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Wayne Swan

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer

3 December 2007 - 27 June 2013

26 February 2012

Interview with Hugh Riminton

Meet the Press

SUBJECTS: Leadership

RIMINTON:

Welcome to the program, Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan. Good morning Mr Swan.

TREASURER:

Good morning Hugh.

RIMINTON:

Let's start with the numbers. Do you remain confident that the Prime Minister will have this overwhelmingly come tomorrow and that there's been no movement in the last 24 hours?

TREASURER:

I think the Prime Minister has strong support from her colleagues because there's really a simple choice tomorrow: who has the character, who has the temperament and who has the courage to be Prime Minister of Australia. And I believe the Prime Minister has the overwhelming support of the caucus because she's tough, she's determined, she gets things done and she's got things done that her predecessor could not get done.

RIMINTON:

So, what will Rudd get, do you think? 30 votes, less than 30, or more than?

TREASURER:

I can't speculate about the outcome tomorrow. I think we've got to take this matter to the caucus, we've got to put it to bed, we've got to unify and get behind the leadership.
RIMINTON:

If it's unifying behind the leadership that is the next task, it would appear that is the next task, Kevin Rudd this morning said that he's been the victim of a continuing character assassination. Here is a little of what he said.

RUDD:

The onslaught of public attacks regrettably led by Minister Swan, and Minister Burke, and Minister Conroy, and Minister Crean, I think are virtually unprecedented in Australian political history.

RIMINTON:

Do you now regret your public statements in the course of the last few days?

TREASURER:

No, I don't. I didn't make those statements lightly. I love the Labor Party, I've been a member for almost 40 years. Nobody is prouder of our achievements than I am, particularly when it comes to what we have done in terms of supporting jobs. But the fact is there's just no easy way to say that Kevin Rudd found it very difficult, particularly through 2010, to take the decisions that needed to be taken and found it very difficult to provide respectful leadership in the Cabinet.

RIMINTON:

Now, Kevin Rudd this morning has said that at no time when he was Prime Minister did you approach him and ever reflect to him, in his words: “any significant problem in his performance as a Prime Minister that would require him to change course.” Did you ever confront him when he was Prime Minister and say this isn't working, Kevin?

TREASURER:

Those statements are untrue. The fact is I, along with a number of senior ministers, was constantly talking with Kevin Rudd about the inability to progress the business of Government, particularly through 2010 and late 2009. These matters were raised with him. The fact is there isn't an easy way of explaining to people why there was such great dissatisfaction, not just in the caucus, but also among Senior Cabinet colleagues who were working with him. But the most important thing that we have got to do is have a vote tomorrow, put this matter to bed, unify and get on with supporting a very strong economy, which is the stand-out economy in the developed world.

RIMINTON:

Now, Peter Garrett is the latest Cabinet Minister, it brings to three, those who say they will not serve under Kevin Rudd if he was to win. Would you serve under Kevin Rudd if he was to win?

TREASURER:

I'm not going to respond to hypotheticals. I believe there will be a strong vote for the Prime Minister tomorrow. And I make my commitment today to do everything within my power to unify the Party after tomorrow.

RIMINTON:

Do you think that part of this need for the strong language this past week, not just from yourself but from other senior colleagues, is the need not merely to win a vote tomorrow but to so utterly efface him, to remove his chances so there can be no second bite? Is that why the language has been unprecedented, to use Kevin Rudd's words?

TREASURER:

No, I don't accept that characterisation of my words or that characterisation of the words of my colleagues. The fact is there hasn't been a full explanation of why there was caucus dissatisfaction and Cabinet dissatisfaction with Kevin Rudd – particularly through 2010. And when Mr Rudd chose to go to Washington and to give a midnight press conference, referred to the events of 2010 and to deny he'd been involved in a destabilisation campaign against the Party and the Labor movement, I chose to make my statements. I made them truthfully, because it's very important there is an accurate record here.

The Government has done a good job and we've achieved a lot but sadly, over the past year or so, there has been a degree of destabilisation from Mr Rudd. That is now clear and public. And I made my statements for the public record, for the good of the labour movement and the Labor Party and in particular, for the people we represent because having a successful Labor Government, keeping unemployment low, keeping the economy strong is everything I believe in and everything the labour movement stands for.

(Break in program)

RIMINTON:

Welcome back, this is Meet The Press. Our guest is the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan and welcome now to the panel Karen Middleton from SBS and Dennis Atkins from The Courier Mail. Good morning to you both of you.

MIDDLETON:

Mr Swan, you said that Kevin Rudd doesn't hold any ‘Labor values'. What did you mean by that? What Labor values doesn't he possess?

TREASURER:

I was referring to the campaign of destabilisation that has been going on for a long period of time which has basically threatened the future of the Government, rocking the boat through last year and increasingly through this year, raising the prospect, for example of a tilt of the leadership last year and doing it again this year. That's what I was referring to because essentially, what it's putting at risk is an Abbott Government and I don't believe that anybody should be engaged in that sort of activity.

MIDDLETON:

So there aren't specific values or attributes that you think belong to Labor people that he doesn't possess?

TREASURER:

Well, what I think is that what we have got to do is get behind the Government's agenda which is a quintessentially Labor agenda – it's an agenda of jobs, it's an agenda of education and health. And the fact is that I believe he's put his personal interests ahead of the Party's interest and ahead of the national interest. That's what I was making very clear.

RIMINTON:

Is he a Labor rat?

