Bill's Transcripts

Transcript: Interview with Chris Smith, 2GB, 27 February 2012

Subject/s: leadership challenge

CHRIS SMITH: Okay Anita. Thank you very much for your call. 131873. It's twenty-nine minutes after one. Well, he's not kind of sitting in the wings. He's actually in our parliamentary studio right now; the Minister for the Workplace and Superannuation and a dozen other portfolios. Bill Shorten, thank you for your time this afternoon.

BILL SHORTEN: Good afternoon.

CHRIS SMITH:  An overwhelming victory to Julia Gillard, to the point where there has not been this margin for thirty years. Yes, it's probably a vote of confidence, especially from the senior ministers in the prime ministership. But you've got thirty-one caucus members who don't think that she should be Prime Minister. Is that a concern for you, going forward?

BILL SHORTEN: It was the largest result in a leadership ballot in thirty years. It is a vote of confidence. It was a secret ballot. People were allowed to vote for whoever they thought was the best candidate. But this has happened before, and people get on with life.

Tony Abbott only beat Malcolm Turnbull by one vote. There's a forty vote margin here for the Prime Minister. The people who supported Kevin - fair enough, that was their view - but they've all indicated that they, like Kevin, are going to support the outcome. That's what happens.

CHRIS SMITH: Can we trust Kevin Rudd to do that, do you think? You know him better than most. Can we trust him to serve the community as he says he will and support Julia Gillard to the enth degree?

BILL SHORTEN: Yes, I believe it. He was very emphatic. He was emphatic in a way which I hadn’t heard him before. I thought his concession speech was gracious and I thought the Prime Minister's speech was gracious too. There was a mood almost as we left that room: well, the leadership fight's over, now let's get on with the fight about Australia's future.

CHRIS SMITH: Talking about the room, when you walk into caucus like that - when we've had this pre-ballot Molotov cocktail fight between certain senior members - where it was almost, you know, an awe and fury approach to bagging each other - how do you walk into a room like that and expect certain members to unify, to be friendly, to shake hands? What was the atmosphere like when the two sides decided to get together this morning?

BILL SHORTEN: I think people were relieved to be having the vote. The point about an election - it doesn’t matter if it's a general election or an election  in a football club or the caucus election - then is that it is a chance for people to state their case and then get on with business.

CHRIS SMITH: This was ugly, Bill. This was ugly. As the Prime Minister says, at times ugly she said.

BILL SHORTEN: It was very tough. I agree completely with what the Prime Minister was saying. It was very tough, but this isn't just matches we're playing for. It's about the direction of Australia. It's about - for people who are Labor leaning - making sure that we have the best case possible to put to the people. It's making sure that we get on with having a disability insurance scheme. It's making sure we get on with lifting superannuation for people. Lots of important debates to be had, and we had to make sure that we sent a message that the Government MPs, clearly, are of a mind to support our Prime Minister up to and beyond the next election.

CHRIS SMITH:  I'm curious as to why Bill Shorten didn't play a prominent role in the six days leading up today's ballot. We had Wayne Swan and others tipping massive buckets on Kevin Rudd and the history associated with his prime ministership, but you kind of played a very low key role. Why was that?

BILL SHORTEN: Oh. Well, I don't think it was that low key.

CHRIS SMITH: Very low key.

BILL SHORTEN: I was on Q&A on Monday night, which went for an hour, which...

CHRIS SMITH: Yes, but we didn't have the challenge launched until Wednesday, I think.

BILL SHORTEN:  Yes, but it seemed to be one of the worst kept secrets in Australia, in the last two weeks at least. My view has always been clear. I'm a Gillard man. The newspapers inaccurately reported some people where they lined up - no-one was ever under any illusion about what I lined up.

CHRIS SMITH: Someone said that you might be treasurer under a Kevin Rudd prime ministership.

BILL SHORTEN: And I dismissed that. I made clear that was just not correct, that report. What was important is that the Labor Party - the leadership speculation mounted in the last two weeks - we had a fierce debate. In the age of the modern media and tweeting and pay TV and the twenty-four hour and twelve hour news cycle, I think the media coverage was that much more intensive; a lot more media channels; a lot more content required.

I think we saw a different style of leadership debate. It was almost going down the American path of primaries.

CHRIS SMITH: Very much so.

BILL SHORTEN:  But we've done now is we've picked our leader. And I actually think people watching will, on one hand, think it was pretty ugly and people were tough on each other. On the other hand I think Australia got quite interested in what was happening. And what we've seen is people be passionate. And now what we've seen is a decision. The bell's rung, or the siren's sounded. Now we're going to get out and get on and renew what we're already doing.

I think what we've seen is a lot of work getting done by the Government and a leadership debate which sucked a lot of oxygen out of the air. You couldn't do a press conference without being - talking about leadership. And now what we can do is get back on with the job of lifting super, getting with the - increasing the tax free thresholds, making sure we get the mining tax sorted so we can share the prosperity of the minerals boom.

CHRIS SMITH: Okay. Two quick questions: the Prime Minister mentioned that she was confident that they could beat Tony Abbott and win the next federal election. I can understand that she would be going come on, let's go, team - as you do in a press conference soon after an internal ballot like this morning's - but confident. Where - I'm just looking at all the polls that came in over the weekend - even this morning's - and yes, there's a bit of a move up in two polls and one poll in particular for two consecutive periods.

But I don't get the impression that you could use the word confident of winning in eighteen months' time. There is a flat line appearance of the two party preferred vote in most of the - from most of the pollsters at the moment. How can you be confident about it?

BILL SHORTEN:  Well, I think people really focus on polls four to six weeks out from an election, so I don't let myself get too distracted by polls. In the last few months we've actually seen our numbers climb upwards. But I don't kid myself. We need to make sure that we're explaining what we're doing. We need to make sure we're a Government who listens to people.

CHRIS SMITH:  You've got a massive challenge ahead of you.

BILL SHORTEN:  We have but, again, when you look at how Australia's going compared to the rest of the world it's good, it's a mixed story. We've got sectors of the Australian economy who are doing it really hard: retail, domestic tourism, manufacturing.

By the same token we're doing better than the rest of the world. So our challenge is to make sure our kids have got as many skills as possible so that the eight and nine careers they have in their life - they've got sufficient education and training to be able to change jobs as jobs come and jobs go. We've got to make sure that older Australians don't retire poor.

I am confident about the future. The reality is more people want to come to Australia than leave Australia. The reality is we are living longer than ever before. There are a lot of reasons to be positive about Australia. What the Government's got to do is make sure we plug into the way Australians are organising their lives and get behind them.

CHRIS SMITH: Would Bill Shorten ever make a half decent Prime Minister in the future, do you think?

BILL SHORTEN: Oh, this question about leadership - and I notice the Libs are going to try and - oh, they've got some sort of token campaign, trying to cause up further tension about the Liberal - about the leadership.

I completely support the Prime Minister. Any discussion of any other candidates or whatever anyone else does, to me, is a distraction from what we've just gone through. We've just picked a leader. Anyway, I've got a very young family and wife who would - they've put up with enough already.

CHRIS SMITH: Okay, alright. I thank you very much. You've got to prepare for question time. And I thank you for finding time for us this afternoon.

BILL SHORTEN: Thanks, Chris.

CHRIS SMITH:  Okay. Workplace Minister, Bill Shorten. 131873 is the telephone number. Your go. We've got the results. We've heard the comments from both sides. And maybe you have a point to make from all of that. Twenty-three minutes to two. This is Chris Smith across Australia.

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