ABC 24 Capital Hill Interview with Greg Jennett

Release Date: 
24 February 2015

Topics: Liberal Party leaks, Newspoll

GREG JENNETT: Alan Tudge is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister so to talk about those issues, he joins us now.

When a servant of the party puts into print words like "Should hang their heads in collective shame" and complains about trust and retribution and sends it to at least 27 addressees, it's designed to leak, isn't it?

ALAN TUDGE: I don't know about that, but it certainly had a message for the recipients. We have had a tough few weeks as you know, but that is now behind us. The spill motion was defeated. We are very much concentrating on those things which matter to the Australian people. That is our absolute focus, no longer focusing on our internal dynamics, no longer focusing on what one party official or volunteer said, but focusing on those things that matter to the Australian people - economic and national security in particular.

GREG JENNETT: Mr Higginson would be a person of some stature, wouldn't he? He claims to have actively participated in raising almost $70 million for the party, so it puts him in a position of some importance?

ALAN TUDGE: Absolutely. He has been a great servant of the party. He was the national treasurer of the administrative arm of the party and, through that, being one of the chief fundraisers. Of course we take what he says seriously, he is a highly respected individual but we will deal with those matters internally ourselves and very much focus on what matters to the Australian people.

GREG JENNETT: The Prime Minister has both described this Higginson letter as a storm in a teacup, but also of people having a desire to damage and destroy his government. Do you take that to be a reference to those in and around the Liberal Party itself?

ALAN TUDGE: Listen, I have read what he has put down in his email. I don't agree with all the things which he stated in his email. I don't want to get into the ins and outs of what we're doing inside the ranks of the Liberal Party. I want to talk about the things that matter to the Australian people. They are concerned about cost of living pressures, jobs growth, national security and they are very much the things we are focused on.

GREG JENNETT: But is it any coincidence that Mr Higginson highlights what history will now record was a grievance, and even still is a grievance, of the party room as well which is control and operations within the PMO. Do you not see how these streams are flowing together?

ALAN TUDGE: The main thing which he raised in his email, which has been reported in the Fairfax press today, was
his concern about the relationship between the Federal director and the Chief of Staff. My only point to that is those two individuals have been - Brian Loughnane the federal director has been in his position for 12 years.

Peta Credlin, the Chief of Staff, has been in her position for - what it would be - I think four or five years. None of these concerns were raised previously. They weren't raised when we almost won the 2010 election. They weren't raised when we emphatically won the 2013 election. I think we want to put this into perspective, put these issues behind us and focus back on the issues that matter to everyday Australians.

GREG JENNETT: You are a Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister. I guess that implies that he is open to listening to your advice. What would be your advice about the sustainability of those two positions – Mr Loughnane and more importantly, Peta Credlin. Do you offer advice…[inaudible]

ALAN TUDGE: Those two people have been absolute policy and political professionals for well over a decade each now. They've been key parts of our team for such a long time. I have a very good relationship with each of them.

I constantly raise things with each of the two individuals and I raise things, of course, directly with the Prime Minister and other Cabinet ministers as well. I have immense regard for both of them.

GREG JENNETT: If it is a storm in a teacup, it's probably a storm the government can't afford to have right now with Newspoll suggesting that it remains behind Labor – 53 to 47 two-party preferred. What's your explanation for what is going on and at what point might a more significant turnaround occur?

ALAN TUDGE: Greg, I look at those Newspoll figures and actually saw a bit of an upside rather than downside. We're still in a weak position but the change over a fortnight has actually been a quite considerable improvement for the stocks of the Coalition.

The most significant result was a very significant drop in the net satisfaction ratings for Bill Shorten. We've still got a long way to go. We've had tough weeks and we've admitted the mistakes we have made but we have also put in place a number of structures for greater consultation, we have made a number of policy

changes already, for example, in relation to foreign ownership of agricultural land. There will be further changes made in relation to small business, in relation to families…

GREG JENNETT: Do you think those policy announcements are responsible for what Newspoll suggests was a three-point lift in the primary vote?

ALAN TUDGE: There are all sorts of things which go into that but I think the Australian people are sick of seeing
political parties talking about themselves. When they see us very much focusing on the things that matter to them, then I think they reward that political party. That's what we have been doing over the last couple of weeks.

That is our absolute firm commitment to do for the months and years ahead. Focus on those things
that matter to them. It is childcare. It is small businesses. It is ensuring the budget is under control so we are not leaving Labor's debt for future generations to pay off. It's ensuring jobs growth. We have seen such terrific jobs growth in the last 16 months since this Government has been in power. They are the type of things we  are absolutely focused on.

GREG JENNETT: Alright Alan Tudge, we'll let you get on with that mission. Thank you.

ALAN TUDGE: Thanks so much Greg.