TREASURER:

I don't want to use that sort of terminology. I made my views very clear in the statement. I stand by every word. The fact is we have been through a difficult period. I think it's important now that we have this vote tomorrow. We put these issues to bed and we get on with the good government of Australia, strengthening the economy, providing opportunity in the education system, rolling out the NBN, getting the mining tax through, cutting small business taxes and so on. That's the agenda. That's the Labor agenda which we've got to have everybody behind.

ATKINS:

Mr Swan, given what's occurred and what you and a number of your senior colleagues have said, wouldn't it be better for the Labor Party and the Government if Kevin Rudd loses tomorrow he left the Parliament?

TREASURER:

I'm not going to be giving that sort of advice. The most important thing is after tomorrow we are unified, that these matters are put to bed and everybody puts their shoulder to the wheel. We've got a very big agenda out there. We've had a tough time. I mean we've achieved the pricing of carbon. We've got the mining tax through the House of Representatives. These are big Labor reforms that will impact upon our country for generations. We can't put these at risk. That's why we need to get this done. We need to have the vote tomorrow. We need to put an end to the activities of those that have been destabilising the labour movement and the Party and get on with this Labor agenda for the future. There are so many people depending upon our success and all this has done, through the bringing on of this challenge by Kevin Rudd, is risk an Abbott Government.

MIDDLETON:

But Mr Swan, how can you guarantee it's going to be over? I mean it wasn't over after the last time around, two years ago, when Mr Rudd was here. If, as you say, he was destabilising, what makes you think he isn't going to continue to do that? How on earth can you all work together after what has been said this past week?

TREASURER:

Well, because I do sense a steely determination across all of the people involved here to have this vote tomorrow and to put it to bed once and for all.

RIMINTON:

So you believe him when he says he'll give his unequivocal support to the Prime Minister if he loses?

TREASURER:

There's so much on the line for the Labor Party, for the national interest, for the reform agenda for Australia. I certainly do believe he will do that.

MIDDLETON:

Well, Mr Swan, you actually said that there's a lot on the line in this particular challenge. I mean there's always a lot on the line when someone challenges for the Prime Ministership. Why is there more on the line this time than in previous challenges?

TREASURER:

Because the Government has been dealing with some of the biggest reforms in Australian history: the change in resource taxation, spreading the benefits of the mining boom to every corner of the country, carbon pricing – a fundamental reform which goes to economic efficiency and environmental sustainability. These are big Labor reforms and we need the movement united behind it because the benefits to working families are immense and they're at risk.

RIMINTON:

Kevin Rudd also made the point that he did some pretty big things as well. He says, and it's central to his case, that he was a good Prime Minister. And here's part of his argument this past week:

RUDD:

The record is a good record: protecting the jobs of Australians through the global financial crisis, the only major developed economy not to go into recession because of the global financial crisis.

RIMINTON:

How much of that was him?

TREASURER:

Well, I've always paid credit to the role that Kevin Rudd played in all of those big economic decisions, along with myself and other Cabinet Ministers, but that's not what is being contended here. What was occurring, particularly through late 2009 and early 2010, is that the Prime Minister was increasingly not consulting with his Cabinet and not behaving in a respectful way and not taking fundamental decisions.

Now these matters have been put into the public arena because Kevin Rudd decided to launch a leadership challenge from Washington. And of course, we have to have a full and frank discussion about the issues on the line and why I believe the caucus will vote for Julia Gillard, because she does have the temperament, she has the courage and she has the character to pursue these reforms and to get them done.

ATKINS:

Mr Swan, you've known Kevin Rudd for about 25 years and worked closely with him for much of that period. Have you ever seen him change behaviour?

TREASURER:

Well, I noticed this morning on television Mr Rudd was talking about how he had changed. I don't believe that he has changed but that's a matter for our caucus colleagues.

RIMINTON:

On a policy matter, one of the things he said in his statement that was a clear policy shift if he was to take over the leadership is that he would review the carbon price at six months with a view to moving more quickly to a floating price. At the moment that would mean a lower price. What would be the budgetary results if he was to get in and do just that?

TREASURER:

I'm not going to speculate about that because I believe there'll be a strong victory for the Prime Minister tomorrow but what I would say is that…

RIMINTON:

But Nick Minchin is right isn't he, in that he says that the budget would be destroyed because so much is depended on the money that would come in from the carbon price?

TREASURER:

I don't want to speculate about that but what I can say is that it has been Julia Gillard and this Cabinet that got carbon pricing done, something Mr Rudd could not achieve when he was the Prime Minister.

MIDDLETON:

Mr Swan, this whole thing started with a video leaking about a week ago. The Prime Minister gave an undertaking that her office and she herself were not involved in that. Can you give the same undertaking about you and your office?

TREASURER:

I have no idea where the video came from. The most important thing that we have to do was to make sure that all of that activity ends, and I'm giving my commitment here and now that after the vote tomorrow I'm going to do everything I possibly can to unify the Party and provide the leadership so it can move forward to support strong economic growth and all the Labor policies that the Labor people in our community are depending upon.

ATKINS:

Mr Swan, in the The Australian newspaper yesterday, Mr Rudd accused you of betraying the mining companies at the last minute with the resources tax. Is that true and is there another version of events?

TREASURER:

Well, it's complete fantasy. The fact is that Mr Rudd had an inability, through the early period of that year to face up to the decisions, the key decisions in this area. There's been a lot of rewriting of history. The facts are that Julia Gillard and I got it done. We've now got a resource rent tax, the MRRT, we've got it commencing this year and the benefits of it are going to flow through the Australian economy. That was something Mr Rudd could never achieve.

RIMINTON:

We'll have a version of that from Martin Ferguson coming up next, I suppose, but Wayne Swan, thank you very much for joining us this morning.

TREASURER:

Thank you.