ABC Melbourne Interview With Jon Faine

Release Date: 
24 February 2015

Topics: internal machinations, IR …

JON FAINE: Alan Tudge, good morning to you.

ALAN TUDGE: Good morning Jon.

JON FAINE: It's not going well is it?

ALAN TUDGE: Well Jon there was a new newspoll came out today and actually showed a significant improvement for the Coalition and it showed a significant decrease in the net satisfaction rates for Bill Shorten.

We've still got a lot of work to do. We've got to rebuild the trust with the Australian people. We're focusing on what they want from us and trying to get on with governing.

JON FAINE: Is Joe Hockey going to still be Treasurer to deliver the Budget in May?

ALAN TUDGE: He certainly will be.

JON FAINE: Will Tony Abbott still be the Prime Minister to deliver the Budget in May?

ALAN TUDGE: He certainly will be Jon.

JON FAINE: The instability is starting to irritate the business community, your strongest supporters calling for you to end the end the infighting, and then this morning a leaked letter, provided not just to one, but to multiple newspapers from inside your party's organisational structure suggests that things are getting worse, not better.

ALAN TUDGE: The main issue that was outlined in that letter Jon was some internal dynamics and yes, we've got to improve our internal dynamics, we can always improve our internal dynamics. But at the end of the day the Australian people care about economic security, the national security. They care about the healthcare and education of the country, rather than what we do internally in our party and that is absolutely our focus…

JON FAINE: I couldn't agree more. The oldest saying in politics is if you can't run your party, you can't run the country and there's ample evidence pretty much day after day Mr Tudge that you're struggling to have your party running properly.

ALAN TUDGE: We've obviously had a tough few weeks Jon and…

JON FAINE: We can agree on that much!

ALAN TUDGE: We can agree on that! We've had a tough few weeks. We had that spill motion that was put to the party room now two weeks ago. That was defeated. As a consequence of that there's been a lot of changes which the Prime Minister has instituted and we're working through those changes. Now we're trying to basically, trying to, as much as possible just get on with the job.

Yesterday we had a very important national security announcement laying out some new policies to deal with the terror threat in this country.

JON FAINE: And today it gets lost as your party treasurer, an honorary position, lashes out and says the chief of staff and the federal director shouldn't be married to each other and its paralysing decision making.

ALAN TUDGE: I wouldn't agree with that assessment. These two people are absolute professionals.

Brian Loughnane, our federal director has been in that role for 12 years now. Peta Credlin, the chief of staff to the Prime Minister, has been a chief of staff or a deputy chief of staff for I think 10 years now.

JON FAINE: You've only been in government with those two in those positions for 15-16 months.

ALAN TUDGE: They've been in those positions- she's been the chief of staff to the opposition leader since, from memory about 2009. Brian Loughnane has been the director of the Liberal Party since that time.

Now no-one was complaining about a conflict of interest when we had a very good election result in 2010 and certainly no-one was complaining when we had a landslide election victory in 2013.

JON FAINE: But he has a point and it's an undeniable point which is that the two positions are supposed to be some ways be intention and instead they're not.

ALAN TUDGE: Listen my assessment is both are absolute political and policy professionals. I've known each for a very long time. I have a very good relationship with each. I discuss different issues with each individual.

There's also other avenues of course through the party structure, through the PM's office if you want to raise particular matters.

I go back to this point Jon that, yes we can discuss our internal party dynamics for the entire interview here but I think the Australian people are actually much more concerned about their personal economic security and the national security of the nation rather than the internal dynamics. We're completely and utterly focused on those things.

It's interesting I had a big public forum out in my electorate in eastern Melbourne around the Knox area last Friday with Julie Bishop as the guest. We would've fielded perhaps 30 questions and comments from the floor over the hour, hour and a half of the forum and there was not a single question on our internal dynamics. They were on asylum seekers, national security, they were on things like interest rates, economic matters…

JON FAINE: The East-West tunnel?

ALAN TUDGE: On the East West Link, they're the things which people were concerned about, not on whether or not our internal dynamics can be improved.

JON FAINE: No, people don't go to public meetings to talk about that but it is the water cooler conversation.

I will turn to policy in a moment but one more question about internal instability. The front page story in the Age today and I quote, is seven ministers who voted for Tony Abbott- for Tony Abbott- in the failed spill motion are now prepared to remove the Prime Minister if he cannot revive the governments fortunes and recover his position in the polls reports James Massola. The argument is there are seven ministers who, whilst publicly backing the Prime Minister are privately doubting his capacity to survive. That's enough to tip him out.

ALAN TUDGE: Jon I'm not going to comment on any anonymous comments which may or may not have been given to an Age journalist.

We had a spill motion put to the party room just two weeks ago now. From that motion I can tell you the Prime Minister and indeed the entire government have got a very clear message that changes need to be made, and changes indeed are being made. They're being made in policy, they're being made through greater

consultation, and they're being made by just getting on with the job and focusing less on ourselves and more on the Australian people.

JON FAINE: So is the Abbott Government's surrendering one of its most central policy promises which was to review penalty rates and the minimum wage? The front page story on the Financial Review from Ewan Hannan says you're giving up in this term on something that your backers have been begging you to do.

ALAN TUDGE: No what we promised is that we'd have a look at the industrial relations system. We said that there would be very minimal changes in this term of government other than the ones which we took to the last election.

We said that we'd have a Productivity Commission review which would inform what we take to the next election and we absolutely stand by those commitments.

JON FAINE: But your backers are getting impatient as well I suppose is the other point to take from all of this Alan Tudge, the people, the cheer squad, quite apart from the financial backers who rode home to victory on the back of the Abbott Government's win in the polls are now becoming somewhat concerned that you're unable to deliver on the key policies that they were expecting you to do.

ALAN TUDGE: Give me some examples Jon.

JON FAINE: Industrial relations is the (inaudible) so far…

ALAN TUDGE: (inaudible)

JON FAINE: Tax reform, superannuation and financial services, deregulation, I can keep going.

ALAN TUDGE: We're doing exactly what we said we would do in industrial relations. We've already made some important changes by the way...

JON FAINE: The infrastructure Prime Minister, creating new jobs…

ALAN TUDGE: In fact job creation is three times higher now than it was in the last year of the Labor Government- three times higher.

We've got business creation which is at record levels. We've got housing approval rates which are at record levels. The economic growth rate I think is now at 2.7 per cent when it was only at- from memory- 1.8 per cent under Labor.

All of these are fantastic economic green shoots. Now when you've got a strong economy, businesses grow, businesses become more profitable. More importantly it means that more people can be employed and wages can be higher.

That's in essence what we're overall trying to achieve in the economic space and that's complimented of course by our national security measures to try to keep the overall nation secure and safe as well.

JON FAINE: Always good to be able to chew the fat with someone who is at the very heart of discussions of the debate. Mr Tudge thank you indeed for being generous with your time this morning.

ALAN TUDGE: Thank you so much Jon.