The Crest of the Commonwealth of Australia Treasury Portfolio Ministers
Picture of Chris Bowen

Chris Bowen

Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law

9 June 2009 - 14 September 2010

Transcript of 14/07/2010

Interview with Fran Kelly

ABC Radio National Breakfast

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

SUBJECTS: Election timing speculation, asylum seekers, Liberal Party's lack of preselected candidates, WorkChoices, Julia Gillard's Moving Forward Together speech, Tony Abbott, Kevin Rudd, Australian American Leadership Dialogue

FRAN KELLY:

Joining us this morning on Polls Apart from Washington DC is Financial Services Minister, Chris Bowen. He’s in Washington attending the US Australian Leadership Dialogue, as is Kevin Rudd as it happens. And joining us from Adelaide, Shadow Education Minister, Christopher Pyne.

Julia Gillard won’t buy into the election speculation about when she’s going to call the election. There is an overwhelming expectation, though, that she will announce the date over the next few days.

Chris Bowen, good morning.

CHRIS BOWEN:

Good morning stroke good evening. How are you?

KELLY:

[laughs] That’s right. I’m just trying to keep you on your toes there.

BOWEN:

[laughs]

KELLY:

Does the PM have any option now, considering the build up of election speculation and expectation? We’re in a phony election campaign now. She really should just flick the switch, shouldn’t she?

BOWEN:

Oh, look, you always see this speculation around this time. I remember feverish speculation in August 2004 that John Howard was going to call an election. He chose not to, but he might have. The election is due very soon. There’s been various views. The Liberal Party a little while ago was saying Julia Gillard should get a mandate, she should go to the people; now they’re saying, ‘Oh, she shouldn’t go to the people.’ She’s been getting on with the job of Government, but it’s appropriate that she go to the people at a time in the not too distant future, and I’m sure that’s what she’ll do.

KELLY:

So you don’t agree with Andrew Robb and others who say she should keep governing? You think sooner rather than later she should seek that mandate?

BOWEN:

Well, an election held anytime now would not be early. This is in the normal context of an election being due, so she could call an election anytime over the next couple of months and it not be early. So I think the Liberal Party is just jumping from line to line. As I say, a little while ago they were saying, ‘It’s terrible, she doesn’t have a mandate, she should go to the people.’ Now, for some reason, they’re saying she shouldn’t go to the people. But the election is due and it’ll be called, and then we’ll get on with it. But you always see this level of speculation around this time.

KELLY:

Alright. Well, I don’t know that that helps us guess when it’s going to be. Christopher Pyne, I know you’ve just joined us after some telephone line problems. What do you think? Should the PM end the uncertainty and announce the election date or should she hang on and get governing?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE:

Well, good morning, Fran. Obviously, the election is due in November. The last election was November 26. So if there was an election in August, it would be an early election. It fits with Labor’s plans to rush to the polls in order to try and capitalise on what they hoped would be a Julia Gillard honeymoon period with the electorate, and before people could actually properly have a look at the new Prime Minister and realise that they changed the Prime Minister but they hadn’t changed the Government, and that Julia Gillard could execute a politician but she couldn’t execute a program.

That’s gone a bit off the rails, that plan, because she was supposed to be able to wipe the asylum seeker issue off the political agenda, but with another boat arriving yesterday, the second in two days, and East Timor rejecting her so-called processing solution, and Nauru offering to be the site of a processing solution with a detention facility that Australian taxpayers have already built, she’s got herself into what used to be called a cleft stick, but otherwise called a tight corner.

KELLY:

I’m just a little confused.

PYNE:

The best thing she can do is keep governing.

KELLY:

Well, I’m just a little confused now, because if you think she’s doing a bad job, you definitely thought Kevin Rudd did a bad job, you’ve been telling the Australian electorate this Government is incompetent, effectively dangerous, why wouldn’t you want the chance to go to an election to change Government as quickly as possible?

PYNE:

Well, Fran, my view happens to be –

KELLY:

Wouldn’t that be in the best interests of the nation if you’re so convinced the Labor Government is doing such a bad job?

