost of living, we always made that clear. As Bill said yesterday on Insiders, we are in the process of developing our platform to take to conference in mid-year and we’re also developing policies. We’ve had a number of conversations with a range of interest groups throughout Australia during the last six months of last year, we continue to listen, to talk to people, to get ideas, and we will have a full suite of policies to put to the Australian people for the next election. 

CLARKE: Just to both of you – it seems politics has changed – it’s not what it was, loyalties are not what they were and the 24/7 news cycle that we’re engaged in has meant that these sorts of swings that we’ve seen in Queensland and the sorts of events that we’ve seen engulfing Mr Abbott over the past week are more and more likely. It’s moving at a pace that none of us can cope with, do you think Zed?

SESELJA: Well I think it’s certainly a fair point that is has changed. It’s a fair point that the volatility is like probably nothing that we’ve ever seen. I think Angus Taylor earlier on highlighted the fact that when you’re talking about now that only 40% of the electorate who are not rusted on to either side of politics, you’re going to see those types of swings. So –

CLARKE: We’re just running out of time. Gai, what do you think?

BRODTMANN: Well I think that what we’ve seen in Victoria and the catastrophic result we saw from the LNP on the weekend just underscored the fact that Australians don’t want broken promises; they want governments they can trust and also they want governments that listen to them. That actually go out there and listen to them and respond to their needs.

CLARKE: And explain things too. Alright we’ve run up against the news headlines, but Zed Seselja thank you very much for your time. Thank you Gai Brodtmann, the member for Canberra.

BRODTMANN: Thank you Phil.