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Transcript of interview with Karl Stefanovic: Today Show: 27 February 2012: Labor leadership

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Minister for Defence - Interview with Karl Stefanovic, Today Show

27 February 2012




TOPICS: Labor leadership.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Defence Minister Stephen Smith, thanks your time this morning.

STEPHEN SMITH: Thanks very much.

KARL STEFANOVIC: What you think of that? The boys, going hell for leather each other?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, they’re both pretty robust characters - but I think it’s a bit like

election night. There’s no point in re-running the campaign. Today is a day where we say

here’s a ballot; in my view there will be convincing win the Prime Minister, we then draw a

line in the sand and move on.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Does Kevin Rudd disappear though?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, Kevin has said that this is it to him. I think that the most important

thing today is that we move on.

We’ve had a very robust leadership battle, the public understand that, but what they now

want us to do is get on with the job of running the country, managing the economy,

managing our national security interests and getting behind the Prime Minister.

KARL STEFANOVIC: You know people have made that decision in the past, to go to the

backbenches, but then come back. How do you as a party ensure that Kevin Rudd doesn’t

come back?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well, when Kevin became leader in December 2006, he said that there had

to be zero tolerance for ill-discipline; that we were 12 to 18 months away from a poll and we

couldn’t afford ill discipline, we had to win the election. The same rule applies. Kevin said

today that will be it for him, and I think that my Caucus colleagues whether they support

Kevin or support the Prime Minister today, will take a very dim view of anyone who is ill-disciplined, a very dim view of anyone who seeks to put these issues ahead of us again. We

have to get on with the job of running the country.

KARL STEFANOVIC: You say we have to get on with the job of running the country- but if you

look at the poll results this morning for Julia Gillard they aren’t good. At some point in the

next six months, if those results don’t start to improve, she is in big trouble, you will have to

look at another candidate - will you put your hand up for the job?

STEPHEN SMITH: Well no, and I don’t agree with that analysis. There are a couple of polls

out, one today, which show that were at 47/53. That’s a better position than respectively the

Hawke, Keating and Howard Governments were at periods during their time in office. Anyone

who writes off now is making a big political mistake. It’ll be Julia Gillard versus Tony Abbott

in 18 months time, she will be very competitive; we’ll be very competitive, and anyone who

counts her out us out is making a big mistake.

KARL STEFANOVIC: But you personally are ruling out putting your hand up?

STEPHEN SMITH: Absolutely. I’m a strong supporter of the Prime Minister. The most

important thing today is that we make a judgment, shall have a convincing win, that’s its

leadership for this Parliamentary term.

KARL STEFANOVIC: What happens if the loyalty to the party demands that you actually have

to put your hand up?

STEPHEN SMITH: I think that if the Prime Minister gets a fair go, if the Prime Minister is given

clear air, then her political fortunes and our political fortunes will improve. From the position

of a minority government she has got through some major reforms, long-term reforms in our

nation’s interests. In a sense, in reverse chronological order, it’d be putting a means test on

private health insurance so that low income people don’t subsidise yours and my private

health insurance, separating Telstra from the NBN. All of these things from a position of

minority government she’s got things done, and she will continue to get things done.

KARL STEFANOVIC: You must admit, you will get smashed if you went up against Tony

Abbott,if there was an election held now or in a couple of months time, you would get

absolutely belted. At some point you have to make a decision on her future?

STEPHEN SMITH: I’ve always thought that this Parliament would go full term. That the next

election would be August, September, October, of 2013 - so, we’ve effectively got 18 months

ago. If we draw line in the sand, get behind the Prime Minister, keep on with the job of

managing the economy, managing our national security interests, continuing to make major

reform, then when it comes to contest between the Prime Minister and Tony Abbott, in my

view she will prevail in that context.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Are you going back to the Foreign Ministry?

STEPHEN SMITH: That is entirely a matter for her. I’ve done this Foreign Minister’s job. I

asked for this job, I’ve enjoyed doing this job it’s important tough job. I like being in the

national security space, but I’m old-fashioned, whatever the Prime Minister asks or requires

me to do, I’ll do.

KARL STEFANOVIC: Wow, some loyalty! Good on you Stephen, thanks very much for your


STEPHEN SMITH: Thank you, thanks very much.