PYNE:

Well, I’m certainly convinced the Labor Government is incompetent, but it’s my view, having been Julia Gillard’s Shadow Minister for two years, that the more people see her as Prime Minister, the more they’ll recognise that she doesn’t have the competence to be the Prime Minister and to deliver on any of Labor’s programs.

KELLY:

Okay, so you don’t want the delay in the best interests of the nation; you want the delay to give you what you think will be the optimum political chance to win.

PYNE:

No, Fran, I don’t think that Labor should be or the trade union bosses who butchered Kevin Rudd should be let off the hook by the Prime Minister rushing to the polls to try and capitalise on a honeymoon period, and pull the wool over the Australian public’s eyes. I mean, all the excuses we’re hearing at the moment about East Timor and Nauru and Papua New Guinea; and all these phone calls that either have or haven’t been made; and the failures of process in this so-called East Timor solution is reminiscent of all the excuses we used to get from Julia Gillard about the school hall debacle: how it was really isolated problems; how the Opposition was making up these examples of waste and mismanagement; how it was all everybody else’s problem. And then bit by bit, Julia Gillard would admit the Opposition was right and we’d have a new inquiry, new guidelines, and we’re now at the point where I think most people accept that the school hall debacle was wasting between five and eight billion dollars.

KELLY:

Okay. Well, look, when we go to an election, whether it’s in days or weeks or months, we’re already in that mode, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve got Julia Gillard with her de facto campaign slogan about the nation moving forward, and now Tony Abbott seems to have come up with what sounds like an election slogan. Let’s have a listen.

TONY ABBOTT:

[grab] As Deputy Prime Minister, she helped to create the mess. As Prime Minister, she says she’s gonna fix the mess. I ask the people of Australia, who do you trust to fix Kevin Rudd’s mess? Do you trust Julia, who helped to create it with him, or do you trust me and the Coalition?

KELLY:

Who do you trust? That was John Howard’s election slogan against Mark Latham in 2004. Are you giving it another go round, Christopher Pyne?

PYNE:

Well, if that’s the election slogan, it’s a very, very long one, that grab from Tony Abbott. So I’d be very surprised if that’s the election slogan. Certainly, though, we do think the people should make the decision about who they trust to clean up Labor’s mess. What’s always happened in the past, of course, is that Labor gets into power, they get the debt and deficit, they manage things incompetently and then the public elect the Liberal Party to clean it all up.

KELLY:

[laughs] Alright.

BOWEN:

[laughs]

PYNE:

The Liberals get it back into surplus, get the debt down, pay it off, put money in the bank, and manage the programs of the nation competently.

KELLY:

Okay.

PYNE:

And unfortunately Labor can’t do that.

KELLY:

Chris Bowen, one thing that is true is that Julia Gillard has spent the first three weeks in the Prime Ministership basically cleaning up some messes from the Rudd Government over the mining tax; climate change solution coming apparently; asylum seekers a work in progress. When will she really launch the Gillard policy, the Gillard vision?

BOWEN:

Well, I think she’s been putting her own stamp on the Government. She’s been putting a different focus on things and that’s what she’s been doing. She’s been putting forward her vision for taking Australia forward. I think this election will be about who do you want to take the nation forward? Do you want a policy which puts Trades Training Centres in schools, which puts computers in schools, which puts GP superclinics in suburbs, or do you want an Opposition which wants to take us back on all those things, take those things away and take us back to WorkChoices? So that’s the choice, and what Julia Gillard has been doing in the three weeks that she’s been Prime Minister is outlining her vision for moving Australia forward while Tony Abbott has been outlining his plans to take us back.

KELLY:

Yeah, but she’s really been cleaning up the three problems areas she ran through when she first got the job. I mean, you know, she’s not put a lot of herself out there. Is the Coalition right when they say she should give the voters more time to get a look at her?

