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Q And A -

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(generated from captions) Nick? Anything?

No, I've got nothing Michael,
I can't possibly top that email.

And on that note we bid you farewell.

There's more on these stories
on our website

and we'll be back next week.


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This Program is Captioned Live.

(APPLAUSE) Good evening and welcome to 'Q & A'. I'm Tony Jones. Answering your questions tonight, political editor of 'The Guardian Australia', Lenore Taylor, fornler Labor Minister-turned-commentator Graham Richardson, Queensland heavyweight George Brandis, outgoing Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, and former Victorian Liberal Party President krog krog krog. Please welcome our panel.

(APPLAUSE) .Thank you. As usual we're being simulcast on ABC News 24 and News Radio and you can join the Twitter conversation with the hash tag which just appeared on your screen. The first question tonight comes from Elaine Wziontek.Michael Kroger, you said Tony Abbott will surprise us by being a moderate, sensible, middle of the road, cautious PM. What evidence do you have for that assessment given his recent form? That's a very accurate quote. Thank you for that. Well, I know a number of things about Tony Abbott, I've known him for 35 years, since I was at university. He was at Sydney University and I was at Monash. He has come a long way since them. After 40 years in the Liberal Party he doesn't have a single enemy. I have to tell you anyone involved in the Liberal Party or on Tanya's side knows, that's a fair achievement. He only does that by keeping everyone together. He operating a grand consensus and is in the very middle of the road personality. He has kept a very stable frontbench team. He is no longer prone to the odd outbreak we might have seen in years gone by and you've seen through his last two election campaigns a very focused, disciplined, middle of the road leader and that's what he will be as PM.He referred to himself having been a tribal chief as an Opposition Leader, but now is he going to govern for everyone, he is actually going to move to the centre in a way. Do you think that is possible, how will he do that?Well, you've got to remember this, Tony: What is the job of the Opposition Leader? It is to make the case for change. That's the job of a successful Opposition Leader.If you're an Opposition Leader who agrees with the other side, you make no case for change, Liu not be elected. By the way, you shouldn't be elected. If you can't map out a distinction between us and the other side, whichever side you're on, then you shouldn't be elected because you've made no case for change. So Tony Abbott made a case for change on many issues which I don't think we need to go through again right now because we've heard them many, many times, he made that case for change, very pouffully, very consistently and the electorate said, "Yes, that's the change we want." Michael, the most conservative leaders of recent times, Thatcher, Reagan, John Howard even tried to capture blue collar voters as they used to call them. Howard's battlers, Reagan's democrats, et cetera. Is Tony Abbott on that course?Look, he very much is, and one of the things that you've seen in Australia in recent years is the massive decline in trade union membership. As people seek economic aspiration, they seek advancement through economic development, working hard for themselves, leaving employment,
leaving trade unions, becoming independent contractors, franchisees, et cetera. People want economic empowerment. That's the type of person who very much appreciates a leader like an Abbott, like a Howard. Latham talked about this as one of Labor's problems, they are lose ing touch base with that in the electorate and Tony will win it back.Tanya Plibersek I don't even begin to start with the list of things that Michael has just said.Start with the top of the list. The first thing I want to say is I hope this government is very successful because it always think about the nation more than our party, but the notion that Tony Abbott is some sort of gentle consensus guy is totally add odds with everything we've seen of him, not just in recent years, but across 20 years of his political history. The idea that he is universally popular within the Liberal Party, we just know that's not true. There are plenty of people in the Liberal Party who have bitten their tongue because they have been very focused on winning. Good on them. They've shown a lot of discipline in biting their tupgs, but they were biting their tongues. He barely won that leadership ballot, one it by one - won it by one vote against Malcolm Turnbull. There is a lot for Tony Abbott to prove, but one of the things that he has to prove first is that he has the temperament to govern, and he has been on a very short leash during the campaign. It was a five-week campaign. Whether he can maintain that in the face of potentially a very difficult Senate - I mean, the Independents in the House of Representatives in 2010 came with us because they pointed to Tony Abbott's lack of skill as a negotiator. Now he is going to have to negotiate to get his legislation through the Senate. Yet to see how that will work out.George Brandis?Well, there are two people on the panel who have known Tony Abbott most of our adult lives, Michael Kroger and me, and I can assure you on the basis, like Michael, of more than 30 years of acquaint tans with Tony Abbott and more particularly on the basis in the last three or four years of working closely with him on almost a daily basis, that the person Michael Kroger described is Tony Abbott. The person that Tanya Plibersek has just described is a Labor Party caricature which was invented to scare children during the 2013 election and fortunately it didn't succeed. I can tell you Tony - what is significant about Tony Abbott is not that he was elected leader by one vote, but that within a matter of months of being elected sonar rowly, he had united the entire party behind him, and the electoral success he achieved in 2010 when he fought the first-term government effectively to a draw and the electoral success he achieved last Saturday couldn't have happened unless he