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Transcript of doorstop interview: House of Representatives: 2 March 2012: new Ministry

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Minister for Defence - Doorstop interview - House of Representatives

2 March 2012



DATE: 2 March 2012

TOPICS: New Ministry.

STEPHEN SMITH: Well thanks very much for turning up. I’ve got to be quick. I’ve got a plane

to catch. Firstly can I start by congratulating Foreign Minister designate Bob Carr on his

appointment. I’ve known Bob for many years. I first had a close working relationship with

him when I was State Secretary of the Western Australian branch of the Australian Labor

Party. And he had just become Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales.

I’m very much looking forward to working with him. As you know, Defence Ministers and

Foreign Ministers work very closely. And he will be a terrific Foreign Minister, he will be a

great asset to the Cabinet. Secondly, can I just congratulate Brendan O’Connor on his

promotion to Cabinet, and also congratulate two new Ministers, David Bradbury and Kate


As I’ve said in the aftermath of the 2010 election, and I’ve said, as I’ve said repeatedly all

week, the allocation of portfolios is entirely a matter for the Prime Minister. After the 2010

election I asked the Prime Minister if I could serve as Defence Minister, and I did that

because I wanted to stay involved in our national security issues, and to continue to be a

member of the National Security Committee.

I’m very happy as Defence Minister, I’m very happy to have the privilege of serving in that


There are a large number of challenges for Defence. There are capability challenges. There is

transition in Afghanistan. There are budget challenges. And after in some respects the

distractions of the last couple of weeks, I’m very much looking forward to getting on with the

job. I’m very pleased that the Prime Minister has got a very strong new team, not just to

govern well, but to take the fight up to Tony Abbott.

Now as I say I’m happy to answer a couple of questions.

JOURNALIST: Mr Smith at any time did you discuss with Prime Minister Gillard the possibility

of you becoming Foreign Affairs Minister, and at any time were under the impression that you

were offered the position?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well I don’t know if you’ve been reading what I said extensively on

Monday, or what I’ve been saying in the course of the week. The allocation of portfolios is

entirely a matter for the Prime Minister, and I made the point in the course of the week that

this is not a matter for Ministers. It’s entirely a matter for the Prime Minister.

Of course during the week I had a number of discussions with the Prime Minister.

Now I am not going to detail any of those conversations. Nor would you expect me to.

But the Prime Minister has made her decisions today. I welcome Bob Carr’s addition to our

team. And I’m very happy to continue to serve in what is a very challenging time for Defence.

JOURNALIST: When were you told that Mr Carr would be Foreign Minister and when were you

told that you would be Defence Minister?

STEPHEN SMITH: I had a number of discussions with the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister

has made her announcements. And I’m very happy with those announcements.

JOURNALIST: Was it today or yesterday that you-

STEPHEN SMITH: Look, I’m not going to detail conversations I had with the Prime Minister,

and you would not expect me to do so.

I made it clear all week and some of you may have been listening. Some of you may have


These are always entirely matters for the exercise of the discretion of the Prime Minister.

She’s made her judgments and announcements today. And I’m entirely happy with those.

JOURNALIST: That said, do you think that you’ve earned the team’s man award for 2012?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well look, let me put it to you this way. I’ve seen reference in the course of

the week to some suggestions that there are entitlements in public life. There are no

entitlements in public life. I don’t have any entitlement to be disappointed. I’ve been a

member of the Labor Party since 1975. I’ve been the State Secretary of the party in my own

state. I’ve been a Member of Parliament for 18 or 19 years.

I’ve served as a Shadow Minister. I am now doing the thing that I’ve always wanted to do

since an early age which is to serve around the Cabinet in a Labor Government, and that

suits me very fine.

Thanks very much. Thank you.