ABC NewsRadio with Marius Benson – 3 December, 2014

SANDY ALOISI:

Well the Prime Minister moved to hit the reset button for his government on Monday to set a new direction after what he described as a ragged week for the Coalition. But the two days since have just produced more bad news for the Abbott Government, and yesterday brought another defeat at the hands of cross bench Senators. To look at a difficult end to what the Prime Minister has called a tumultuous year Marius Benson is speaking to the Social Services Minister, Kevin Andrews.

MARIUS BENSON:

Kevin Andrews the Prime Minister hit the reset button two days ago after what he called a ragged week last week and since then there’s been the defeat for the key legislation of the higher education bill, another bad opinion poll, unhappiness reported within the Ministry about the dominance of the Prime Minister’s office. Not much of a reset so far.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Look as the Prime Minister said we’ve had a bit of a ragged week and a difficult time, these things don’t change overnight but the main thing is that the Government is aware of the challenges it faces and the need to communicate those challenges again and again to the Australian people.

MARIUS BENSON:

But you’ve been doing that for some time without apparent success.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well as I said these things don’t change rapidly Marius and the important thing for us is to have an ongoing discussion with the Australian people about the challenges that Australia faces. I mean the reality is that we inherited a situation which was a mess made by Labor.

Labor won’t face up to the fact they made a mess and are now trying to do everything they can to stop us fixing up that mess. We’ve got to continue to communicate that to the Australian people, to show them where we want to go and to take them into our confidence.

MARIUS BENSON:

That has been the Government’s mantra throughout the year, but you haven’t won the public over, you clearly aren’t winning the Senate over. Does the Government have to change, change something in the way of policy, change in the way of personnel?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

No it’s a matter, I believe, of continuing to explain to the Australian people what the challenge they face is. I think we’re facing a situation where other voices are simply saying there’s no problems facing Australia, it’s alright, it will all be good. That’s simply not right, the reality is we’ve got this huge deficit; we’ve got a galloping debt. If we don’t do something about it we’re going to (inaudible) an inheritance to our children a situation which will be, you know a huge burden upon them. Our task is to explain why that’s the case, what we’re trying to do and also to point out that nobody else has got a plan to fix that. I mean every time Mr Shorten says no to a spending reduction, then he should be required to say what reasonable, appropriate thing he would cut in order to bring the budget back under control.

MARIUS BENSON:

But Labor has expressed a litany of things that could be cut, starting with the Paid Parental Leave, moving onto superannuation tax changes, any number of options that Labor has put forward.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well the Paid Parental Leave Scheme as an example is something which is largely paid for by the contributions of the largest companies in Australia. So that’s not realistic, that’s just something which they’re opposing for the sake of opposing it….

MARIUS BENSON:

That meets half the cost doesn’t it, the company tax increase.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Yeah but that’s not going to go towards the huge deficit we’ve got at the present time, it’s not going to do anything much towards the major debt we’re galloping towards. So you know when Labor says we’re not going to do anything about doctor’s fees, we’re not going to do anything about higher education which they were spending less and less on overtime, and we’re planning to spend more on.

When they just stand in the way of reasonable things which are going to make the future for this country and for our children worse then they’ve got to come up with something reasonable rather than just whinging and complaining the way they are at the moment.

MARIUS BENSON:

As a leading Victorian in the Ministry do you agree with the assessment from Jeff Kennett and Peter Reith, the former Minister amongst others, that Victorians feel distanced from a Sydney-centric Abbott Government?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Oh look I think after an election defeat there’s a natural tendency to find some reason, other than your own performance, as to why you lost the election. I’ve lost elections in the past, I’ve been part of Governments that have been there, the Howard Government. What you’ve got to do is be realistic about why you lost the election. The reality is that the Victorian Government were behind in the polls for about three years, you look at the exit polls on Saturday evening. I think one of them said that federal issues were about six per cent of the reasons there and that’s probably about a realistic assessment of it. So the reality is that if there was a federal factor at play, why is it that Campbell Newman is eight points ahead in the polls, and why is it that Mike Baird in NSW is ten points ahead in the polls.

MARIUS BENSON:

In summary then nothing then has to change in the way of personnel or policies, just continue the sales pitch which appears not to be resonating either in the Senate or the public at large?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

No what I’m saying is that we have to communicate better, we have to tell people what the challenges are, we have to explain to them over again and again how we are trying to meet those challenges. So we need to go back to the basic messages of what the Liberal Party stands for and how we are trying to put those beliefs into practice in the situation and the challenges we face at the present time.

MARIUS BENSON:

Kevin Andrews thanks very much.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

My pleasure Marius.