TRANSCRIPT: ABC News Radio, Tuesday 15 September 2015




SUBJECTS: Liberal leadership. 


MARIUS BENSON, REPORTER: Tanya Plibersek, good morning.

TANYA PLIBERSEK: Good morning Marius.

BENSON: Is it more enjoyable to be watching from the sidelines rather than be engaged in a political leadership tussle?

PLIBERSEK: Well Marius, it’s never good for the country to see this sort of instability and it’s disappointing to see that the Government didn’t learn anything from the difficulties that Labor experienced in Government, but I’d certainly rather it’s them than us.

BENSON: Yeah you can’t really point the finger of blame and accuse them of instability.

PLIBERSEK: Well what’s interesting is the sort of thing that Malcolm Turnbull, Julie Bishop and others have said about the changing of Labor leaders, there’s a list of quotes a mile long about, you know, what they’ve said about us.  I think people will be going through their records today to have a look at some of those quotes. But the other thing that is more critical here Marius than the hypocrisy of the criticisms that they made, is the fact that Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop sat around the same Cabinet table as Tony Abbott and supported all of the same cuts, all of the same decisions that made Tony Abbott unelectable as Prime Minister. Malcolm Turnbull has supported the cuts to health and education, in his case the cuts to the ABC, the $100,000 university degrees, the cuts to pensions, I don’t know what’s going to change because what we see is a  change of salesperson not a change of product.

BENSON: But if Malcolm Turnbull runs the Government as efficiently as he runs a leadership challenge you’re in trouble aren’t you?

PLIBERSEK: Well, if he runs it as efficiently as he’s run the NBN the country is in desperate straits. This is minister who’s got one big job which is to deliver the NBN, it’s doubled in cost, there’s been a cost blowout of about $26 billion, it’s going to be three years slower than he promised and we’re going to get an older, slower technology that’ll have to be upgraded in a few years time anyway. I mean, Malcolm Turnbull talks big but when you look at his achievements they are not too flash.

BENSON: Politically though, do you accept that your job just got harder?

PLIBERSEK: Oh look, I think there’s always a bit of a sugar hit when there’s a change of leadership but I think people- I mean you only need to see what Jeff Kennett said about Malcolm Turnbull to see the sort of criticisms that his own party will make of him. Jeff Kennett talked about Malcolm only being about Malcolm, the fact that his overconfidence has blinded his judgement, you only have to look at the Godwin Grech affair to remember just how blinded Malcolm Turnbull can be, just how poor his judgement can be. He has been desperate to vindicate himself, desperate to become Prime Minster again after being knocked off by Tony Abbott, so his personal quest is now fulfilled. What happens to the country Marius? That is the question.

BENSON: What happens to Bill Shorten is another question. He is down there in the basement of public opinion with Tony Abbott and Tony Abbott has just left the scene effectively, Malcolm Turnbull is likely to be much more popular. What does it mean for Bill Shorten if he is in the position that Tony Abbott was of leading a party to certain defeat.

PLIBERSEK: Well I just completely disagree with your characterisation. The fact that Tony Abbott was knocked off last night is due to the fact that Bill Shorten has lead a fantastic campaign against the Government. Bill Shorten has seen off one Liberal leader, he’ll see off the next one at the general election.

BENSON: But Bill Shorten is held in as low esteem as Tony Abbott effectively, he’s at something like minus 30 himself in public opinion.

PLIBERSEK: Well Bill Shorten is the reason that the Liberals removed Tony Abbott. Bill Shorten  -

BENSON: A lot of people would say the reason Tony Abbott was removed was Tony Abbott.

PLIBERSEK: Oh well I think it takes and effective opposition to run a good political campaign against a government. We’ve done that, we‘ve seen off Tony Abbott and we’ll see of Malcolm Turnbuill at the general election.

BENSON: When to you expect the general election?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think it’s very difficult for the Liberal party to hand down another Budget. The first Budget that they handed down smashed confidence, the second budget they handed down did nothing to address the debt and deficit that they said two years ago was a disaster. They are in desperate trouble with their Budget, I’d be surprised if they go to another Budget which will be May next year. I think it could be before next May.

BENSON: As we speak do you feel a lot of the political middle ground marching away from you and back to the Coalition?

PLIBERSEK: Look Malcolm Turnbull has been pleased in the last few days to sell-out everything that he stood for that appealed to middle Australia. He has sold out on climate change, he first of all called the Liberal party policy ‘a fig leaf’, well he’s adopted that fig leaf as his own now. He secondly, a few weeks ago he was talking about how important it was to have a parliamentary free vote on marriage equality in this term off parliament, well he’s sold out Australians so there will be an expensive $150 million plebiscite sometime in the never never. You know  Malcolm Turnbull has been pretty quick to give up anything that he’s ever believed in to get his hands on the leadership again.

BENSON: A sell-out and a salesman, do you think there is a danger you might be underestimating your new opponent?

PLIBERSEK: Look I think he’s very smooth and that will work for him in the short term, but people will very quickly come to see that smoothness as a sort of slick merchant banker approach to public life and they turned off, they stopped listening to that last time Malcolm Turnbull was in the leadership. They’ll see his confidence favourably in the first instance, they will very quickly come to read that as arrogance particularly if you continue to have people like Jeff Kennett, like Andrew Bolt, speaking in  the media about how desperately ambitious Malcolm Turnbull is for himself, not for our country, but for himself.

BENSON: Tanya Plibersek thank you very much

PLIBERSEK: Thank you Marius