ABC Capital Hill, Interview with Greg Jennett

Release Date: 
10 August 2015
Transcript
E&OE

GREG JENNETT:
Alan Tudge, we’re hearing a lot of good intentions today about the tone of the House. Will it last?

ALAN TUDGE:
I think it will. We’ve just elected Tony Smith to be the new Speaker. I think he’ll do an outstanding job. He’s a relatively young member at 47, he’s been in the parliament though for 14 years so he brings a lot of experience. I think he’s respected on both sides and I think he will bring a good discipline and a good tone to the parliament.

GREG JENNETT:
We were just talking about Tony Smith. He’s been knocking around in one job or another in student politics, as an adviser or as an MP in politics for 27 years now. Can he just flick the switch now to be non-partisan in one day?

ALAN TUDGE:
I think he’s demonstrated that he can do that through his chairmanship of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters where he worked very effectively with all the parties to bring together a unanimous report calling for electoral reform of the Senate. So there’s a good illustration of where he can do that. I think that members of the Labor party do acknowledge that. And even Adam Bandt acknowledged that in his remarks this morning.

GREG JENNETT:
There must be times when the pressures on there and inevitably his non-partisanship will be questioned. He’s talking about a house that needn’t be rude and needn’t be loud but it just by definition almost is, isn’t it?

ALAN TUDGE:
It doesn’t have to be and that was his message this morning. Yes it will always be robust and it should be a robust chamber because this is the ultimate chamber for the clash of ideas and of ideals. But it doesn’t always 2 have to be as loud and as rude which is what Tony Smith was saying and that’s what his ambition is for the remainder of this term.

GREG JENNETT:
How did he arrive at this position not to be in the party room from today onwards? Was that something he informed you all about this morning or was it something that was collectively decided by the party room?

ALAN TUDGE:
He had decided that himself when he put his name forward a week ago to his colleagues to say he might be standing. And he said then that he would not be participating in the party room. Listen, I actually think that’s an important symbolic measure, but it’s also important from a practical perspective as well that he does remove himself from the day to day party political discussions in the joint party room every week.

GREG JENNETT:
You’re from that part of Melbourne. The argument against doing this sort of thing in the past was that it might disenfranchise or leave less-well represented the member of his electorate. Do you think that’s going to apply in the seat of Casey?

ALAN TUDGE:
I hope it doesn’t and I don’t think it will. He’s been an outstanding member there in the seat of Casey which is just next door to my electorate in outer eastern Melbourne. He’s been there since 2001 and during that time he’s also held quite senior portfolio positions as well which do take you away from your electorate for some time. I find that myself in my Parliamentary Secretary role. I think this will be similar. He’ll be able to do the balance between the two. He will absolutely still be a very effective local member, that’s what he’s known for, that’s what he’s good at and he’ll continue to do that.

GREG JENNETT:
You were touching there on the issue of travel and entitlements. Parliament may want to set a higher tone today and yet it’s still got that scandal rattling around in the background. Do you have your own view about what should stay and what should go in this review process, things like family travel, for instance, do you have a broad definition of what you think it should look like?

ALAN TUDGE:
I have some of my own views Greg and I will put my own views forward through the review process, but sometimes there are some grey areas which we do need to take some time to sort out. Family travel is one of those. We’ve got a number of people at the moment for example, men and women, who have got young babies with them. Inevitably they will want to travel from time to time when we are up in Canberra or further afield. We don't want to knock that out altogether because otherwise there could be a concern about being a family friendly environment given that we do have to spend half our time here in Canberra. 3

GREG JENNETT:
Party work, particularly party fundraisers - can they be justified in the future?

ALAN TUDGE:
This will be under review through the root-and-branch entitlements review which the Prime Minister has set up. Again, in some instances I think it can be justified but I can also see the counter-veiling argument. We are…. at the end of the day, we have multiple roles as members of parliament. One of those roles is being a member of a political party and I think that does need to be taken into account when this review is being undertaken.

GREG JENNETT:
And as it is being undertaken, do you think there is a degree of bipartisanship? Some people are calling it a truce or ceasefire. Is that something you are observing has been negotiated or have people just fallen into that pattern, given all the scandal over the last few weeks.

ALAN TUDGE:
I don't know whether there has been any discussions or not. What I do know is that the Prime Minister has set up a committee to look at the entitlements issue which consists of both a former member of the Liberal Party and Labor Party, respected members in each case. We do want to get a bipartisan agreement on the entitlements review.

GREG JENNETT:
When Parliament gets back to regular duties tomorrow, the Government enters this session according to the polls, slipping further back. At what point does panic set in and say that a trend is emerging and you've been unable to shift it?

ALAN TUDGE:
Listen, Greg, polls move up and down, as you know, over the months…

GREG JENNETT:
Well, the latest move is down.

ALAN TUDGE:
The latest move is down, but previously we were up to, I think, 49-51 a few weeks ago, so yes they are down some weeks, up other weeks. We have an absolutely core focus on our twin pillars of economic security and national security and we are going to be laser-like focused on ensuring that those two things are there, that there are job opportunities for people, that people feel as if they're getting their cost of living pressures addressed because electricity prices are coming down. They are the types of measures we are focused on.

GREG JENNETT:
You’ve been talking about those for quite a while. Where’s the evidence that they have any political potency for the government? 

ALAN TUDGE:
Well, we’ll be talking about those things right up to the election Greg because they are the things which are most important to everyday Australians. They want to feel secure in their house and in their nation, in their city, but also they want to ensure there are economic opportunities for them and their children to be able to get jobs, to get ahead, to become wealthier. So they are our twin focal points and that's what we will be continuing to fight for in the weeks ahead.

GREG JENNETT:
Alan Tudge, thank you.

ALAN TUDGE:
Thanks so much Greg.

[ENDS]