Transcript Sky News PVO Newshour - Interview with Peter Van Onselen

Release Date: 
12 November 2015

Topics: 1975 Whitlam dismissal, Julie Bishop, unemployment rate, Prime Minister’s overseas visit

ALAN TUDGE: G’day Peter.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: I’ve got to ask you about something. The last time we spoke you gave a passionate defence of your fellow Victorian, Malcolm Fraser, and the traditional position of the Liberal Party about what happened from the 1975 constitutional crisis and then your boss, Malcolm Turnbull, launches a book and pretty much says the opposite. What’s going on? You are going to have to have a stern word to him.

ALAN TUDGE: All of us have a different interpretation on past events. As you know Peter, I firmly believe that the governor general made the right decision in 1975…

PETER VAN ONSELEN: So do I, but Malcolm Turnbull is not a good liberal. What’s he doing?

ALAN TUDGE: …And he quickly allowed an election to occur very soon afterwards so the Australian public could make their own mind up and they overwhelmingly endorsed his decision.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: You are going to have to grab a beer with Malcolm Turnbull and take him though why he’s got a Labor read of history. Surely that is your duty as his Parliamentary Secretary.

ALAN TUDGE: Well I’ll have a discussion with him one day about this but he has explained his position, I’ve explained my position. Sometimes we do differ on things in relation to history.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: What about something else which you might differ on, is your view about Julie Bishop’s Chief of Staff Murray Hanson. The Deputy Leader has confirmed that he did attend the plotters meeting Sunday before the leadership challenge. You were of course a strong supporter of Tony Abbott. What do you think about her Chief of Staff turning up to that meeting?

ALAN TUDGE: I think that Julie Bishop has addressed all of these issues today in her press conference. But my overall position though, I have got to say Peter, is this is now in the past and our Party has moved on, and I think the Australian public has moved on. And they want us to focus on the things that matter to them. Be they their jobs, be they national security, be they education and health issues, rather than being concerned about an event from six weeks ago.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Hang on a second. As you say, it was only six to eight weeks ago that this happened. I don’t recall you being nearly as generous about the internal machinations on what went on when Gillard and Rudd removed each other in turn. This is not ancient history, it is recent history. And colleagues of yours, people like Cory Bernardi who I will talk to later, people like Eric Abetz, even cabinet minister Peter Dutton has expressed some concerns about this in the interviews they have done. Do you have any concerns about why Julie Bishop perhaps, for example, didn’t tell Tony Abbott that evening what was going on given that Murray Hanson was authorised to be there?

ALAN TUDGE: Again Peter, I would say that Julie Bishop has answered these questions today. But I’d go back to your point in terms of, yes this was six to eight weeks ago. I can tell you when I go back to my electorate at the end of this week, I can guarantee there won’t be many people who will be lining up to see me who will be pointing to your book where this is written up, saying ‘Alan I’ve read Peter Van Onselen’s book and on page 273 it says this and I want to ask you about that.’I think they will be coming up to me and saying “when will you get the East West Link built? When are you going to get the Monash freeway widened? When are you going to get these other things done? How can you assist us with job security? What is happened in relation to national security?” They are the things that people are concerned about rather than who was at a meeting six or eight weeks ago. They know what occurred the following day, that was the decisive event. Now they want us to get on with things. Today we’ve had some fantastic figures come out in relation to unemployment. I think that is what is really interesting and it’s a terrific number which has come out where unemployment has dropped. I am particularly interested in the fact that youth unemployment has come down so much. If young people are in work then their opportunities are so much greater.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: You know I’m going to keep asking about this issue though. You do know that.

ALAN TUDGE: I do. I do know that Peter. But I’ll keep trying to pivot across to youth unemployment which I think is more relevant to the everyday person than what happened at a meeting on a Sunday night six or eight weeks ago.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: You’ll keep shifting it to another direction and eventually we will run out of time and then I’ll have to throw over to an ad break and then I’ll be joined by Kristina Keneally. But in the meantime, let’s continue the merry-go-round. Why do you think that Murray Hanson had to be there?

ALAN TUDGE: I wasn’t at that meeting. I don’t know why he was at that meeting. Julie Bishop has explained the situation though. Julie Bishop is Deputy Leader and part of being Deputy Leader is keeping your ear to the ground as to what the backbenchers are saying. She explained that in her press conference today. Again Peter, I know this all revealed in your book which has been extracted today and I think goes to the book stores on Wednesday. I know that all of us in this building in Parliament House will probably be reading it. But local constituents in my electorate - I don’t think will be raising these issues with me on the weekend.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: You may well be right about that. Just as a shout-out to everyone in the building, they don’t have to read the whole book. We’ve included an index page so they can look themselves up and move on.