had had the capacity to unite the entire party behind him. Now, political careers usually follow - the political careers of significant politicians usually follow a reasonably predictable trajectory. In the early stages, political - people who emerge as political leaders do have to be, to use Tony's phrase, tribal chiefs, and then when they reach the leadership of their party, they have to move beyond that and embrace the entire party and appeal to the nation, and then if, as occurred with Tony Abbott last Saturday, they are chosen by the nation, the nation puts their confidence in them, then they transcend their earlier selves and become leaders of the entire nation. I can tell you on the basis of more than 30 years acquaint tense with Tony Abbott, that is acquaint tans with Tony Abbott, that is absolutely his style. It has marked the way in which he has progressed through what it now quite a long political career and the notion that Tony Abbott is a consensus leader, as Michael Kroger said, is an absolute accurate characterisation of the man he is.Graham Richardson, I will bring you in and can we just pick up on something that was said by George Brandis which is that Labor's scare campaign about Tony Abbott. They focused very heavily on this through the entire campaign, that he, when in power, will slash everything from health to education, et cetera, et cetera, and if that doesn't happen, as it may not, where is that campaign left?Well, I suspect a lot of it won't happen because I think what he will do is plod, he won't gallop, he will plod and he will plod in the centre of the course, he won't race to anything. He has already announced basically the Budget will only come back into surplus at the same time Labor said it would. He is not going to do anything like the cuts he talked about earlier on. He has backed off from all that have and I think that's where Labor's campaign was probably successful. In health and education he won't do it because Labor's campaign forced him to say he wouldn't, and I think Labor has probably done the nation a bit of a favour in that respect. But I think it amazes me when - look, I would love to be able to bag him more, but the reality is if people like Christopher Pyne, if you look at the history of the Liberal Party, I know it's boring, but if you look at it... (LAUGHTER) .People like Christopher Pyne were on the left of the Liberal Party and they're in love with him. Brandis was never regarded as a right-wing fanatic either, so there are a lot of people who would have regarded themselves as moderates who now support him, so he must have done something to bring that into line, but the last thing I would say is while everyone of course will be united, when you've won a big majority, when you've got all the power, ate's amazing how popular you get in your own show.Lenore Taylor.? I've got no doubt that Tony Abbott genuinely intends to be the kind of PM that Michael and George describe, and I think he is sometimes painted more as a caricature and he is a bit more complex than that, but there are really big challenges for him in actually making good that promise. Part of the way that he go-the-discipline during those years in Opposition was because he pushed out decisions on really critical issues where the Liberal and National Parties and the Liberal Party are subdivides, things like competition policy, foreign investment policy, even things like the paid parental leave scheme which people in his own party don't necessarily like. Now he is in government, there is a lot of expectation, from the more economic dry side of the Liberal Party, that he will deliver reform, that it won't be wasted years in office, and there will be equally strong pressure from the more interventionist tendencies of the National Party to act differently. So I think bridging those divisions will be a big challenge, and the Senate is a challenge. It certainly is a better Senate from George's point of view than if the Greens held the balance of power, but it is another challenge. He has good intentions from the start, but I think delivering on them will be harder than it looks.Our next question takes us to the other side of the election equation. From Peter King.If I have nodded off on Saturday night and had woke tone the jubilant entrance of Kevin Rudd prior to his concession speech, I would have thought he had been triumphant. I would like to ask the panel why they think this may have been the mood of the gathering, and how much Kevin Rudd's return to save Labor from a more parlous outcome.We'll start with Lenore?I guess because Labor really genuinely expected a much worse result and it was less bad than they expected. I think this question would Julia Gillard have done better, did Kevin Rudd save the furniture, if the Labor Party keeps asking this question, then they're going to be in Opposition for a really, really long time. There has been some breakouts today of people talking about whether Kevin Rudd should in fact leave the Parliament. Three days ago, they put him up and asked the country to trust him to be the PM and now some of his own side is saying they don't trust him to be on their backbench much. If they don't draw a line under this thing and really realise that the people of Australia are thoroughly, utterly sick of it, then I think they will be on the Opposition benches for a really long time.Graham Richardson? I think it was a better result for Labor than I expected and you've got to remember, when you wonder about the jubilation up there, this is after all Queensland. This is the place where Labor has got, what is it 7 out of 80-something. They got almost wiped out in the State election and everybody was predicting that the only seat they would hold in Queensland would be Rudd's, if that, and the results didn't reflect that. They did a lot better than they thought they works a lot better than George would have thought they works I think he would concede. Therefore, a lot of people in Queensland were happy about it. Mind you, the 26 minutes or whatever it was I thought it was embarrassing. I think he went to the Rob Oakeshott School of oratory. He could easily have done it in 15 minutes and had he done so, there would have been a little more dignity about it. But if we're all going to spend the rest of our