SUBJECTS: Chaos and division in the Abbott Government; Tony Abbott’s plan for $100,000 degrees; Tony Abbott’s broken promises; Abbott’s $20 co-payment backflip
MARK PARTON: So many of the journalists who are running out of things to write about Gai Brodtmann are suggesting that maybe there’s drama in the Coalition. That there are these anonymous members, they’re not putting their names to these comments, but they’re extremely concerned about the way things are being run and there are suggestions maybe there’s pressure on the leadership of Tony Abbott. What do you make of this Gai, fan the flames for us will you?
BRODTMANN: Well last year was marked by dysfunction and broken promise after broken promise. We’re not even a month into the new year and we’re already seeing the dysfunction and broken promises repeated. We’ve seen multiple positions on Medicare and we’ve seen those promises broken. We’ve seen multiple positions on higher education deregulation. Earlier this week the Treasurer said there were going to be no changes, now the Minister for Education is negotiating changes. So it’s been an interesting start to the year. A year that looks like it will continue to be a government that is dysfunctional and untrustworthy.
PARTON: Zed, you’ve got to admit Gai does make some good points there. On Medicare, there’s been more positions than you’ll find in the Kamasutra from you blokes, hasn’t there?
SESELJA: Ah that’s a nice easy line there Mark. Just going back to the earlier point if I could, I think the Labor party and Gai now perhaps are trying to project their own former problems onto us. Look that’s not what’s going on, we’re not like the Labor party were in office were they chopped and changes leaders. We’re getting on with what is a very difficult job, and that’s primarily fixing the budget mess that we inherited. That’s a tough job, it’s not an easy job and it’s not always going to win you a lot of friends at times Mark. But we know it’s necessary because if you don’t fix it, you know, look at what has happened in Europe when things get out of control with your budget. Now we’re not there, and we don’t ever want to be there but the only way you don’t get there is to make hard decisions by living within your means over a period of time and that’s what we’re seeking to do.
PARTON: Okay never mind what happens in Europe, you look at what happens in your party when there’s disquiet, look at what happened to this last mob when they were in office. Are you trying to tell me that everyone is fine and dandy and happy as Larry with the way things are being steered at the moment?
SESELJA: Well what I tell you is that we’re getting on with the job. Look, you talk about anonymous sources, there’s always going to be anonymous sources within parties and there will always be some people who aren’t happy. There’s no doubt about that. That doesn’t mean that that’s going to distract the government from doing the necessary job which is primarily fixing the budget mess and getting things under control. There’s a range of things we’ve done, I think very, very well. If you look at the last year in particular, people said things like ‘oh you won’t be able to stop the boats’ and ‘asylum seekers will keep arriving on our shores, people will keep drowning’. Well, we have. And that’s a massive success and has saved a lot of lives. There are a range of other areas such as free trade agreements, getting on with the job, building the economy. There are a lot of achievements, there’s a lot more to do there’s no doubt about it, but you always get anonymous sources and you always get the odd disgruntled sources within the party.
BRODTMANN: I don’t think it’s odd Mark, it’s not the odd person. I think that there’s plenty of disgruntled backbenchers particularly, who are very, very worried about their seats. As Nick Xenophon said yesterday I think it was, the Abbott Government is in a whole lot of trouble on so many levels. If my conversations at Christmas are anything to go by, I had a number of Liberal friends stay with us at the coast and also heard of stories –
SESELJA: Didn’t know you had any liberal friends?
BRODTMANN: I do – I have many Liberal friends.
PARTON: They’re anonymous at this stage.
BRODTMANN: They are anonymous. I think they would prefer if I kept it that way too. But I heard stories about North Shore conservatives and they’ve completely tuned out. They are tearing their hair out at the dysfunctionality of this government. The fact that this government can’t communicate what its policies are and the fact that this government is essentially trying to introduce bad policies that cut across Australia’s social fabric.
SESELJA: Can I make one point to put this into context. I recall pretty well after the first year of the Howard Government when people were making similar criticisms. I think a number of Ministers were no longer there, had lost their jobs as a result of a number of things. There were a lot of difficult issues for the Howard Government to deal with. Many people were making similar sorts of commentary. What we saw was a very, very good Howard Government that served the nation for four terms. What I’m hoping and what I expect as our policies start to be implemented, the difficult job we get on with. Many of this type of commentary will be left behind and will be a distant memory.
BRODTMANN: Well we’ll see.
PARTON: We will. Thanks Zed, thanks Gai.
BRODTMANN: Thanks Mark, thanks Zed.