ABC AM with Michael Brissenden – 15 September 2015

September 15th, 2015 | Transcripts

E&OE……………

Topics: Liberal Party Leadership; Getting on with governing

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

For more on the dramatic change of leadership we’re joined now by the man who stood last night for the deputy leader’s position alongside Tony Abbott, the current Defence Minister Kevin Andrews.
Kevin Andrews, welcome to the program.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Good morning, Michael.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Aren’t you now, the Liberal Party now, everything you criticised about the Labor Party?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Look these things happen from time to time, but Malcolm is now leader. That was a decision taken last night. And the challenge for us is now to get on and be united and to show the Australian people that we can continue to govern this country and we do it deserving of re-election.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Sure. It’s a big challenge because you spent the last couple of years basically criticising the Labor Party for its revolving door of leadership.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

It is a big challenge but we’ve got to be up to that challenge. That’s the reality.

You mentioned that I stood for deputy leader last night. I did that after Malcolm had been elected leader. I did it as a way of reaching out and saying to him that I can work with him, that I believe other people like me can work with him, and that’s what we’ve got to.

We’ve got to be together, we’ve got to be unified, we’ve got to be what he described last night as the broad church. That’s important for the good of this country, for the good of the people, and indeed for the good of the party itself.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Okay, presumably you’ve spoken to Tony Abbott since the events that unfolded last night, have you?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

I spoke to him last night Michael and he was reflective. Tony is a decent and honourable person. He was stoic about it. And presumably he’ll make a comment today.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Is he going to stay in Parliament and do you think he should?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Look, I don’t know, it wasn’t the time last night to have that sort of discussion.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

But surely you don’t want to have another situation as we saw in the Labor Party with somebody sitting in the background destabilising the leadership for months and months and months, do you?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well, as I said, Tony is a decent, honourable person and that’s the way in which he’s always acted and I can’t see him acting any differently in the future.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

What about your colleagues from the right of the party? Because clearly as you heard from the likes of Cory Bernardi, there are some who are pretty upset about the way this has unfolded. Do you think you can overcome these divisions?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well let me say that on a personal basis there’s always hurt and frustration and grief at these circumstances. That’s natural; that’s human.

But what I did last night, coming from as you say the right of the party, what I did last night in putting my hand up to say I’m prepared to work with you as deputy leader and garner the support in those circumstances of about a third of the party room, was to indicate to Malcolm that I, as one of the leaders of the sort of conservative wing of the party, are prepared to work with him and be that broad church which he spoke about.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Now I know you bring up this broad church a lot, but do you think that the party had been heading in the wrong direction?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Look we’ve been doing a lot of things very very well. I mean you…

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Some things though were very unpopular, weren’t they?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Look, every government has to make tough decisions from time to time.
You know, you’re interested in defence, look at my portfolio, look at the decisions we made last week about the Syria deployment of our RAAF planes, and more significantly the compassionate response we made to the Syrian refugee crisis, widely acclaimed in the community, I think good decisions. And there were many good decisions of the Government.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Malcolm Turnbull says he’s promised a more liberal Prime Ministership – what do you take that to mean?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Look, that expression that I think John Howard first coined, the broad-church, is the Liberal Party. It’s the custodian of two great traditions, political traditions – the liberal, classic liberal tradition and the conservative tradition.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

But clearly he’s, by stating that, he thinks that there was too much of the conservative tradition and not enough of the liberal tradition.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well look I’m not a commentator. I try to argue the policy positions as I see them. But one thing I do know, and that is that the Liberal Party is only being successful when it is that broad church, when it’s unified. When it’s not, when any party is not unified, when it’s divided, then the Australian people take a very dim view of it. And that’s the challenge for us now.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Do you see Malcolm Turnbull as a threat to those conservative traditions?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well if it’s a broad church, if it’s inclusive, if, you know, in my reaching out to Malcolm I’m saying let’s embrace each other, let’s embrace these traditions, we’ve been able to do it in the past and we have to do it in the future if we’re going to be successful.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Now what do you think about the timing for a poll? Clearly there will be some who think he should go sooner rather than later. Do you think Malcolm Turnbull should…

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Prime ministers choose the timing of a poll and they choose it, to be frank, when they think they’ve got the best chance of being re-elected. That’s always been the case, it always will be, it won’t be any different under Malcolm as any other prime minister.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Presumably the polls, you’ll get some sort of a bounce of this though because one of the reasons why this challenge came about was simply because the polls hadn’t shifted for such a long time. Should you take advantage of that?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Look, I never comment on polls. Polls bounce around, as you know, and we’ll just have to see what the polls show. But one thing I do know and that’s this: If we are not united, if we’re not that broad church, then the chances of getting that sort of bounce in the polls is going to be more difficult.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

You’re also a senior member from the Liberal Party from Victoria. Now the polling in Victoria had been particularly bad over the last year or so, hasn’t it?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

As I said, polls go up and down. The only poll that counts in politics is the one on election day. We’re facing, you know, a by-election in Canning which we expect to win next Saturday. We’ve got a very good candidate. But ultimately it’s the people’s decision and that’s why I come back to the point that we have to be united, because that’s the good thing for this country and a good thing for the people.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

I know you keep saying we have to be united, we have to be united. I mean these are the sorts of things that the Labor Party said after their leadership changes as well and we saw how well that went. So, do you have any concerns that while you might say that, there might be others in the party who might act to undermine the Turnbull leadership?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well, as one of the senior members of the party I’m stating this clearly: I’m saying this is the way in which we should go forward. I’m saying that we’ve all got a challenge from Malcolm down, and the only way in which we can overcome that challenge successfully is if we clearly work together. And that’s what I’m offering to do and that’s the only way which I think we can go forward.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

And do you want to keep your job, presumably you do?

MINISTER ANDREWS:

Well look we’re at a very significant time so far as defence is concerned. We’re about to bring out a white paper. We’re in the midst of the submarine evaluation. We’re in the midst of replacing the navy, you know, almost completely over the next decade or so.

It takes a long time to get on top of the complexity of defence and I would be happy to continue in this role, because I don’t think it’s good for the security and the safety of this country and for the well being of our defence forces to keep changing defence ministers.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

Okay, Kevin Andrews, thank you very much for joining us.

MINISTER ANDREWS:

A pleasure, Michael.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN:

That is the current Defence Minister Kevin Andrews.

Ends.