Transcript - ABC Radio National Drive - with Patricia Karvelas

Release Date: 
10 February 2015

Topics: leadership, party room, submarines, closing the gap


ALAN TUDGE: G’day Patricia, great to be on your program.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: So what do you think about this call for no leadership spills between elections? Do you support it?

ALAN TUDGE: I’m not going to get into the detailed discussions of what occurred in our party room. All I would say…

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Angus Taylor is now on the record about it- outside of the party room.

ALAN TUDGE: What I support is the current process. I think it is a good process whereby the leader is in essence appointed by the members of parliament from that party and is indeed dismissed by the members of parliament from that party.

I think that’s important because if the leader doesn’t have the confidence of his or her colleagues then you’ve got a problem. That’s the system we have and it’s the system I support.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Why don’t you support a change? The Prime Minister has even said that he thinks that he’s entitled to be sacked by the public, by voters, not by parliamentarians of his own party room. He seems to be arguing a different line by default?

ALAN TUDGE: In some respects we’re one of the last remaining countries that does have this system in place. My view actually remains that unless the leader has the confidence of the party room- of his or her colleagues- then they’re going to find it exceptionally difficult to operate. It would be difficult to have a proper cabinet process. It would be difficult to have a party room process. I think that the system we have is the right one. It’s typically an extraordinary situation for a leader who is in the position of Prime Minister to be overturned, to be turfed out by his or her colleagues. It’s obviously occurred in the last few years, but they’re extraordinary situations and hopefully it won’t happen regularly in the future.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: On RN Drive I’m joined by Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Alan Tudge. There was a big party room meeting today, what happened?

ALAN TUDGE: I don’t go into the ins and outs of our party room discussions Patricia. What I will say is that in some respects it was a typical party room meeting. We had contributions from by individual members on different topics which they wanted in front of the Prime Minister and members and then we went through the legislation which is likely to be coming up in the Parliament.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: I wonder why MP’s are demanding that the Prime Minister give them a guarantee about sacking staff who brief against them? I believe the Prime Minister did give that guarantee. Why has that become such a strong issue?

ALAN TUDGE: Patricia he gave the guarantee that if one of his staff members is briefing against other colleagues they won’t hold their position. I think that’s a reasonable position to hold. You would have to ask the person who raised that point as to why they were concerned about it but I don’t have such concerns.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Do you believe that the Prime Minister’s staff have been briefing against MP’s?

ALAN TUDGE: I am not aware of any such briefings.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Have you been told if there will be changes in the Prime Minister’s staffing given this has been his Chief of Staff and other staff in his office have been a source of controversy?

ALAN TUDGE: Again, I’m not aware of any changes that may or may not occur. At the end of the day we’ve got to improve ourselves. It’s up to the elected people- the Prime Minister, his team, have to improve, to learn from the mistakes we did make last year and to get on with the job now of delivering for the Australian people, to focus on cost of living pressures, to continue to improve the job prospects for everyday Australians. That’s absolutely our focus and I don’t think we should be focusing on the internal machinations of our party.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: It’s ten minutes past six on RN Drive. The Prime Minister said yesterday it was the first day of good government. Do you regret that he used that sort of language or do you agree with him that good government only started yesterday?

ALAN TUDGE: I think we’ve been a very good government over the last 16 months. When you look at some of the things which have been achieved, they have been quite substantial. Obviously we’ve got rid of some of those taxes so that people’s electricity bills are cheaper. We’ve signed free trade agreements so that provides the opportunity for the future. We’ve approved a trillion dollars’ worth of investment projects and that’s going to create so many jobs going forward. So I do think there’s substantial accomplishments. Of course we stopped the boats. Now that’s delivering real results already as well Patricia. The rate of job growth is now three times higher than it was in the last year of the Labor Government- three times higher. Our overall economic growth is now about 2.7 per cent versus about one per cent under Labor. All of this translates into more jobs, into higher wages for people. That’s what we’re interested in doing. That’s where we’re going to continue to focus on this year.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Even though the Prime Minister said good government started yesterday, there are still critics calling for a change of Treasurer, also a change of his Chief of Staff. Do you think those things are likely to happen?