ALAN TUDGE: So they can look themselves up straight away. What page, by the way, is this where you have revealed this particular story about this particular meeting?

PETER VAN ONSELEN: I’m not sure actually, I’d have to look that up myself. I actually defend Julie Bishop. Wayne Errington and I, my co-author, defend Julie Bishop in large part on the way she conducted herself on this. But it was telling, as we say in the book, that Murray Hanson was there. Let me ask you this then. You say she has answered the questions. Is it your hope as Malcolm Turnbull’s Parliamentary Secretary that Julie Bishop shows the same loyalty to him as she showed to Tony Abbott?

ALAN TUDGE: I have known Julie Bishop for a very long time and she has been my Deputy Leader since I’ve been in the parliament which is now five years. She has been a very good Deputy Leader and she was a good Deputy Leader to Prime Minister Abbott and she is a good Deputy Leader to Prime Minister Turnbull. I think we have got a very good leadership team in place. I think that the general public is responding to the leadership team that we have in the place and the policies we are putting forward. I’m going to pivot back to those unemployment figures because I think those unemployment figures are in part the result of some of the hard work that we have collectively done as a party and as a government over the last two years.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Are they also a result of the change in leadership, do you think? Now we have seen business confidence figures that have showed that since there has been in a change just in the last two months, that people are sort of humming along with a little more certainty.

ALAN TUDGE: Yes that is right Peter and that is a very good indicator when you see business confidence go up and it has gone up, and I believe consumer confidence has gone up as well. I would put some of these results down to some of the policies which we’ve had in place and have been rolled out over the last couple of years. That includes getting rid of some of those taxes, getting rid of some of that red tape, of course a very important small business package. It is the result of huge infrastructure projects we have funded across the country. They are the things which are most important which have driven these terrific unemployment figures down. But of course we have more work to do and our tax reform agenda is aimed at further creating jobs and further creating opportunities for Australians.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: I thought you’d want to know Alan Tudge, my co-author Wayne Errington has texted me, it is page 194 of the book so you can jot that down and go straight to it.

ALAN TUDGE: I’m absolutely confident that my constituents will have that page marked and will point it out and have discussions with me at my next mobile office.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: They might not, there might be too many other things that come out over the next three or four days that interest them more. Look the other thing though…

ALAN TUDGE: Who knows, who knows. I’ve given a good plug to your book today, by the way Peter.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: You have, you have.

ALAN TUDGE: It is coming out Wednesday, I believe. There will be queues at the local Collins book store.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: In all good book stores. Alright. I’m trying to work out if we said anything nasty or nice about you. Hopefully nothing nasty. Let me pivot on to another issue if I can. The Prime Minister is doing his world tour. He is basically introducing himself to overseas leaders as the new Australian Prime Minister. Do you think this is going to be a change of tact by the government now that we’ve got Malcolm Turnbull in the Prime Ministership compared to when Tony Abbott was there? It feels like there is a bit of dancing around going on amongst members of the government. You don’t want to say too much is changing because that becomes insulting to Tony Abbott, but by the same token you can’t say nothing is changing can you? Because if you do that, why did you get rid of Tony Abbott in the first place. Where is the balance?

ALAN TUDGE: Are you specifically asking in relation to our foreign policy settings or more broadly?

PETER VAN ONSELEN: All aspects. I’m wondering if that will be the message or what the message will be to foreign leaders about the meaning behind the change in leader.

ALAN TUDGE: Listen I think they will be very aware as to what has occurred. They will have detailed briefings themselves. But this will be a great opportunity for Prime Minister Turnbull to introduce himself to the leaders that he may not have met in the past. He first will be going to Indonesia to meet up with the Indonesian President. This will be the first time in twelve months that an Australian Prime Minister has gone to Indonesia to meet up with the President there. Then of course he will be participating in two very important economic forums. The G20 in Turkey and APEC in Manilla. In both cases though he will be prosecuting our agenda and our interests and of course the main thing is to create further opportunities for economic growth in this country and further opportunities for employment growth. That is what he will be doing primarily at those two economic forums, but taking the opportunity as well to have bilateral discussions with some of the leaders along the way.

PETER VAN ONSELEN: Alan Tudge, I appreciate your time as always on NewsDay. Thanks for your company.

ALAN TUDGE: Thanks so much Peter.