Transcript - Sky News Am Agenda Interview With Kieran Gilbert

Release Date: 
29 January 2015

Topics: Prince Philip, Peta Credlin, Industrial Relations.

KIERAN GILBERT: You've heard what Andrew Bolt had to say. He's a friend of the Prime Ministers. How do you react to that?

ALAN TUDGE: I just say to Andrew Bolt and all of the other critics, let's just keep this decision in perspective. At the end of the day, there was no millions of dollars wasted, there was no people who died or drowned as a result of the decision.

All it was is a simple recognition of a person who has contributed an enormous amount over the last four, five, six decades both to the United Kingdom and indeed to Australia.

I'd also point out the Hawke government itself, a government which Andrew Bolt I know admires, it itself gave the AC to Prince Philip which at the time was the highest award which Australia could give.

KIERAN GILBERT: But I guess this goes to the Prime Minister's judgement. As Bolt put it himself in that statement, that you don't know what the Prime Minister might do next if that's the judgement he's shown here on something where he's clearly out of step with the mainstream, as you saw in that poll, that's not within a margin of error, that poll. That is an emphatic repudiation of the Knighthood by the vast bulk of Australians.

ALAN TUDGE: It was a decision which he made. As I said, I'm a republican but I can understand the decision which he made. But at the end of the day, what Australians are really concerned about is not who gets a Knighthood.

They're concerned about the everyday cost of living. They're concerned about their jobs. They're concerned about national security. They are the things we are absolutely focused on. They are the things we've got a very coherent plan to address.

KIERAN GILBERT: Well Alan Tudge, that's right, as you put it, they are the concerns of middle Australia and I guess that's been one of the worries of your colleagues, is that that's not where the Prime Minister's focus has been, it's been on this Knighthood which generated so much focus.

ALAN TUDGE: It hasn't been on the Knighthood. To be fair, that was a decision which he probably made some weeks ago. Since then we've been very much focused on the national security agenda, ensuring that we're on top of the Islamic radicalisation which is occurring in our country.

KIERAN GILBERT: Why wouldn't he pick up the sense, why would he not know that this would be the sort of backlash given how out of step it is with the mainstream?

ALAN TUDGE: There have been other countries also that have given top awards to Prince Philip. New Zealand has, Canada has, the Hawke Government did, so I want that perspective as well.

KIERAN GILBERT: But it was on Australia Day. That was the point, wasn't it?

ALAN TUDGE: The decision was probably made some weeks ago in terms of when that judgement call was made. We need to stop navel gazing, I think. We've got to move on from this. We've got a very big agenda this year. We're very much focused on jobs, we're very much focused on families, and we've got a big economic plan.

Frankly, we're the only team that has an economic plan and it's a very significant one. It's building infrastructure, it's getting rid of even more red tape, it's doing more approvals so there's investment… [interruption]

KIERAN GILBERT: Sure, but you're not getting any air on that, are you? Because you've got Rupert Murdoch tweeting yesterday that the Prime Minister should sack Peta Credlin. Reports in the Fin Review that the Prime Minister had previously taken Rupert Murdoch's advice on re-working his communications team.

Then, Andrew Bolt's comments overnight which one of your colleagues has told me, they believe this could be the tipping point for the Prime Minister to axe Peta Credlin.

ALAN TUDGE: The only person that I know who made any criticism of Peta Credlin is Rupert Murdoch through that tweet. Otherwise, all of the senior ministers and myself today have come out very much backing Peta Credlin. She's been an outstanding contributor to our team.

But I say again, our focus is on what matters to the Australian people. The Australian people frankly don't care about the internal machinations of the Prime Minister's office. They don't necessarily place an enormous amount of weight in terms of whether or not Prince Philip gets a Knighthood.

They are focused very much on jobs. They very much are focused on national security. They are focused on things like the cost of living and they want the budget back under control. We have a plan for all of those things.

And I point out, Kieran, that we're already getting dividends on these things. Jobs growth is three times higher than it was 12 or 15 months ago – three times higher. We've got a record number of new businesses starting now. Unemployment is actually coming down. We've had a record number of new housing approvals.

KIERAN GILBERT: Why does the Prime Minister not get any credit for that?

ALAN TUDGE: These are the dividends of the work we've already done and the plans which we are putting in place.

KIERAN GILBERT: Why does the Prime Minister not get any credit for that? You saw his approval rating. It's nearly twenty per cent. One in five voters.

ALAN TUDGE: That's for you and other journalists and commentators to analyse in terms of the polls.

KIERAN GILBERT: Isn't it because of his own behaviour and distractions created by him?

ALAN TUDGE: No, we are focused on the job at hand. We are focused on the Australian people… [interruption]

KIERAN GILBERT: Is the Prime Minister as focused as you are when you have these frolics which were without consultation. As he said yesterday, he's going to consult more. It was a captain's pick, he admitted.

ALAN TUDGE: We have gone over this decision ad nauseam today and over the last three or four days. The Prime Minister addressed it yesterday, he said yes he can do a better job and will consult more.

KIERAN GILBERT: Just finally on the IR issue, Tony Shepherd says he wants the business community and the government to look and explain the issue of penalty rates, why they need to be dealt with, reduced if not removed; and the minimum wage, why that is also something that needs to be dealt with, I guess again, reduced if you're going to foster jobs growth.

Is this the climate, political climate, within which the government would even look at this stuff because it seems hardly likely that you would have the metal to do it given the current climate?

ALAN TUDGE: In relation to industrial relations Kieran, as you know we said at the last election that we would make some small changes which we have made. We said we would

then have a Productivity Commission enquiry to get a dispassionate assessment of the industrial relations landscape. That's what we are doing.

Once we have that there is going to be a public debate and any changes that we make we will take to the Australian public, we will take to the poll. We are very cautious on this. We are not going back to Workchoices. We are going to take this deliberately, steadily and take the Australian people with us.

KIERAN GILBERT: Alan Tudge, I appreciate your time.

ALAN TUDGE: Thanks so much Kieran.