ALAN TUDGE: I’m not aware of those critics. There hasn’t been any named critics in the newspapers, so I’m not going to comment on that.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: On the untidy business of South Australian ship building, the opposition is claiming the PM has been buying votes in South Australia. There have been mixed messages today. Do you concede that there has been a muddled answer on exactly what’s going to happen on the submarines?

ALAN TUDGE: Patricia, the decision was made in essence that there will be a competitive evaluation process. Now that’s not a radical decision. In essence it’s to say that we’ll use the same process that most other major acquisitions have gone through. Now I think it’s an important process to have a competitive evaluation process so that we can ensure that we get value for money, that we get the right capability build.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Ok but why does the Prime Minister say then that he’ll deliver jobs in South Australia? He can’t guarantee that if there’s just a process still open.

ALAN TUDGE: Well he actually can guarantee it. It’s important to realise this that a) it’s not an all or nothing choice about the work happening in Australia. You look at the Collins Class submarines. Everyone thinks that they’re Australian made- they are. But they relied upon Swedish design, they relied upon US combat systems and French propulsion. It’s always going to be a bit of mixture in that regard. The other thing I’d say too is that there’s twice as much money and therefore twice as many jobs spent on the maintenance and overall sustaining of the submarine fleet than there is of the build process up front.
Now that maintenance and sustaining of the fleet will absolutely occur in Adelaide so that we can guarantee there are going to be lots of jobs on that front.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Do you regret though that that message has not been consistent today? There have been many different answers given by the Defence Minister, the Prime Minister in Parliament- there is a very muddy message.

ALAN TUDGE: Well I hope my message is clearing some things up at least for your listeners tonight Patricia.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: And if you can make some news for us now Alan Tudge I’d really like that. Tomorrow the Prime Minister…

ALAN TUDGE: I have a feeling I know what you’re going to ask me.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Well it’s in your portfolio. You’re the Parliamentary Secretary for Indigenous Affairs to the Prime Minister, Alan Tudge. Tomorrow the Prime Minister is giving his Closing the Gap speech, it’s an annual speech each Prime Minister gives on where we’re going, on closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Can you give us an idea on what he will be saying or where we are at with closing the gap?

ALAN TUDGE: Sure. It’s an important speech and it’s an important report which is tabled in the Parliament. This was initiated by Kevin Rudd a few years ago and I think it’s a great initiative. In essence it provides a scorecard against six gap indicators. Now all I can say without revealing too much details is in some respects this year’s report is not radically different from last year’s. It’s perhaps not unexpected because it’s so hard to turn these things around overnight. What that means is you know from last year’s report it showed that on three measures we’re doing pretty well- on year 12 attainment, on child mortality, on access to accessibility to pre-school education. There was a couple which we’ve largely flatlined on and still got a lot of work to do- that was in literacy and numeracy, and that was on life expectancy. There was one and I actually think it’s the most important indicator where we’re actually going backwards and that’s on employment. Now we don’t have an updated figure this year on employment because statistics are only provided every few years so it still shows that the gap wide and widening and we have a lot of work to do on that front. We’ve started the process…

PATRICIA KARVELAS: On employment we’re going backwards on as you say which was revealed last year. Are we getting worse…

ALAN TUDGE:That’s right and we don’t have updated figures on that.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: OK, are we getting worse in any of the others? School attendance, education? Is there any area where the gap report will reveal where things are getting worse?

ALAN TUDGE: Listen I can’t give you any further details on that at this stage but what I will say is it is not radically different to last year’s report.

PATRICIA KARVELAS: Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, Alan Tudge, thanks for your time on RN Drive.

ALAN TUDGE: Thanks so much Patricia.