774 ABC Mornings with Jon Faine – 6 February, 2015

JON FAINE:

Political circles are a swirl with rumours and claims and promises and the phones are running hot. Yet again this time it’s a Liberal Party leadership brawl that has erupted and is in full swing. Sky News are reporting that there are three member of the Ministry who are committing themselves to a spill vote, and a spill vote then leads logically to anyone else nominating and the speculation now is no longer about Julie Bishop or anyone else but entirely about Malcolm Turnbull. The Australian on its front page today says if Tony Abbott sacks his Chief of Staff Peta Credlin that might stave off a revolt but if he refuses to and stays loyal to her then that will trigger some sort of party consequences. Well is it as simple as that, I’m not sure. Kevin Andrews is the Minister for Defence and defence seems to include defending the Prime Minister his leader, he’s the Member for Menzies in the Federal Parliament. Kevin Andrews good morning again.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Good morning again Jon.

JON FAINE:

It’s uh becoming a bit like Groundhog Day. First of all how matters stand do you think there will be a spill next Monday night or Tuesday in Party Room?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Look at this stage I don’t believe there will be Jon. Um these things are always fluid but I think even if there was one it will not succeed.

JON FAINE:

Why would senior Ministers and some of your colleagues then be prevaricating when they’ve previously been firm in their support for the Prime Minister?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well so far as I know the Ministry, the Cabinet is behind the Prime Minister. I think you were right in your introduction when you said there’s a swirl of rumours and claims and probably innuendo. I mean the reality is that there’s a whole lot of static out there in the media and the atmosphere but what actually adds up to reality I find over the years is entirely different.

JON FAINE:

And yet day, after day, after day now for weeks this has consumed your party and prevented anybody from being able to get on with any other work including, dare I say it, governing the country.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

No to the contrary Jon, I’ve been getting on with the job in my portfolio, the Prime Minister’s out in Mitcham today with Michael Sukaar, the Member for Deakin, all of us are getting on with the job. Largely this is something which is being driven in and by the media rather than what we are actually doing.

JON FAINE:

It’s not being driven by the media Mr Andrews and that’s a bit disingenuous. You’ve got senior Liberals who clearly are engaging in a counting of the numbers to determine whether or not Tony Abbott continues. I understand your instincts are to support him because of your closeness but you can’t deny the reality and just attribute this entirely to the media.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Look Jon I think there is few people who are unhappy, a few people who are disgruntled, but the way to do this is to actually have a discussion about the issues and address the issues. The Prime Minister in his Press Club speech quite clearly indicated that he was listening to his colleagues, that he was addressing the issues, that there was a new direction. Now the way in the Liberal Party is to give that a go, that’s what we’ve tried to do in the past and that’s what we should be doing, I mean past eras not just recently, that’s what we should be doing now. If people have got a beef about something sit down with the Prime Minister or sit down with the Minister and work it out because if we just go down this track that every time someone is disgruntled about something or there’s a bad poll you swap leaders. Well that just leads to instability and that’s not the way to go. We were elected to end that sort of nonsense from the Rudd Gillard Rudd years; to engage in it ourselves is just to let down the Australian people.

JON FAINE:

Should the Prime Minister get rid of his Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, as a way of reassuring in particular nervous backbenchers in Queensland and NSW now that things can be turned around?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Look my experiences of Peta Credlin has been a very valuable member of the broadly the government…

JON FAINE:

She’s not a member of the government it’s the whole point Mr Andrews you spelled it out…

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Jon, Jon I used the word broadly and I was using it in the sense that government is not just the Ministers and backbenchers but our staff are, you know, incredibly important parts of that. And Peta Credlin has done a very significant job over the years and anybody who doesn’t understand that you know doesn’t understand the contribution she’s made…

JON FAINE:

But could you address my question, should he lose the loyal Chief of Staff who he has relied upon as a way of demonstrating that things are changing in his office and his approach?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well Tony Abbott is a man of great loyalty and I think everybody should be showing similar degrees of loyalty at the moment. I think if people have got an issue go and talk to the Prime Minister about it, come and talk to me about it, talk to the other senior colleagues in the government because my sense is that the problems that are there can be resolved. You know if every time we had a bad poll or somebody was disgruntled in the Howard Government, John Howard would have not been, had we just changed leader, not have been the second longest serving Prime Minister of Australia. Yet generally these people regard that era as one of very significant So there are ways to do this, and the way to do this is to give the Prime Minister the clean air that he needs to have a go and get on with things and let’s have a discussion about the issues that people say they’re concerned about.

JON FAINE:

But my specific question you did not address, should Peta Credlin go?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

I don’t believe she should, it’s not a matter for me it’s a matter for the Prime Minister, but she has been a very significant contributor to our success both in opposition and in

JON FAINE:

If you say that people who have a problem with the way the government’s going should go and speak to the Prime Minister about it, that implies that the Prime Minister is available and prepared to speak to them. Various reports in the last few days have confirmed that the Prime Minister has changed his mobile phone number and members of his own party no longer have the number and that in fact Ms Credlin controls the diary and who gets to meet the Prime Minister, and it’s not possible to go and tell the Prime Minister if you think in fact things aren’t going so well.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well that’s just disingenuous on the part of anybody making that claim. I’ve got the Prime Minister’s number, as far as I know all of my colleagues on the backbench and the frontbench have got the Prime Minister’s number. I know that from backbenchers telling me that so that claim is simply wrong. And secondly the Prime Minister has been very open; I mean he often holds forums of backbench members. I’ve had backbench members say to me they’ve been to see the Prime Minister. So as I said your opening statement about rumours and claims is pretty true about all of this. You know there are things that are being said that are simply not true.

JON FAINE:

Will there be a spill?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Look I don’t believe so at this stage but as you know the rules are that it only takes a couple of people to move for a spill, so I can’t rule it out because nobody could rule it in or out but I don’t believe there will be but even if there was I don’t believe it would be successful.

JON FAINE:

So there we have it, as well as Christopher Pyne the Defence Minister is saying you can’t guarantee that your own leader has got the numbers.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

No I’m not saying that Jon and this is where words get twisted and I looked at the total context of what Christopher Pyne said and he went on to warn his colleagues about making any change to the Prime Ministership. So you know I can say I hope the Prime Minister is still in the job next week, I can also say that I believe he will be in the job next week. So this sort of play on words at the moment is not really very helpful and it’s just twisting the real meaning of what people like me would say. I think the situation is that the Cabinet supports the Prime Minister, the Ministry supports the Prime Minister and I think the majority of the backbench apart from a few people who have a beef about this or that still support the Prime Minister and want to give him a go to try and get things back on track.

JON FAINE:

Mr Andrews as always the text messages are far wittier than I could be…

MINISTER ANDREWS:

I’m sure they are…

JON FAINE:

Kate in East Melbourne says maybe some of your marriage counselling vouchers that you introduced in your previous portfolio could be used to patch things up amongst the Liberal Party. Thank you for your time this morning…

MINISTER ANDREWS:

I appreciate the sentiment Jon, thank you.

JON FAINE:

We’ve still got to laugh, Kevin Andrews Minister for Defence and Member for Menzies in the Abbott Government.