lives convincing ourselves what a terrible bastard he was, fair enough, I'm already convinced. I don't need to talk about it anymore. Graham, I will make you talk about it just a little more, because as you just heard Lenore suggest, there have been breakouts already. Over the weekend it began, but tonight calls from Craig Emerson for him to stand aside, blaming him for everything, campaigners within kanl pain HQ suggesting the Rudd team was chaotic during the campaign, now the other side answering back, the head of the campaign saying it was all the fault of the HQ. Classic Labor stuff, isn't it?No, classic human nature. Whenever it was a cock-up, it was always his fault, never mine. You don't have to say it publicly, just say it to each other.This is the Labor Party we're talking about.That was really my pointAs I said before, I've never witnessed the depth of hatred that developed over this, it was extraordinary. I went through the Hawke-Keating battle which went for a year or so and people were a bit unhappy with themselves but my best mate was Robert Ray, he was on the other side, it didn't have any effect, we remained close. That didn't happen here. There was just a bitterness that I found really disturbing. I think Labor has got to put it behind them. I think Craig Emerson's attempts at singing did as much harm as anything Julia Gillard or Kevin Rudd would have done. He ought to hide, that bloke, or at least never sing again. I've got to respect Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan and Stephen Conroy and Peter Garrett, Nicola Roxon, whoever were so strongly on her side. They said nothing during the campaign. They said nothing either publicly or privately, they didn't brief anyone, they didn't background anyone, so I think I would give them a few days. If they want to come out and have a crack now, I would say fair enough, after holding your tongue for so long, have a little bit of a go. Let's have it over with by Wednesday or Thursday and got on with life.Michael Kroger Firstly, at 23 minutes, almost as long as the extended version of American Pie, but not as good. That was absurd. Secondly, not to mention Julia Gillard in that speech was incredibly ungracious, and thirdly, I stood 4 feet from Malcolm Fraser on 5th March 1983 when he resigned the Liberal Party leadership and prime ministership, when he lost, tearfully resigning you might remember in the Southern Cross Hotel in Melbourne. Fraser resigned tearfully because he recognised the gravity of what he had done. He led the Liberal Party in government to a defeat and in that room that night was an incredibly solemn mood the no-one was applauding, no-one was happy, no-one was cheering. Contrast to Saturday night. As you said, with the sound down, you would think he had won. Kevin Rudd is all about Kevin Rudd. Kevin Rudd is not about the Labor Party and never has been. This man spent two years ripping down Julia Gillard and then having ripped her down, says to the party, "I will set fire to the place. Give me the hose, I will put it out." That was an absurdity of unparalleled absurdity to make this bloke leader again, having ripped down Gillard. There was a ballot last year in February last year, the vote was 31/71. Immediately after that ballot, Gillard's primary vote dropped 4%. February this year when Rudd didn't challenge but there was going to be a challenge, what happened primary vote again dropped 4%. So we get to the situation now where Gillard's vote is trashed. By June 26 this year and he says to everybody, "You better vote for me. Look how badly Gillard is going." Well of course she is going badly, mate. What happens is the culture of the Labor Party is so weak, they don't Gillard and they award the leadership to the man who set fire to the house. What a joke.Tanya Plibersek, that's essentially Craig Emerson's argue Mount Naent, it's not only a Liberal Party heavyweight saying that and but your own side and it's continuing?What I am going to do and what I think all of my colleagues is going to, should do, is focus on our record, be proud of our achievement, I would give us 9 out of 10 for governing the country. (LAUGHTER) Yes, a mill jobs, we got through the global financial crisis, our economy is 16% larger now than at the beginning of the global financial crisis. We've got three AAA credit ratings from three ratings agencies, something that Costello never achieved from all his boasting about what a great Treasurer he was. We had a strong economy at the same time as introducing DisabilityCare, at the same time of introducing changes to education, at the same time as investing massively in health and changing our health system to activity-based found something system and greater emphasis on primary care. This is a great record and history will treat it well. What history will not treat well was our internal division. I am not going to talk about it. I won't give character analysis of Kevin or anyone else. I'm not going to start pointing the finger. You will not hear from me in public or in private any of this type of recrimination because the longer we engage in it, the longer it will take us to heal.Let me ask you this or put it in this way:... (APPLAUSE) You don't have to put this in a personal way, about you what lessons will the next generation of Labor leaders learn from the rise and fall of Kevin Rudd?Well, I tell you that the lesson that we all have to learn from this in the Labor Party, members of Parliament, party officials, party members, is that disunity is death, and that our discipline let us down and it let us down more than once. If people don't learn that lesson, then Lenore is right, we will be in Opposition for a long time. I think we can be competitive quickly, but how quickly we are competitive again depends on learning this lesson of unity, and discipline. I think that Hemingway quote, all of us are broken by the world but many of us are stronger in the part that was broken" is rally important for us in the Labor Party at the moment. If we do not learn the lesson of the last few years, then we are banished to Opposition.So, very briefly, what do you say to those among your colleagues who are calling for Kevin Rudd to resign completely from the Parliament, to walk away from the seat in Griffith which obviously would lead to a