BOWEN:

I heard Christopher earlier saying, you know, this election would be about pulling the wool over people’s eyes. How is calling an election pulling the wool over people’s eyes? I think what the Liberal Party’s really concerned about here is an election means that the focus goes just as much onto them and they might actually have to come up with some policies, and that’s when they always fall short. When the focus is on them, whether it’s about health, or whether it’s about the Reply to the Budget, or whatever it is, when they have to stump up with a policy, they are found miserably wanting. And an election campaign means that yes, there’s a focus on us, as there should be; there’s also a focus on the alternative Government. I think what’s happening here is the Liberal Party is not ready for an election campaign and not ready for Government.

KELLY:

Are you ready, Christopher Pyne? You still haven’t preselected all your candidates.

PYNE:

No, we’re certainly ready.

KELLY:

Well, you haven’t preselected all your candidates.

PYNE:

Well, I think we are in the process of completing that, and really that’s not a matter for the public or for Radio National as it is for the Liberal Party, really. It’s an administrative matter. But I find it ironic that the Labor Party is talking about –

KELLY:

Well, I think people would like to know.

BOWEN:

People are entitled to know whether they’re going to have a candidate in their seat.

PYNE:

Well, they’ll know. They’ll certainly have a candidate by the time the election is called. I think it’s ironic that Labor is talking about moving the country forward when their whole campaign is about attacking Tony Abbott personally. All their ads they’re already running in this phony election period are vicious personal smears against Tony Abbott. It’s hardly moving the country forward.

KELLY:

Is that any different to –

PYNE:

And their rolled gold attack on Tony Abbott that he’s apparently going to bring back WorkChoices when he’s completely ruled it out, which is talking about the last election.

BOWEN:

He completely ruled out the name, not the policy, just the name.

PYNE:

They keep talking about all these things that happened in the past. I don’t think they’re going to be able to get away with that.

KELLY:

I think it’s fair to say there’s personal politicking going on on both sides. I mean, Tony Abbott is, you know, having a fair go at Julia Gillard at the moment, too. The ads that came out straightaway portrayed her as a puppet of the factions. You know, he’s really targeting her as –

PYNE:

Well, she is a puppet of the factions. That’s just a statement of fact.

KELLY:

[laughs]

BOWEN:

[laughs]

PYNE:

She was put into the job by the factional bosses, and I don’t think anybody could possibly deny that. She wasn’t elected by the Australian people, like Kevin 07 was. She was put in by the factional bosses, led by the Australian Workers Union, who I notice are over there with poor Kevin Rudd in Washington as we speak; they must be having lots of fun over there. She was put in by the trade union heavies and the factional bosses who butchered Kevin Rudd, rather than allowing the Australian people to cast judgement on an election later this year.  

KELLY:

Okay. Well, we always run out of time. Last words to Chris Bowen this week, and Chris Bowen, talking of Kevin 07, he is over there with you in Washington. I’m sure you’ve bumped into him by now. There are some reports coming through that, you know, on the one hand he’s intent on contesting the election; on the other it’s suggested that he’s using this trip to the States to tout for an international job and he’s got the backing of the US President in that. Have you heard anything about, you know, whether Kevin 07 or Kevin Rudd is interested in some kind of international position?

BOWEN:

Well, he said he’s running again. He’s making a good contribution to the Dialogue. He chaired the session on regional security issues this afternoon. It’s been a good Dialogue. We had Hillary Clinton call in today and there are always good sessions. Kevin Rudd is of course respected here, and he’s making a good contribution, as are, I must say, the Liberal representatives and my Ministerial colleagues Steve Conroy and Jason Clare. So that’s what’s going on here. We’re all engaged in the Dialogue, as well as in a lot of meetings with our counterparts; in my case, the US Treasury, the Securities Commission, et cetera.

KELLY:

So how are Kevin Rudd’s spirits, then?

BOWEN:

Well, look, he’s been making a good contribution and he’s been pulling his weight at the Dialogue, and he’s been well received here, as you would expect him to be. He is a respected former Prime Minister.

KELLY:

Okay.

BOWEN:

And that’s as it is, and that’s as it should be.

KELLY:

Chris Bowen, thanks very much for joining us from Washington, and Christopher Pyne in Adelaide, thank you again. Talk to you next week.

PYNE:

Pleasure, thank you.

BOWEN:

Look forward to it, Fran.